In Brief

As Mulligan affirms soon after first calling Stephen "Kinch," he is the source of this nickname: “my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knife-blade.” Ellmann confirms that Gogarty gave the name to Joyce. He remarks that it imitated “the cutting sound of a knife” (131), but the association seems obscure.

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If Kinch does mean knife, it coheres with an abundance of knives in the early pages of Ulysses: Mulligan’s razor; the knife on which, “impaled,” he thrusts slices of bread toward Stephen and Haines; the “lancet” of the doctor and the “cold steelpen” of the writer." One effect of all these sharpened blades is to liken the Martello tower to Elsinore castle, where hiding behind an arras can prove fatal and sporting duels can turn deadly, and to Ithaca, where a host of armed suitors is slaughtered to the last man and the palace floors run ankle-deep in blood. 

JH 2011
Knife Blade
A spear-pointed knife-blade, photographed by Mendaliv in 2007. Source: Wikimedia Commons.