Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020873, Wed, 13 Oct 2010 13:14:31 -0400

Re: Lukin
Matt Roth responding:

RSG: Luke, of course, is always going to be linked to "the physician." But the name itself [Lukin], which probably derives from a region of Italy, is also linked to the Latin word for "wolf." This is a name, unlike the surnames that CK mentions, that did not derive from a profession.

MR: I wrote a bit about the etymology of Lukin in the Fall 2007 Nabokovian, where I traced Kinbote's note back to Baring-Gould's Family Names and Their Story. The name Luke is often seen as being derived from the Latin lux, lucis, meaning light-giver. However, RSG is right that some believe it comes from the Greek loukas, from the Italian region Lucania. Does this, in turn, come from the word for light or the word for wolf (Gr. lykos, lycus)? Scholars seem to disagree. The region of Lucania was first called Oenotria, after Oenotrus, the son of the Arcadian king Lykaon. Oenetrus settled there with a colony of Arcadians. So, is the name Lucania related to the name of Oenotrus' famous father, who was turned into a wolf by Zeus, or does it mean 'light'? Again, scholars disagree. I have argued in the past that we should see the relationship between Lukin and Lykaon. Kinbote refers to New Wye as Arcadia/Arcady at least seven times. But even if we acknowledge the similarity in names, that still doesn't solve the etymology problem, since the same light v. wolf argument exists concerning Lykaon, too. While it is true that Lykaon became a wolf, he also is said to have had a son named Nyctimus (meaning dark or night), which would seem to imply that Lykaon means light, since the narrative would then mirror other Greek myths where light gives birth to, or devours, night (cf. Phanes and Nyx, whom we recently discussed in relationship to the Vanessa/Phanessa butterfly). My own belief is that VN chose Lukin because he wanted both meanings: light & wolf. Light is important because it relates to the sun/moon imagery associated with John Shade, while the wolf etymology must be related to the versipel/vseslav lupine elements of PF.


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