NABOKV-L post 0019377, Wed, 10 Feb 2010 11:38:42 -0700

On Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 7:47 PM, jansymello <> wrote:
> *Stan Kelly-Bootle*:*..."it’s a well-ploughed mine-field: English being
> both enriched and bothered by so many Anglo-Saxon and Latinate synonyms. For
> diverse historico-socio-linguistic reasons, the latter are associated with
> scientific and religious scholarship, while the former are rated as less
> learned or even downright crude... That the Anglo-Saxon plainspeak intimate
> body-part words are indeed shorter (and often wrongly considered less
> euphonious) than the alien, unEnglish imposed Latin “refinements”
> (ironically, the ink-horn terms are always the least horny!) is a mixed
> blessing for poets and novelists...the natural-native four-letter words for
> faeces, coitus, vagina and penis still leave a nasty taste ...***
> *JM*: Forty years ago, in Rio (I don't know if it was also practiced
> elsewhere) to speak good English meant avoiding most Latinate
> terms and stick to the Anglo-Saxon.We had to say "wealthy", not "rich",
> "worried", not "preoccupied", "tired," not "fatigued," "hand-made,"not
> "manufactured"....

I hope you're joking! But as a teacher, I know teachers can make all kinds
of mistakes. Just in case anybody picks up false impressions from Jansy's
teachers, both "rich" and "wealthy" are from Anglo-Saxon, and "hand-made" is
almost the opposite of "manufactured".

In line with what Stan says, English has many pairs of synonyms in which one
is natural and the other can sound pretentious (Shade's two
examples--"naked" and "nude", "sweat" and "perspiration"--as well as "buy"
and "purchase", "storm" and "tempest", etc.), and in many of those the
natural one is from Anglo-Saxon and the pretentious one is from Latin, often
through French. But etymology isn't an infallible guide: for instance
"rich" is more natural than "wealthy", and for most English speakers,
"pigeon" is more natural for /Columba livia/ than "dove", although "pigeon"
is from French and "dove" is from Anglo-Saxon. Anyway, a "foreign" word is
often a "totally natural choice", even "perfect".

We also learned that in more sophisticated environments, only (perhaps when,
> under Roman influence, all those blond barbarians learned to eat cooked
> meat)

Another joke?

> swine, i,e "pigs,"would be called "pork."

It's probably more that after the Conquest, the Saxons raised the animals
but didn't get to eat meat nearly as often as the Normans.

> When I started to read Nabokov I was in for a big surprise,

Nabokov (like Shade) seems to have chosen words based on many considerations
that were at least as important as naturalness to ordinary speakers and

> but it was mittigated by characters such as Humbert Humbert and Kinbote.
> Later I was ready and anxious for more ( but I still bear a grudge against
> N's use of "viatic").


Jerry Friedman isn't blond.

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