NABOKV-L post 0018142, Sun, 5 Apr 2009 23:13:56 -0300

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Fw: [NABOKV-L] kot or in Pale Fire
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Alexey Sklyarenko: Kot or, Zemblan for "what is the time" ... is clearly a play on the Russian phrase kotoryi chas ("what is the time"). While Zemblan word for "hour" appears to be a homograph of both the English conjunction "or" and the French word for "gold", kot (apparently, Zemblan for "which" or "what") is Russian for "he-cat"... Btw., note that there is cat (as well as du, German for "you") in "ducat", the gold piece that the grateful King leaves on the mantlepiece in the mountain-side house... King Louis XVI (whose escape to Varennes is mentioned in Speak, Memory...was recognized because his profile was on every French golden coin, louis[d'or]...a correction re Graden (in one of my previous posts)... should be "Dative plural".

Jansy: In relation to "louis d'or" I remember old L-postings on this subject, including references from Boyd's "Ada" (for the line discussing bad translations: "The forged louis d'or in that collection of fouled French is the transformation of souci d'eau (our marsh marigold) into the asinine "care of the water"). These postings follow a different associative trend from yours, ie, they are unlike the connection you made bt. Kinbote's ducat and the fleeing King Louis "Louis d'or", ie, Ada and PF.

You mentioned Grad and a Faustian witch. Now you write about he-cats ("kot" in Russian) and the German "Du", as in "ducat").
The "convocation of the devil" used in a familiar rhyme for children also mentions a he-cat ( "Hocus Pocus Fidibus Drei Mal Schwarzer Katter"*). But I have no idea where this may lead to, or if it might be helpful to you in any way.
I remember reading the expression hocus-pocus once, in Nabokov, but I have no idea where - I think he used it to refer to "conjuring tricks" and "hoaxes" (was it in KQK? SM?)
btw: Kinbote described himself as dealing in "blue magic" (related to words and languages)



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* More information on Hocus-Pocus: It is known that the word appeared in the seventeenth century as a mock-Latin formula or incantation used by conjurors. What that formula was and where it came from is less certain. Thomas Ady wrote in his book of 1655, A Candle in the Dark; or, a Treatise Concerning the Nature of Witches and Witchcraft: "I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery" [...]Whatever the source, hocus-pocus was at first a general name for jugglers and conjurers and then - later in the seventeenth century - it became a term for a trick or deception. It's also the source of another common English word, since at the end of the following century it was contracted to make hoax.http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-hoc1-htm

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