The main claim to Wakean fame of Les Soirées du Grammaire-Club is that here the famous word ‘proxenete’ (French: pimp; bawd) of the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter originates, entered on Owldeed B.5.119(j): ‘proxenete’. The story behind it goes like this, in a discussion about grammatical and linguistic stupidities, pedantry and pretensions (and I translate off the cuff from page 73 of Les Soirées): ‘Recently, a newspaper published some fine follies that their ignorance and pretensions cause journalists to commit. Poor Charles Muller, who died for the fatherland, was a student with a grant in Rennes and at the same time editor of a Breton journal, l’Avenir. One day, an enemy newspaper of l’Avenir stated that it was a scandal that the city of Rennes had given one of their student grants to a ‘proxénète’ like Muller. It was at a time when duels were still fought: Muller sent two of his friends to demand the reason of this rude insult and the journalist did as asked: he explained that for him, proxénète (which he no doubt dimly confused with proxène) meant: stranger, and that with this word he wanted to say that Muller was from Le Havre and not from Rennes. The case was allowed to rest there, after the insulted party obligingly instructed his adversary, in l’Avenir, that proxénète had no more the meaning of stranger than pédicure had that of pédéraste.’

The interesting thing is, that Joyce in Finnegans Wake not only incorporates the word alone, but also the context of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the word that is the subject of the anecdote, though the proxenete in question is no longer Shem, but Anna Livia herself.

Robbert-Jan Henkes: Reading in the Rain. New Sources in the Owldeed (VI.B.5) and Prairies (VI.B.14) Notebooks