David Jones (discussed here and elsewhere) uses both archaic words gleaned from writers like Malory and modern slang he heard in the trenches of World War One, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. A short way into Part 4 of In Parenthesis (page 68 in my edition) occurs the line “Put the fluence on,” and fluence had the air of one of those Renaissance obscurities he loved so. Indeed, the first entry in the OED under that rubric is “A flowing, a stream” (c1611 CHAPMAN Iliad XVI. 224 That he first did cleanse With sulphur, then with fluences of sweetest water rense). But that didn’t quite seem to fit. The second entry cleared things right up:

aphæretic form of INFLUENCE n., occurring esp. in phr. to put the fluence on (a person), to apply mysterious, magical, or hypnotic power to (a person).
1909 J. R. WARE Passing Eng. 203/2 Put on the flooence, attract, subdue, overcome by mental force. 1923 WODEHOUSE Inimitable Jeeves iii. 31 She was always able to turn me inside out with a single glance, and I haven’t come out from under the ‘fluence yet. 1937 D. JONES In Parenthesis IV. 68 Put the fluence on.. drownd the bastards on Christmass Day in the Morning. 1957 A. E. COPPARD It’s Me, O Lord! ii. 21 It was avouched.. that if you rubbed the juice of a lemon on the palm of your hand you were armoured against suffering.. and as long as the ‘fluence’ lasted other canes broke too. 1958 M. PROCTER Man in Ambush vii. 82 If ever I saw a girl trying to put the ‘fluence on a fellow it was Tess. 1965 E. BRUTON Wicked Saint viii. 105 Put the ‘fluence on him and we’ll be away.

Judging by Google hits, it’s still in use; the Cassell Dictionary of Slang qualifies it as “Aus./N.Z.,” which is presumably why I haven’t run into it before, but if Jones and Wodehouse used it, it clearly used to have wider circulation.

Addendum. In reading G. B. Edwards’ The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (see this post), I have come across the following passage on page 191 (he’s discussing the highly sexual wife of a friend): “I don’t say she would have done anything, if it had come to the point; but the fluence was on, and she got me hot. I was glad to get out of that house.”

Addendum (April 2015). Veltman uses инфлюэнция (an obsolete variant of инфлюэнца ‘influenza’) in a similar sense in his 1848 novel Salomea: “Машенька бросилась к окну, взглянула, и все жилки ее затрепетали, кровь приступила к сердцу, дыхание заняло: это был начальный, безотчетный момент инфлюэнции гражданственности на нежные чувства и на национальнее неопытное еще сердце…. – Господи! Что с тобой! – проговорила с испугом няня и, схватив ее на руки, отнесла от окна. Но инфлюэнция уже совершилась…. Когда он, пораженный субъектом, дрожащими руками пощупал пульс Машеньки, Машенька открыла глаза, взглянула па Ивана Даниловича, вздрогнула … а в эту минуту рефлекция, или воздействие пораженных ее чувств совершило обратную инфлюэнцию на Ивана Даниловича, и он, как окаменевший, безмолвно, бездыханно держал руку Машеньки.”


  1. I would like to extend an invitation to you to join in on a collective blogging section of our upcoming winter issue of Reconstruction
    Here is the original call:
    Theories/Practices of Blogging
    Our intent in this section of the issue will be to collect a wide range of bloggers and link up to their statements in regards to why they blog (something many of us are asked) and any statement they have on the theories/practices of blogging.
    If you already have a post on this you can feel free to use it, or, if you are interested, you can submit a new one.
    We will link to each statement from the issue at our site, with the intent of creating a hyperlinked list of statements on blogging that can serve as an introduction to blogging (or an expansion of knowledge for those already blogging).
    If you are interested please contact me at the gmail address.

  2. I (native New Zealander) have never ever heard fluence used in speech or writing in this country.
    However I’m pretty sure Terry Pratchett uses it “Carpe Jugulum” as part of the Nac Mac Feegle’s quasi-Scots patois. “Tis a fluence they have put on you.”

  3. Seems familiar to me, but I don’t know why.
    Thanks for this series of posts, by the way. It’s refiring my enthusiasm for Jones.

  4. You’ll be happy to know it’s gotten me to haul out my dusty Welsh books after thirty years and try hacking my way through bits of Branwen uerch Lyr, reminding myself that when in doubt, there’s probably a g- at the start of the dictionary form…

  5. “fluence” was commonplace where I grew up (rural Scotland, 1950s) but then my father was an educated chap who enjoyed words.

  6. An Ozlander, I have never heard or seen fluence.

  7. I (a Kiwi) always thought of “fluence” as an archaic English English term. 🙂 It’s something that witches put on you.
    Btw, Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University has a Bachelor of Fluencing, http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/news/unseen.html

  8. Fluence struck me as a plausible name for one of those web-based companies with invented names, like Agilent. Turns out there is a Fluence Technology, Inc., whose web site doesn’t come up for me, but via Google it’s described thusly: “Fluence Technology Inc.,formerly known as TSSI, is a leading provider of mixed-signal design and test automation software technology and solutions. More than 250 of the world’s top electronics companies reduce time-to-market by using Fluence’s innovative products, services and support. Fluence has headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, with sales offices and distributors throughout the world. Please visit the company’s web site at http://www.fluence.com or contact us at: info@fluence.com.”

  9. I should add that, in my childhood experience, “fluence” was not a word that travelled alone. It was accompanied by florid arm-waving and loud chuckles.

  10. George Lynch says

    “Fluence” used repeatedly in John Le Carre’s “The Tailor of Panama.”

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