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 “OR”; tipped over to ^ it becomes “AND”; on its side we get > (greater than) and < (less than), where the direction of “vanishing” (getting smaller) IS SELF-EVIDENT. Veritably, a most Versatile V! And we still haven’t 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 HomSap’s history — you’ll 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 ox’s head which happened to have a name starting with an A sound. Whether true or not, that’s 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,” 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. Bretwit’s smile began to fade."
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