The Steely Dan Dictionary: W-Z

Listing 7 entries:

I said oh no / William and Mary won't do
Song: My Old School   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy

The College of William & Mary, located in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The second oldest college in the United States (only Harvard predates it), W&M was established in 1693 by King William III (a.k.a. William of Orange) and Queen Mary II.

The list of notable alumni includes three of the first ten U.S. Presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler.

Link: William & Mary official website

Spider queen demon and that whole crew / Across the lobby the wicker wing chair flew
Song: Two Against Nature   Album: Two Against Nature

A type of armchair (also known as a "wingback" chair) whose distinctive design features a high back with a pair of panels (or "wings") extending from the head of the chair and curving down towards the arms.

The wings were originally intended to provide protection from cold draughts, and their use beside a fireplace would also allow the wings to "trap" the heat from the fire for the comfort of the user.

Despite the song lyric, the vast majority of wing chairs are upholstered rather than wicker.

Yes we're gonna have a wingding / A summer smoker underground
Song: New Frontier   Album: The Nightfly

A North American slang term for a celebration or party which is wild, lively, or noisy in nature.

First recorded under its current meaning in 1944, the word itself is older, originally a "hobo slang" term from the 1920s which meant "a fit or seizure, either induced by drugs or feigned to induce sympathy".

I remember / The thirty-five sweet goodbyes / When you put me on the Wolverine up to Annandale
Song: My Old School   Album: Countdown to Ecstasy

An American passenger train which used to run from New York to Chicago, via Boston and Detroit.

Students of Bard College (Becker & Fagen's alma mater) would often take this train as it stopped close to Annandale-on-Hudson.

A train called the Wolverine still runs on a much-abbreviated version of this route — from Pontiac, Michigan via Detroit to Chicago.

Electrons dancing in the frozen crystal dawn / Here's one left stranded at the zero crossing 
Song: Book Of Liars   Album: 11 Tracks of Whack

In mathematics, the point at which a function crosses the horizontal axis — in other words, as its value passes through zero and changes sign (from positive to negative or vice versa).

Zero crossings have great relevance in electronics (presumably why electrons are also mentioned in the lyric). For example, in alternating current, the voltage is exactly 0 volts at each zero crossing, which happens twice per cycle and hence lends itself to being used in timing circuits. They are also important in switching circuits, as turning on or off devices at a zero crossing avoids abrupt changes in voltage, hence minimising the risk of overheating and other problems.

My Julie's in the chorus / On Mr. Ziegfield's stage
Song: Good Stuff   Album: Sunken Condos

Broadway producer and impresario Florenz Ziegfeld (1867-1932).

Best known for producing the Ziegfeld Follies, a long-running series of extravagant Broadway shows which ran from 1907 to 1931. He was also the original producer of the classic musical Show Boat, which debuted in 1927.

His fame even extended into movies — from the Oscar-winning 1936 biopic The Great Ziegfeld to 1941's Ziegfeld Girl and 1945's Ziegfeld Follies, the latter being a particularly star-studded affair, featuring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly among many others.

Note that Fagen in the song clearly says Zieg-FIELD, whereas the surname should be pronounced (and spelled) Zieg-FELD. Whether this is an accidental mistake or deliberate misdirection is up to the listener to decide.

Link: Ziegfeld 101

She drink the zombie / From the coco shell
Song: Haitian Divorce   Album: The Royal Scam

A type of alcoholic cocktail, which despite the name (and association with the song), seems to have originated not in Haiti, but in California.

Several different zombie recipes exist, generally consisting of either 3 or 4 different types of rum, mixed with some or all of the following: pineapple juice, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, grenadine and apricot brandy. (The "coco shell" is optional)

Link: Esquire: How to Make a Zombie