In Lotus Eaters Bloom rounds the corner of Westland
Row and Great Brunswick Street and passes by "the
drooping nags of the hazard" on the big
thoroughfare. In Hades, coming up Great Brunswick in
the funeral carriage, he sees "The hazard" once more
and thinks, "Only two there now. Nodding. Full as a tick. Too
much bone in their skulls. The other trotting round with a
fare. An hour ago I was passing there." Hazard was the Dublin
term for a cabstand or cab rank, and the horses hitched to
these vehicles prompt Bloom's sympathetic reveries.
there is no doubt about the word's denotation in this context,
its origins and connotations are mysterious. The OED defines
hazard as "A cab-stand (in Ireland)," citing no example before
1882. It seems possible that the usage arose from the threats
posed by cabs constantly pulling out of street traffic and
into it, attracting passengers from all directions, and
disgorging passengers from both sides. The sense of peril
carried by normal uses of the word appears to be picked up in
Hades, where Joyce contrives to associate it with Fenian violence by placing it
just after "Meade's yard." In a
section of town where Fenians seem to be lurking everywhere,
simply using the sidewalks may feel hazardous.
Another, more etymological explanation has to do with chance.
The word came into English from the Spanish azar, an
unlucky throw of the dice, which itself came from Arabic words
for dice games. This root meaning appears to have had some
currency in Ireland, perhaps because of its geographical and
historical closeness to Spain. In Ithaca, Bloom thinks
of children playing "games of hazard." Might this
meaning have been adapted to the crapshoot chances of finding
an unengaged cab? The other use cited in the OED, in the 5
December 1884 issue of the Freeman's Journal, lends
some support: "What about providing a hazard at each arrival
platform? . . . the public would then know that it was beyond
the power of a cab or cabman to refuse the first call." In his
Dictionary of Hiberno-English, Terence Dolan opts for
this explanation, albeit with the difference that he sees the
uncertainty lying with the cabmen eager for employment: the
usage, he writes, "owes its name, doubtless, to the element of
luck in the prospects of obtaining a fare."
The polyglot nature of Hiberno-English may suggest still other possibilities. In a personal communication, Senan Molony wonders whether the Irish word for donkey—asal, pronounced "azzal" and aspirated in the plural to na hasail—might have slipped over into English at a time when many cabs were still being pulled by donkeys. Searching for the nearest English sound, might Irish speakers accustomed to carrying on their business in the dominant colonial language have taken "hazard" as an acceptable substitute for "hazzal," the place where the donkeys meet?