Stan Kelly-Bootle [ to M.R ] ...you are overlooking some basic linguistic “truths.” [...] Browning was a prodigious linguist, a master of Latin and Greek by age 14 or so [...] Re-”mollitude”: one must distinguish the different levels of “neologization.” [...]Latin roots especially were borrowed and grammatically Anglicized en masse with obvious meanings [...] But, as a separate word-forming mechanism, we have many “rules” in English whereby parts-of-speech can be transformed: nouns into adjectives; verbs into nouns; adjectives into adverbs[...] I hope this observation will reduce the “argufaction” over NATURAL variants such as “mollitude” (noun) and “mollitious” (adjective).
JM: A tropical country might favor the frequent choice of words which describe slow-moving, limp, lazy, soft things and their descriptive variations from etymological "molle" into "mole" ( moleza, molejo, manemolência; v.amolecer/mollify), in an intuitive Latin-mood.
I prefer Browning's choice of "mollitious" (in Portuguese it comes as a noun, in regionalistic malicious "malemolencia) - to VN's "mollitude", as it was rendered in ADA ( "the luxury and mollitude of my first Villa Venus".) for which I found no equivalent in our modern popular usage or any clear meaning ("softness"=""moleza", "molenga").
Another strange ring in my lazy ears comes from VN's creation of "viatic" applied to roads ( as in "Glory" and "Lolita"). We find "viary" in this sense ( for train or car highways), whereas "viatic" has acquired distinct meanings ( the holy-host carried by a priest to a moribund catholic; travel expenses; small change; food stored during travels).
Excuse me for this comparative "argufaction" on the English rules for "neologization", also because I have no examples of Browning's sentences to be certain that his variations are more in "toon" with another actual and thriving language.
S K-B: Jansy’s reference to literary “swans” reminds me that VN would also have picked up from his Cambridge days the donnish-waspish limerick that was still popular during my terms (1950-55)...
JM: Oh! Donnish humor?
|Search the archive||Contact the Editors||Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"|
|Visit Zembla||View Nabokv-L Policies||Manage subscription options|
All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.