Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020697, Wed, 8 Sep 2010 23:45:54 +0100

Re: Scry and mysteries
Jansy: POETS have a lot to answer for, SCRYING, sorry, SCREWING up our Noble Tongue. Here's HOW (very approximately): the innocent verb DESCRIBE* (via Descrive) gets slightly mangled into DESCRY. Then the meaning is stretched to include PERCEIVE, and wider still, to SEE FROM AFAR. Then the poor word gets shortened to SCRY simply to fit some prosaic, prosodic [sic] SYLLABLE COUNT. Along come the lexicographers who endow SCRY with spurious nonsense about FORTUNE TELLING and Crystal Balls. The noun SCYER is born.

* Read GSL's quote from TLS again: "Describe the horoscope ..." Accident or deliberate?

A fine old circular mess! Lexicographers guessing what Poets mean, then Poets (the lesser ones!) believing what the Dictionaries tell them.

I'm not surprised you were puzzled. If encountered in everyday discourse, SCRY would be completely unknown to almost every Anglophone (except, perhaps, for the odd Scrabble champions), requiring a dictionary delve IF they were curious enough. Reading SCRY in a poem, some might guess the original meaning (descry) from context, especially if the SPELLING were helpful, namely 'SCRY (a common way of indicating poetic curtation, as in LOV'D etc)

Hope that helps. There is a comically long list of -MANCY words, evidence of HomSap's GULLIBILITY.
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On 4 Sep 2010, at 20:34, Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

> G.S.Lipon notes that "Scry occurs in Eliot's Dry Salvages...'To report the behaviour of the sea monster,/Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry..'." After his clarification, I suddenly began to doubt that Nabokov has also mentioned the same term. It's present in the overall setting of Pale Fire, as it is in "Ada" with its references to Russian legends (Sklyarenko in his excellent today's posting today mentioned lake Kitzeh ). It may be hidden by Nabokov's plays with mirrors and reflective surfaces, Kinbote's visions into Sudar's crystal triptych... but did Nabokov actually write it down? Crystalomancy could have been inserted by a different word and I was misled by a reference to it. Can anyone help? (btw, thanks, Gary, for helping me to question what, at first, appeared to me as a certainty! Jansy

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