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  quarantine quark2  
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   The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000.
 
quark1
 
PRONUNCIATION:  kwôrk, kwärk
NOUN: Any of a group of six elementary particles having electric charges of a magnitude one-third or two-thirds that of the electron, regarded as constituents of all hadrons. See table at subatomic particle.
ETYMOLOGY:From Three quarks for Muster Mark!, a line in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce.
WORD HISTORY: “Three quarks for Muster Mark!/Sure he hasn't got much of a bark/And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.” This passage from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, part of a scurrilous 13-line poem directed against King Mark, the cuckolded husband in the Tristan legend, has left its mark on modern physics. The poem and the accompanying prose are packed with names of birds and words suggestive of birds, and the poem is a squawk against the king that suggests the cawing of a crow. The word quark comes from the standard English verb quark, meaning “to caw, croak,” and also from the dialectal verb quawk, meaning “to caw, screech like a bird.” It is easy to see why Joyce chose the word, but why should it have become the name for a group of hypothetical subatomic particles proposed as the fundamental units of matter? Murray Gell-Mann, the physicist who proposed this name for these particles, said in a private letter of June 27, 1978, to the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary that he had been influenced by Joyce's words: “The allusion to three quarks seemed perfect” (originally there were only three subatomic quarks). Gell-Mann, however, wanted to pronounce the word with (ô) not (ä), as Joyce seemed to indicate by rhyming words in the vicinity such as Mark. Gell-Mann got around that “by supposing that one ingredient of the line ‘Three quarks for Muster Mark’ was a cry of ‘Three quarts for Mister . . . ’ heard in H.C. Earwicker's pub,” a plausible suggestion given the complex punning in Joyce's novel. It seems appropriate that this perplexing and humorous novel should have supplied the term for particles that come in six “flavors” and three “colors.”
 
 
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

CONTENTS · INDEX · ILLUSTRATIONS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  quarantine quark2  
 
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