Oscar Nattochdag = Chattanooga Cars

Submitted by MARYROSS on Mon, 12/24/2018 - 19:47

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Here is a train of thought for under the tree:

Oscar Nattochdag = Chattanooga Cars

I'm not sure what to make of it in Pale Fire, except as autobiographical clue; Nabokov apparently loved trains. He always drew on on letters for young Dmitri and Dmitri left a bunch of model trains amongst his donation to Harvard.

Kinbote is very fond of Nattochdag, so maybe that is the link.

The extremely popular song, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" came out in 1941 with the Glenn Miller Orchestra:

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is a 1941 song written by Mack Gordon and composed by Harry Warren. It was originally recorded as a big-band/swing tune by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra and featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade.[1] It was the first song to receive a gold record, presented by RCA Victorin 1942, for sales of 1.2 million copies.

For what it's worth "Night and Day" by Cole Porter was a big hit in 1946

Cheers, Mary

Hi Mary,


I'd like to offer some pushback against these partial anagrams. As far as I'm aware, the anagram-word-golf hybrid has no precedent in Nabokov's work, and it strikes me as a game he wouldn't care for: the rules allow for way too much flexibility.


For example, the name Mary Ross becomes Ray Morse (American football player) or, just as easily, Ray Cross (Australian football player).






Hi Alain,


I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner – it seems that responses to posts do not come through my RSS feed. I appreciate your comments and the challenge it presents me.


My “CHATTANOOGA CARS” was more or less for fun, so I won’t defend its import beyond that.  I actually didn’t realize it was only a near-anagram until you pointed it out – that pesky “D” eluded me! Nevertheless, there is precedent in Nabokov’s work for near-anagrams. For instance, in Pale Fire, the name “Botkin” and “Kinbote” are tantalizingly anagrammatic – but not quite. Exasperated at reader obtuseness Nabokov fairly gave the association away in the following quote:



 “…it is full of plums that I keep hoping somebody will find. For instance, the nasty commentator is not an ex-King of Zembla, nor is he professor Kinbote. He is professor Botkin, or Botkine, a Russian and a madman”  (Dolbier, Maurice (June 17, 1962). "Books and Authors: Nabokov's Plums". The New York Herald Tribune. p. 5.)



I find it intriguing that Vseslav Botkin and Vladimir Nabokov have almost enough letters in common to spell “V. NABOKOV”  (i.e. “V. NAB[I]KOV [L]).


Nabokov alerts us to “word golf”, anagrams changing one letter, which suggests they most likely will be found in PF. “Kingbot” would be one. “Sudarg of Bokay” supplants a “y” for the “J” of Jacob Gradus. Queen Disa’s villa changes one letter from “Paradiso” to “Paradisa” for the pun.  Fleur’s last name is changed one letter from defiler. “Iris” seems close to a near palindrome for “Sirin.” “V. Irisin” appears in LATH. “Voltemand/Mandalatov” is in Ada. Probably many more, I’d guess.


A good example of a sophisticated “near anagram” is Nabokov’s pun on Van Gogh. When asked by Alfred Appel what he would like a reader to experience when coming to the end of one of his novels, Nabokov replied:


“…what I’d welcome at the close of a book of mine is a sensation of its world receding in the distance and stopping somewhere there, suspended afar like a picture in a picture: The Artist’s Studio by Van Bock.” (SO p72)


Appel remarks in a footnote:


“Research has failed to confirm the existence of the alleged ‘Dutch Master’ whose name is only an alphabetical step away from being a significant anagram, a poor relation of Quilty’s anagrammatic mistress, ‘Vivian Darkbloom’”  (SO, p72)


Not a “poor relation”, but a sophisticated dodge. I surmise that Nabokov, known by this time for his punnery and word-play, would not want to be too facile and transparent, and that such “near” solutions would be for the “ultra sophisticated solver”, as he mentions regarding the unorthodox chess problem in Speak Memory.  He also said of “Adam von Librikov” in Transparent Things, that it was “an anagrammatic alias that any child can decode.”  Clearly he felt more ingenious obfuscations became necessary as readers caught on to his "cat and mouse" (muscat) game.


A particular poetic device is called a “near rhyme” (also half-rhyme, slant rhyme, imperfect rhyme, oblique rhyme); the last syllables of lines are not an exact rhyme. Nabokov extols this form – somewhere I came across his mentioning this as an exquisite form of rhyme, sorry I can’t find right now. I think he may have felt similarly about near-anagrams.


Returning to your anagrams of my name, the difference between those and my “Chattanooga Cars” is that “Chattanooga Cars” has at least some relation to Nabokov – his love of trains. I could argue that Nattochdag is dependable like night and day and hopefully trains, but as I said, I’m not sure of any great import. If Nabokov did intend this, I like to imagine it gave him a chuckle. "Mary Ross", I assure you, has no relation to football. If Ray Cross or Ray Morse was a member of the Nabokovian, then I would find the near-anagram very interesting, but coincidental. If these were fictional names in a novel about football (or some other mutual association) I would have to wonder about the author’s intention.