In Brief

When Deasy says in Nestor that he has rebel blood "On the spindle side," he means his mother's side of the family. The expression probably derives from the fact that hand spinning was traditionally women's work, though it has been suggested that the shape of a spindle is responsible. When the word is used again in Aeolus, that shape does seem to be implied.

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The OED defines the spindle of a spinning wheel as "a slender rounded rod (usually of wood), tapering towards each end, which is made to resolve and twist into threads the fibres drawn out from a bunch of wool, flax, or other material." This shape, according to one Joyce annotator, is "similar to the form of a woman." I cannot imagine how a cylinder tapering off at the ends resembles the shape of a woman. If one is looking for curves, it would make more sense to focus on the whorls placed partway along the spindle's length to keep the thread in place, but not even they evoke breasts or hips very strongly. By contrast, when Aeolus pictures the "spindle legs" of William Brayden, the shape works quite well to evoke the appearance of an overweight middle-aged male, tapering down from his hips to his feet.

Deasy's "the spindle side" may derive simply from women's association with spinning, as in the similar expressions "spinster" and "distaff side."

JH 2022
A spinning wheel of recent manufacture, showing thread passing by one of the whorls of the spindle. Source: www.ashford.co.nz.