Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027324, Thu, 16 Mar 2017 13:00:01 -0700

new book [Nabokov’s Favourite Word Is Mauve]
I have a few (more) questions about German (Der Jammerwoch)
and French translations of Jabberwocky.
If you think you might help, pls email me.

Very nice photo here:


• Ben Blatt’s [Nabokov’s Favourite Word Is Mauve] is published on 23
March by Simon & Schuster.

From 'alibi' to 'mauve': what famous writers' most used words say
about them

by Ben Blatt The Guardian


For my book Nabokov’s Favourite Word Is Mauve, I created a computer
program to sort through thousands of books by the most revered and
popular authors to find out their “cinnamon words” – relatively rare
words that a particular writer uses often. Obviously every author used
function words such as “the” and “from” at a high rate, and basic
adjectives like “big” or “fast”, but cinnamon words are the words that
each author uses disproportionately compared with other writers.

Nabokov used the word “mauve” 44 times as often as one would expect,
which makes perfect sense in hindsight. He had synesthesia or, as he
called it, “coloured hearing”. When he thought of a specific letter
and sound he would see colours at the same time. Unsurprisingly, he
uses colours at four times the rate found in standard English writing.

Sometimes, if you look at an author’s cinnamon words, you can already
hear their voice. Consider these three: civility, fancying,
imprudence. If you guessed Austen, you are correct. These are the
three words that, compared with the rest of written English, are
mathematically the most used by Austen.

Given Nabokov’s emphasis on colour, it’s safe to assume he was aware
of the words he favoured in his writing. However, it’s possible many
authors are unaware of the words they are using at an abnormal rate.
......... <<<

When I read [The Age of Reason] by Jean-Paul Sartre in English many years ago,
I was surprised by how often the word [mauve] appeared.
I'm guessing it's some interplay of French and English?
(and not just VN?)

This article fails to make the obvious point -- the suggestion that
perh. Nabokov favored the word [mauve] because there
was no clash. Did he ever write about these color clashes?
(e.g. the word [blue] looked reddish to him)

Thank you. HH

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