Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016055, Fri, 7 Mar 2008 11:19:58 -0500

Re: rote, bottler/butler

Kinbote's definition of "rote" is indeed in Webster's 2nd: "the noise produced by the surf dashing upon the shore." Attribution is given to James Russell Lowell. Lowell--a Massachusetts man--in a discussion of Ruskin, says:

"As to words, I am something of a purist, though I like best the word that best says the thing. (You know I have studied lingo a little.) I am fifty-one years old, however, and have in some sense won my spurs. I claim the right now and then to knight a plebeian word for good service in the field. But it will almost always turn out that it has after all good blood in its veins, and can prove its claim to be put in the saddle. Rote is a familiar word all along our seaboard to express that dull and continuous burden of the sea heard inland before or after a great storm. The root of the word may be in rumpere, but is more likely in rotare, from the identity of this sea-music with that of the rote * a kind of hurdy-gurdy with which the jongleurs accompanied their song. It is one of those Elizabethan words which we New-Englanders have preserved along with so many others. It occurs in the " Mirror for Magistrates," " the sea's rote" which Nares, not understanding, would change to rore! It is not to be found in any provincial glossary, but I caught it alive at Beverly and the Isles of Shoals. Like " mobbled queen," 't is " good." "

The Nares to whom Lowell refers is Robert Nares, who in his Glossary says:

"'The sea's rote,' in England's Eliza, Mirr. for Magist., p. 837, must be a misprint for 'the sea's rore,' or roar.

In the Mirror for Magistrates (recall the Kongs-skugg-sio, The Royal Mirror), we find:

Then all amaz'd shriekes out confused cries,
While the seas rote doth ring their dolefull knell,
Some call to heau'n for helpe with weeping eies,
Some moiine themselues, some bid their friends farewell,
Some idols-like in horrors senselesse dwell,
Heere in sad silence one his faint heart showes,
Another there doth thus his feare disclose:

It is, of course, impossible to know whether or not VN followed the chain this far back. The Lowell, in particular, may have been hard for him to locate, since Webster's doesn't mention where in Lowell the word is mentioned.
Regarding your discussion of bottlers/butlers, I thought I would chime in with a relevant entry or three from Baring-Gould's Family Names and Their Stories, since this seems to have been VN's favorite source for name derivations.

pg. 102: The modest Le Boteler was the proto-parent of the family of Butler. James Butler, Duke of Ormond, derived in lineal descent from a grave individual, bottle in hand, who stood behind some Prince, or perhaps only petty squire, and said deferentially, in the corresponding terms of the day: "Port or sherry, sir?"

134: BOTELLER, a leather-bottle-maker. The name has been absorbed by that of Butler.

212: BOTELER. The name is entered thrice in Domesday. It by no means follows that every Butler is a descendant of Hugo Pincernus, who came over with the Conqueror, as every nobleman, as well as William I., kept his butler.

Matt Roth

Search the archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html
Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm