NABOKV-L post 0019293, Sun, 31 Jan 2010 17:06:19 -0700

Re: [NABOKOV-L] From Eros,Sore and Rose (festering ressentment
and "draoncles")
On Sat, Jan 30, 2010 at 8:03 AM, jansymello <> wrote:

> A link bt.*Victor Fet's* information about the botanical and zoological
> "dracunculi" (ADA), that leads into Sklyarenko's "rankle" (LATH) which
> might deserve an annotation in Brian Boyd's AdaOnline!
> Proto-Indo-European *derḱ- "to see" became Greek δέρκομαι "to see clearly",
> and δράκων "dragon, serpent" - "from his supposed sharp sight" says Skeat.
> Δράκων was borrowed into Latin as dracōnem becoming French dragon.
> Δράκων was borrowed into Arabic as طرخون ṭarẖwn, a name for tarragon, also
> known as dragonwort, Latin name Artemisia dracunculus.

Five years ago, Jansy, you pointed out that /Ada/ is an orchid genus named
after the sister of the mythical Artemisia. That makes me wonder whether
the dracunculus could be Lucette, though I don't see how (unless the meaning
is that Lucette, Ada, and Van are all dracunculi--Van as a morbid swelling
of the groin? see below).

This was borrowed back into Greek as ταρχών, then into Latin as tarchon,
> tragonia, then into English as tarragon.

Latin dracōnem became dracunculus, dranculus "small dragon", then Old French
> drancle, then Anglo-Norman rauncle "festering sore" and rauncler "to
> fester". The "festering sore" meaning is the earliest meaning of rankle in
> English.

A related word, draguncel, meant "a morbid swelling or inflammation of the
groin", a bubo.

The first thing that "heraldic dracunculus" suggests to me is a wyvern or
wivern (first vowel like that of "wives"), a heraldic monster like a dragon
but with only one pair of legs. That's not a baby dragon, though, and I
don't know how it could fit. A smaller monster called the cockatrice, like
a dragon with a rooster's head, also appeared in heraldry. Van would like
the phallic suggestion of "cock", and "trice" fits well with "trilingual"
and "triplet" at least in spelling (the way "haze" fits with "Hase"), but I
don't see any other connection.

While looking at that chapter in Ada Online, I noticed "spigotty e
diavoletta", which Brian Boyd notes is Aqua's distortion (as Van imagines
it) of a phrase from Cavalcanti and connects convincingly with "spigot". I
think there may be another connection, too. "Spiggotty" is the ancestor of
"spic", a derogatory term for a Spanish-American (and is of unknown
origin). "Disliked Spanish person and little female devil" might suggest
Van's feelings about Ada's fatal appearance in /Don Juan's Last Fling/.

Speaking of evil and prejudice, I don't think Shade's comment and Nabokov's
endorsement of it are as insensitive on the surface as Heidegger's, as
Anthony Stadlen suggests. Shade lists Marx, not the (at least nominally)
Marxist tyrannies, which he might put in a different category. And he's not
saying he loathes those things more than anything else. If he's speaking of
evil as no one has, his originality might be in adding things that disgust
him to the list, not in giving unprecedentedly harsh condemnations of the
worst evils.

Nabokov made more shocking but more obviously anticlimactic comments
elsewhere. I can find:

"My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft

"My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of government should not
exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions. No music,
except coming through earphones or played in theaters.

And back to fiction, a more shocking comment: "Shade said that more than
anything on earth he loathed Vulgarity and Brutality, and that one found
those two ideally united in racial prejudice." Here Vulgarity and Brutality
are indisputably on the same level.

Jerry Friedman
is commenting on obscure points in literature instead of joining Amnesty
International's letter-writing campaigns.

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