NABOKV-L post 0019371, Tue, 9 Feb 2010 22:54:54 -0200

Re: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: SKB re: SIGHTING IN a TRANSLATOR'S BLOG: my LolitaStan Kelly-Bootle:[to JM: On second thoughts, what other words could Humbert Humbert have delicately employed in lieu of the "delta"? ]:.."it's a well-ploughed mine-field: English being both enriched and bothered by so many Anglo-Saxon and Latinate synonyms. For diverse historico-socio-linguistic reasons, the latter are associated with scientific and religious scholarship, while the former are rated as less learned or even downright crude... That the Anglo-Saxon plainspeak intimate body-part words are indeed shorter (and often wrongly considered less euphonious) than the alien, unEnglish imposed Latin "refinements" (ironically, the ink-horn terms are always the least horny!) is a mixed blessing for poets and novelists...the natural-native four-letter words for faeces, coitus, vagina and penis still leave a nasty taste ...En passant, I've never agreed with VN's belief that the word "sex" is inherently nasty. HH's choice of alternatives to "delta" (delicate or otherwise!) are NOT the same as VN's choices! The novelist is rightly constrained (within obvious delta-limits!) by HH's specific European multilingual-cultural background, close but not identical to Nabokov's. The narrative-linguistic context is also delicate: HH is talking and reacting to an American-English audience, with much humour and even open disdain (especially with Lo's hip-girly slang).

JM: Forty years ago, in Brazil ( I don't know if it was also practiced in any other country), to speak good English meant avoiding most Latinate synonyms and to stick to the Anglo-Saxon.We had to say "wealthy", not "rich", "worried", not "preoccupied", "tired," not "fatigued," "hand-made,"not "manufactured".... We also learned that in more sophisticated environments, only (perhaps when, under Roman influence, all those blond barbarians learned to eat cooked meat) "swine," i,e "pigs,"would be called "pork." When I started to read Nabokov I was in for a big surprise, but it was mittigated by such characters, as Humbert Humbert and Kinbote. Later I was ready and anxious for more ( but I still bear a grudge against N's use of "viatic").

Polysyllabic swear-words are not only more euphonious: they may be accented and extended to great effect. Nevertheless, I'm still uninformed about HH's choices, or VN's own, to gently remain within "delta-limits." Only four-letter words come to my mind! Or silly euphemisms: is it possible that those blond barbarians...?

I thank Carolyn Kunin [I think you have experienced a perfectly wonderful Conmal moment. Shade & Kinbote would be delighted with it] for her inventiveness: a "Conmal moment," indeed! I wish I had set that trap on purpose.

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