NABOKV-L post 0014229, Thu, 30 Nov 2006 12:24:23 -0500

"C" "K" "S" in PF solution (tongue-twisters)
fet@MARSHALL.EDU> wrote:

There is also strangely PF-relevant (and Zemblan-sounding) Russian
tongtwister: "Karl u Klary ukral korally" (Karl stole Klara's
corals) jewels?
Victor Fet

Bravo! Slava Victor (vocative)! (pronounced Wiktor and wokatiwe by

I offer in return:

It's apparently easy to forget that language is essentially a spoken
tongue-twisting thingy - only VERY recently have diverse, approximate
and ARBITRARY squiggles been invented to map sounds to symbols. NOTE
WELL (i) we know sound systems change* -- before our very ears, in fact;
(ii) the vast majority of extant languages are still 'pre-literate' --
if they are transcribed, phonologists prefer IPA to more accurately
capture the physical sounds but at the cost of hiding the many
morphological/semantic 'spelling' clues with which we 'literates' (and
you 'semi-literates'!) are molly-coddled &/or tortured** (ii) we have no
audio recordings prior to Edison. Only plausible guesses from the
surviving scribbles before (vain) attempts at 'orthographical
standardization' added more confusion.

That Grim Law has been explained as a strange speech defect that
attacked early Indo-Europeans when they reached the German border!

** DN's puzzlement over 'k' vs 'ch' highlights the problem. There are
similar 'spelling schisms' in Prouvencal and Cornish - they emerge when
'minority' or 'dormant' languages revive from a pre-literate state.
Frederi Mistral (in spite of his Nobel Prize) is still castigated for
'getting it all wrong!'

To add to the suggestions on what/how to teach VN: (i) unless the
students have had previous exposure: some mandatory preambles on the
Nature & Evolution of Language. Something simple such as McWhorter's The
Power of Babel or maybe Pinker's The Language Instinct. (ii) DON'T start
with the atypical and INAPPROPRIATE Pale Fire! If the kids truly DIG PF,
it could sour their views on Academic Literary Criticism for life! Ah! A
blessing in disguise? Drive the buggers to some useful HARDer sciences
and an HONEST JOB?

For some fresh freads:

I found Paul Horgan's 'Approach to Writing' hiding (dwarfed) next to
Ada and Lolita on my daughter-in-law's bookshelf (her only VN titles,
alas - but I've started to sermonize). A new name for moi although a
Harper, Campion, and Pulitzer Prize winner blurbed as "Paul Horgan
[1903-1995] is one of the most distinguished of contemporary American
authors, both as a novelist and as a historian." A rare [!] resort to
Google revealed that Horgan appeared with VN in an anthology of 'Best
American Short Stories' (I forget the year). Other overlaps: Horgan was
first published in Paris in 1926 in "the Russian refugist [sic]
newspaper The Link - Zveno..."
That was a short story called 'The Baptists' translated into Russian by
Horgan's 'Approach to Writing' contains a section of numbered
aphorisms, many of which have distinct Nabokovian resonances (although
lacking the master's killer-punch). Number 336 will appeal to Andrew

"In general, the artist is a more trustworthy critic of literature than
the most intellectualistic* analyst or annotator whose culture is
bounded by the prevailing cults for social, historical, or
psychological** theories. Theories are fugitive. The intuitive response
of the artist is enduring, for it is of the very nature of the thing it

This is a heavily effective but difficult-to-parse trick in English
whereby the lips curl with a SNEER at all '-isms': compare 'scientific'
[nice] with 'scientistic' [nasty]; 'Leninist' [nasty] with 'Leninistic'
[even nastier]

** Elsewhere (Number 143) Horgan knocks the Freudian postulates as
confusing: " ... none more than his attempts to identify recognizable
reality through dreams. This has too often resulted in efforts to create
systematic interpretations of essentially inconsistent subject matter.
If there should be clinical usefulness in this process, it has nothing
to contribute to an artist's realization of his aesthetic impulse." He
concludes rhetorically with signs of more sympathy for Herr Doktor than
I've encountered with VN:
"Was Freud himself more of an artist than a therapist? Were his
insights more like those of poetry than of science?"

Stan Kelly-Bootle

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