NABOKV-L post 0017173, Fri, 10 Oct 2008 14:35:20 +0100

Re: [NABOKOV-LIST] Vanishing "V" signs
Semiotics is full of these plausible links & patterns that suddenly break
down as counter-examples are noticed! That V sound in velvet needs an F
shape in Welsh and a B shape in Russian (where BAH! reads VAN!, surely no
coincidence?). Ah, but a W serves in German ‹ two of those magic VANishing
points ‹ restoring, nay doubling our faith in the original association! We
logicians read V as ³OR²; tipped over to ^ it becomes ³AND²; on its side we
get > (greater than) and < (less than), where the direction of ³vanishing²
(getting smaller) IS SELF-EVIDENT. Veritably, a most Versatile V! And we
still haven¹t plumbed the depths of Pythagorean numerology where V = 5, the
number of regular Platonic polyhedra. These really are the comic-cosmic
symmetrical building blocks of the whole spatial shebang.

If you go way back to the birth of phonetic scripts ‹ a magical moment in
HomSap¹s history ‹ you¹ll find character shapes linked to ideograms
representing real objects, then, after much simplification, becoming taken
as the initial sound of the name of that object. If I recall correctly
without a-googling, our A evolved via the Phoenician from the Egyptian
hieroglyph for an ox¹s head which happened to have a name starting with an A
sound. Whether true or not, that¹s the general gist for those who insist
that our character shapes MUST HAVE AN EXPLANATION, preferably an
explanation with some gee-whiz opportunities for semiotic juggling.

Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 07/10/2008 19:20, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> Reading about "vanishing point" in S.E.Sweeney's essay [ as an aspect of VN's
> alphabetic imagery and recursive narrative structure in "The V-Shaped
> Paradigm: Nabokov and Pynchon,² Cycnos 12.2 (1995): 173-80] I enjoyed her
> various examples concerning VN's employ of "V- related" images ( the ordered
> flight of cranes, the tail of a swift), sibilant acute sounds, printed words
> and names (Sevastian). A character may be referred to by a plain "V." (TRLSK)
> or as "Victor" (Pnin, Spring in Fialta), "Van Veen" (the first and last
> letters in both double as VN).
> While I visited Oxford in July 2007 ( for the Transitional Nabokov encounter),
> after I indicated that I needed "a table for two" in a small pub, I was almost
> thrown out of the establishment. My gesture was similar to Churchill's
> V-sign, but my crossed fingers were displayed along with the "V" in what was
> interpreted as an offensive signal. I remember Nabokov once described this
> "offensive" sign drawn on a poster that was lying behind one of his very
> innocent characters. I tried to find it, in vain. And yet, during my search I
> came across a code-signal employed by the Karlists, in Pale Fire, one which
> bungling Gradus got wrong because his fingers shaped a V-sign...Perhaps VN's
> various convergences into velvety "V" do not always mean a "positive
> indication"...
> Pale Fire Karlist's correct code: "The fingers of his [Oswin Bretwit] left
> hand involuntarily started to twitch as if he were pulling a kikapoo puppet
> over it [...]A Karlist agent, revealing himself to a superior, was expected to
> make a sign corresponding to the X (for Xavier) in the one-hand alphabet of
> deaf mutes: the hand held in horizontal position with the index curved rather
> flaccidly and the rest of the fingers bunched (many have criticized it for
> looking too droopy; it has now been replaced by a more virile combination)"
> Gradus mistake: "Sheepishly contemplating his five stubby strangers, Gradus
> went through the motions of an incompetent and half-paralyzed shadowgrapher
> and finally made an uncertain V-for-Victory sign. Bretwit¹s smile began to
> fade."

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