Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016803, Wed, 23 Jul 2008 15:17:14 -0400

Re: Pale Fire 'book of names' is Pnin
Stan: I think we're not on the same page here. There is no "Book of Names"
in Pale Fire. After Kinbote confirms the meaning of kinbote (king's
destroyer) Shade says that CK is the author of "a remarkable book on
surnames," of which there is an English translation. The clear (at least to
me) implication here is that CK's book is a scholarly (Oxford UP!) work that
examines the etymologies and origins of family names. VN probably had
something like Baring-Gould's "Family Names and Their Story" in mind, since
that is where he himself gleaned the names and/or backstories for names like
Lavender, Bretwit(z), Fyler, Campbell/Beauchamp, Lukin, and
Shalksbore/Shakespeare. I have that book in front of me, so I can furnish
another example or two:

Crick (A.S. cric), a creek; not usual as a suffix but found as Creech,
Evercreech, Cricklade.

Now, since the whole connection between Crick and creek is based on the
sound of the word, how would one translate that into another language and
still have it make sense? I suppose you could leave "creek" there, then give
the translation? Tedious! Or how about this one:

Dale (O.N. dalr), Swaledale, Nithsdale, Borowdale. But Dalton does not
signify the tun in the dale, but the tun divided in two by a brook. In one
of the Robin Hood ballads we have: "By the faith of my body," then said the
young man, / "My name is Allen a Dale." Dale is often "dall"; Tindall stands
for Tyne-dale. Udall is the yew-dale. Sometimes Dale is corrupted into "dow"
or "daw," as Lindow or Lindaw.

All kinds of problems arise here. What do you do with tun? What about the
dale, small d? And if yew is "tas" in your language, will it make sense that
it comes from Udall?

The whole project seems sufficiently unlikely to me. So much so that it
makes for a good joke that we may miss if we too blithely throw up our hands
and say anything is possible.


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