Page 101. " put some Mercurochrome on these cuts "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMercurochrome - Credit: Kevin Vreeland

Mercurochrome was a commercial name for an antiseptic known as Merbromin, which consisted of a disodium salt compound based on a mercury compound and a fluorescein used primarily as an identifying color agent. When applied to a wound, it would stain the skin a dark red color, which unfortunately made it more difficult for a person to detect inflammation. Removed from general availability by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998 for safety reasons because of its mercury content, it is still generally available in other countries.

Page 107. " Hepplewhite furniture "

George Hepplewhite (1727?-1786), an English cabinetmaker, is acknowledged as one of the “big three” 18th century English makers of fine furniture alongside Thomas Chippendale and Thomas Sheraton. No pieces made by Hepplewhite or his firm are known to exist today, but the name lives on to describe a simple, elegant style of chairs that feature shield-shape chair backs, short and curved arms, and straight legs.

Page 107. " His name was Mudd "

Like Scheisskopf and Popinjay, Mudd is a conveniently Dickensian name chosen by Heller for the dead man in Yossarian’s tent. Unlike the other two, however, in reality Mudd is a not uncommon name. For example, Samuel A. Mudd (1833-1883) was an American physician who treated John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg after Booth had shot President Abraham Lincoln, and was convicted as a conspirator. Roger Mudd, a longtime American broadcast journalist, has co-anchored the CBS Evening News, the NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, and most recently The History Channel.

Heller plays off a once-common lament, “My name is mud,” which means “I am unpopular” or more usually, “I am in the doghouse” because of some specific misdeed. Often thought to hearken back to Dr. Mudd, the phrase apparently predates the Lincoln assassination by decades. John Badcock’s 1823 book, Slang – A dictionary of the turf etc., declares that someone whose name is “mud” is “a stupid twaddling fellow.”

The phrase has been revived of late as the title of a 1993 song by the alternative rock/metal band Primus.

Page 113. " The Star-Spangled Banner "

This is the title of the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from a poem by Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old lawyer who wrote “The Defence of Fort McHenry” in 1814 about the British bombardment of the Baltimore installation during the War of 1812.

His poem was set to the tune of “The Anachreontic Song,” or “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular British song composed for a London musicians’ club called the Anacreontic Society. That song praised Bacchus, the god of wine, and Venus, the goddess of love, based on a lyric by the ancient Greek poet Anacreon (582 BC – 485 BC). Members were allowed to drink wine as long as they could sing the song. 

“The Star-Spangled Banner” quickly became popular in the states. Approved for official use by the Navy in 1889 and for the President in 1916, the song became the nation’s official national anthem by resolution of Congress on March 3, 1931.

Page 116. " parted like the Red Sea "

A reference to the Biblical story in Exodus 14:21-31 about the opening of a pathway through the Red Sea, by which Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and to safety from Pharoah’s army. This event has been employed as a simile or image many times, in many places, usually to describe crowds of people opening up to create a pathway for someone.


Page 121. " Do you want to buy some Zippo lighters? "

Zippo Manufacturing Company of Bradford, Pennsylvania began selling refillable metal cigarette lighters in 1933 (the company was founded the year before) and remains very much in business to this day. During the Second World War, Zippo discontinued manufacture for civilian consumers and devoted all their production to supplying the U.S. military. Though the company did not have a formal contract with the military, soldiers and other personnel insisted that their base exchange stores stock Zippos. Brass, the metal used in the traditional case for the lighters, became unavailable, so wartime Zippos were made of steel.

In subsequent decades, the company issued lighters with special designs, other popular brand names and logos, and limited edition artwork, so they became popular collectors’ items. Today, customers may order a Zippo lighter customized with their very own message, artwork, or photo engraved on it.

Page 122. " You were in Cairo with him "

First mention in this book of the capital of Egypt, today the largest metropolitan area in the Muslim world and the 16th largest city on Earth. The present-day city was founded in the 10th century AD, but remnants of older capitals remain in the Old City, and Cairo is also close to the ancient Egyptian cities of Memphis, Giza, and Fustat, which date back to several millennia earlier.

Cairo contains the oldest and largest music and film industries in the Arab world. It is also home to the world’s second oldest institution of higher learning, al-Azhar University. Although Egypt had won independence from British rule in 1922, during the Second World War British troops continued to police the country. Cairo experienced wild growth in the first half of the century, reaching a population of more than 1.3 million by the advent of the war.

Page 122. " It was those Teletype machines "

Military version of the Teletype Model 15, known as the TG-7-B
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMilitary version of the Teletype Model 15, known as the TG-7-B - Credit: Raj & Neja
Teletype was a common term applied to the teleprinter, an electromechanical typewriter (or printing telegraph) that would print out a message sent from a distant point by electrical connection, and later by radio or microwaves. In the decades before the personal computer and the Internet, teleprinters were the primary form of printed communications for the military, business, and print news media.

Actually a trademark, the name “Teletype” belonged to Teletype Corporation of Skokie, Illinois, a descendant of the earlier Morkrum-Kleinschmidt Company, but came into common usage for the product it described, like Kleenex or Xerox.

Page 122. " Milo had never seen a stock ticker before "

Stock tickers were a predecessor of the Teletype. Starting in 1870, a machine called a stock ticker would print abbreviated company names on a thin strip of white paper in order to transmit information about stock transaction prices and volume. They were the earliest form of digital electronic communication, and became outmoded in the 1960s as television and computers took over the job of transmitting stock information.

Page 124. " the new Lepage gun that the Germans had moved in "

Jean Lepage (1779-1822), a French gunsmith who worked under Louis XVI, Napoleon, and Louis XVIII, was a pioneer of modern firearms. Various carbines of the early 19th century took their name from him.

Yossarian’s description of the Lepage weapon he’s warning Colonel Korn about, a “three-hundred-and-and-forty-four-millimeter” glue gun that “glues a whole formation of planes together in mid-air,” is obviously a joke.


Flintlock carbine made by Jean LePage and named for Napoleon, circa 1800
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFlintlock carbine made by Jean LePage and named for Napoleon, circa 1800 - Credit: PHGCOM