NABOKV-L post 0019465, Sat, 20 Feb 2010 17:29:30 -0200

Re: QUERY: Red Wop Explained
Gary Lipon: He's enumerated four such invertible pairings in the space of three rhymed iambic lines, which pretty well establishes that Hazel enjoyed word games....
"She twisted words: pot, top,/ Spider, redips. And “powder” was “red wop.”/ She called you a didactic katydid."

JM: Gary, it seems that Hazel not only enjoyed word games but used them to express some of her 'un-twisted', either fair or unfair, ideas. Twisting words, in itself, is a kind of "camouflage" (& the task of translation may be, sometimes, another kind of 'mimicry,' too*)

For example, her calling John Shade "a didactic kaytid" could reflect the way she saw her father. Someone camuflaged as a teacher, an adept at the art of deception. We know Nabokov was particularly interested in insect mimicry: perhaps his introduction of an innofensive grass-hopper was not as innocent as it seems at first look.

At least, this is what I gathered after I searched after "deception" in connection to "katydid" ( at: "A completely different approach for deception is camouflage, whereby animals seek to look inanimate or inedible to avoid detection by predators and prey. There are many examples of rainforest species which are cryptically colored to match their surroundings. For example, the Uroplatus geckos of Madagascar are incredible masters of disguise and are practically unnoticeable to the passer-by. An even more amazing group is the katydids, a group of grasshopper-like insects found worldwide. Katydids are nocturnal insects which use their cryptic coloration to remain unnoticed during the day when they are inactive. They remain perfectly still, often in a position that makes them blend in even better. Katydids have evolved to the point where their body coloring and shape matches leaves,including half-eaten leaves, dying leaves, and leaves with bird droppings, sticks, twigs, and tree bark. Other well-known camouflage artists include beetles, mantids, caterpillars, moths, snakes, lizards, and frogs. Some species appear to have conspicuous coloration when they are not in the proper surroundings. For example, among the brilliant butterflies of the forest, the magnificent electric blue Morpho, has iridescent blue upper wings and a seven-inch wingspan. However, because the underwings are dark, when the Morpho flies through the flickering light of the forest or even out in broad daylight, it seems to disappear. Other forest species, especially mammals, have spots or stripes to help break up the animal's outline. In the shade created by the canopy, large mammals like leopards, jaguars, ocelots, and okapi are surprisingly difficult to see with their disruptive coloration."


* Checking how Hazel's word-twisters fared in another language, at first I searched in Dieter Zimmer's "Fahles Feuer" (p.53;p444)
"...Sie verdrehte Wörter:,< Rebe. -[,Eber.. / Und <Ton> zu <Not>. Aus <lese> wurde <Esel>,/ Sie nannte dich didaktische - was? - Catydide."

In the Brazilian edition of "Fogo Pálido" the words were actually not rendered ("Quando passou três noites pesquisando/ Luzes e sons num silo abandonado./ Quase nunca sorria, e se o fazia/ Era em sinal de dor. Nos criticava...")

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