NABOKV-L post 0014380, Thu, 14 Dec 2006 22:35:51 -0500

Re: American writing; translation parrots; BS
Prepatory to anything else, is “disgustibus non
disputanderum” a deliberate garbling of the correct
“de gustibus non est disputandum”?

Of late it seems one cannot voice a favourable opinion
on VN without CHW swooping down on it like a hawk and
ruffling it, especially when it concerns his
There is no need to draw from those opinions and views
extreme conclusions that would involve dragging
literary traditions into the trash-can.
CHW was not satisfied with my claim that “zesty” is an
adjective “juste” –no quarrel with that-, but he kept
worrying it anaphlasmically until an ad gushed out to
tickle his sense of humour.
Again my contention that “VN’s adjectival precision
and aptness have no rival” raised some questions
–first of all, I didn’t define what I exactly mean by
that, and secondly, needless to say, I did not include
the whole of English literature, and certainly not
Milton and Johnson, although I would like him (CHW) to
provide examples of unrivalled adjectival precision
from these writers, and I would certainly like to see
some generalizations and pronouncements of Johnson
thrown into the trash-can.

(Samuel Johnson, that great man, whose prejudices and
ignorance of certain matters did not prevent him from
making preposterous statements, like this one from the
Preface to his Dictionary:

“There are likewise internal causes equally forcible.
The language most likely to continue long without
alteration, would be that of a nation raised a little,
and but a little, above barbarity, secluded from
strangers, and totally employed in procuring the
conveniencies of life; either without books, or, like
some of the Mahometan countries, with very few: men
thus busied and unlearned, having only such words as
common use requires, would perhaps long continue to
express the same notions by the same signs.”

When I first read it, some twenty years ago, I had to
laugh out loud; the man didn’t have the faintest idea
how many dictionaries and books those book-poor
Mahometans had produced centuries before him; the
irony being that only 35 years after Johnson published
his Dictionary Zubaidy completed his “Taj al-‘Arus Min
Jawahir al-Qamus”, the largest dictionary (first
printed in 10 folio vols. and recently in 20 8vo
vols.) ever undertaken by a single man over a period
of 20 years –perhaps nice to know that Zubaidy
fashioned his “Bride’s Crown” from the jewels of
Firuzabadi's "Al-Qamus al-Muhit", in other words,
Zubaidy's is a vast commentary on Firuzabady’s 15th
century multi-volume dictionary.)

A. Bouazza.

--- Chaswe@AOL.COM wrote:

> I trust Carolyn's words have been fairly edited and
> extracted. VN’s “parrotâ€
> lines are quite well-known in literary translating
> circles, where they are
> regarded as an entertaining jeu d’esprit. Is
> Carolyn being serious? Is her
> critical acumen sparking on all six cylinders? If
> these lines are marvellous,
> and “the best thing VN ever wrote in English†,
> then, taken along with “
> English poetry has few things better to offer than
> â€̃Pale Fire’†, and “VN's
> adjectival precision and aptness have no rival†,
> we might as well throw the rest of
> English literature into the trash-can.
> Still; one man’s poison is another man’s
> poisson; what’s goose for the
> gander is gravy for the gourmet; disgustibus non
> disputanderum.

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