NABOKV-L post 0018936, Wed, 9 Dec 2009 14:21:50 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] Lets: sounds, inlets and doublets
Dear List,

In "The Oxford Guide to Word Games" (Tony Augarde) I found references to "Doublets" and to "Triplets," with a list of names for similar games ( Word Chains, Word Ladders, and Stepwords). I found no mention to "word golf", but clarification soon came, thanks to Wikipedia.

To my surprise this game has not been invented by John Shade, in PF, as I incorrectly surmised. It derives from Lewis Carroll's original "doublets." I tried a short search in the List archives and reached amusing past discussions about VN's "doublets" and "triplets"*** (recommended reading!).

1 -Doublets was the name given by Lewis Carroll to a word puzzle of his own invention. It made its first appearance in 1879, in the pages of a magazine called Vanity Fair, and it has been a popular form of Word Puzzle ever since. I will let Lewis Carroll describe the puzzle in his own words: "The rules of the Puzzle are simple enough. Two words are proposed, of the same length; and the Puzzle consists in linking these together by interposing other words, each of which shall differ from the next word in one letter only. That is to say, one letter may be changed in one of the given words, then one letter in the word so obtained, and so on, till we arrive at the other given word. The letters must not be interchanged among themselves, but each must keep to its own place. As an example, the word 'head' may be changed into 'tail' by interposing the words 'heal, teal, tell, tall'. I call the given words 'a Doublet', the interposed words 'Links', and the entire series 'a Chain', of which I here append an example:
h e a l
t e a l
t e l l
t a l l

It is, perhaps, needless to state that it is de rigueur that the links should be English words, such as might be used in good society." It is to be understood, also, that the links should be words that can be found in a standard English dictionary, and that proper nouns are not admissible. Doublets puzzles for you to solve - click here.

2 - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Doublet may refer to:
Doublet (clothing), a man's snug-fitting buttoned jacket that was worn from the late 14th century to the mid 17th century
Doublet (lapidary), an assembled gem composed in two sections, such as a garnet overlaying green glass
Doublet (lens), a type of lens, made up of two stacked layers with different refractive indices
Doublet (linguistics), one of two or more words of the same language that come from the same root
Doublet (physics), a quantum state of a system with a spin of 1/2
Pierre Jean Louis Ovide Doublet (1749 - 1824), a politician and writer from France
Word ladder or "doublets", a word game invented by Lewis Carroll *
In mathematics, the unit doublet is the derivative of the Dirac delta function
In textual criticism, two different narrative accounts of the same actual event
Dimeresia howellii, a tiny flowering plant

* Word ladder or doublets:
The player is given a start word and an end word. In order to win the game, the player must change the start word into the end word progressively, creating an existing word at each step. To do so, the player can do one of the following on each step.Add a letter;Remove a letter;Change a letter;Use the same letters in different order (an anagram) [...] Others: Generally, some scoring system is used to favour few-word transitions over many-word transitions, so a word ladder with fewer words gets more points than one with a lot of them, provided they have the same start and end words. Some other versions of the games only allow letters to be changed (that is, no adding or removing letters or changing letter order-this version has been called word golf**) or demand that the end word has some kind of relationship with the start word (synonymous, antonymous, semantic...). This was also the way the game was originally devised by Lewis Carroll when it first appeared in Vanity Fair.Retrieved from

** - Word Golf ("")
Word golf (also called a word chain) is a game, a version of Word Ladders, in which one word is turned into another through a process of substituting
single letters. A new English word must be formed each time a letter is replaced, and players score points according to the number of steps taken. As in regular golf, the player with the lowest score at the end of the game wins. The game was popularized by Vladimir Nabokov, and is referred to in his masterpiece Pale Fire (1962) as a favorite pastime of the fictitious American poet John Shade. Shade's neighbour Charles Kinbote notes that some of his own records include "hate-love in three, lass-male in four, and live-dead in five (with 'lend' in the middle)." [...] In the index to Pale Fire, Nabokov provides the following example for
scoring LASS to MALE in four: LASS/MASS/MARS/MARE/MALE...



Yannicke Chupin: 'His wife's lover played the triple viol'. (Ada, II, 5, p 301). Does anyone have a suggestion for what Lucette means by "triple viol"? Ada, II, 5 (p301 in Penguin Ed). The viol is probably here the short name for the viola da gamba? in that family, there can be a "double bass", which is a bigger bass viol. But what is a triple viol? Is it a pun with the "driblets" that comes before? Can somebody explain? Friday, September 19, 2003 12:52 AM
Subject: Triple viol

Brian Boyd: "I meant the real Tapper," cried Lucette (who was making a complete mess of her visit), "not my poor, betrayed, poisoned, innocent teacher of music, whom not even Ada, unless she fibs, could cure of his impotence." "Driblets," said Van. "Not necessarily his," said Lucette. "His wife's lover played the triple viol.". "Triple viol" here puns on "treble viol" and "double bass": as if the "treble" referred to number as well as pitch; "bass viol" is another name, considered erroneous by W2, for "double bass." And therefore, indeed, the implication is that Rack can be impotent even though his wife has given birth to triplets, if we posit (and Lucette surely invents rather than recollects-but who knows?) a lover for his wife, who in this musical love triangle, and as the father of triplets, can be imagined playing the "triple viol." Notice that Van's "driblets," which echoes Rack's wife's German doctor's prediction that she "would present him with driplets in dry weeks" (I.32), where a German voiced sound supplants the English unvoiced (driplets for triplets, drei for three), takes the voicing even further, turning driplets into driblets. This now serves as in ironic sneer underlying Rack's impotence (ejaculating reduced to driblets) at the same time as Van calls the alleged impotence into question through the potential counter-evidence of the triplets. Lucette's "triple viol" then jumps the other way, from voiced sound to unvoiced, from "treble viol" to "triple viol." There may also be an overtone in "viol," perhaps an octave above, of "vile"; and perhaps a secondary overtone, still higher and fainter, on the homonymy of "vile" and the "base" hompohone of "bass." The homonymy is one that Shakespeare, who loved doublets (but not triplets), made the most of:
"Things base and vile, holding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and dignity" (MND 1.1.232-33), or, more flatly, in the early TGV 4.1.71: "we detest such vile base practices." Even without the overtones, not a bad off-the-Nabocuff pun for poor L.
Saturday, September 20, 2003 Subject: reply to: triple viol

D. Barton Johnson List, on Sept. 20 2003:
I would say, with respect to BB, that I don't think Lucette is making a pun here; rather, that she and Van are talking at cross purposes, and she has misheard his one-word utterance... this is a fairly standard humorous technique, eg used by Joyce in ULYSSES, in the incident by which the man in the 'mackintosh' gets mistaken for a man by the name of Mackintosh....for another example of nabokovian triple-(word)play, see the passage in ADA in which the mother says that she likens herself to famous women of history, then points out to Van that there's a 'ladybird' on his plate; a reference to the First Lady of the mid-1960's upon careful reading, or simply reading, the ladybird turns out, not to be an insect on the plate (in the way we think) but an insect depicted as part of the plate's design. I must add, though, that I find this passage more 'clever' than artistic; I was tempted earlier to include it as a potential example of (relatively-pointless) virtuosity.
EDNOTE. This is an excellent example of how multilayered VN usages can be.

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