Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015632, Wed, 31 Oct 2007 14:55:04 -0300

Holy Trinity, Twins and Tobago/Tobakoff...B.B's Serenity Court
Dear List,

Amateurishly coursing thru google-sources I tried to check if there could be any link between the word "Tobago" ( which VN linked to tobacco, confirmed by the double irony of a real Nicot) and "Serenity" - versus "Trinidad" and "Trinity".
Besides the effects of tobacco and hallucinogenic drugs and curious etymological tibtis, there was no "Serenity" in sight. Except, of course, if we consider that Vinelandar's and Demon's death removed all the remaining obstacles for the "court-ship" of Van and Ada.

I decided to send on the data on Tobago/Tobacco anyway because the island and the play with the name is present in ADA.

Trinidad and Tobago: Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it after the Holy Trinity. Columbus reported seeing Tobago, which he named Bella Forma, but did not land on the island. The name Tobago probably derivesfrom the tobacco grown and smoked by the natives. "Kairi" or "Iere" (old Amerindian name for Trinidad): Usually translated as The Land of the Hummingbird, although others have reported that it simply meant island.

Other sources: 1. Arie Boomert - The etymology and origin of the European as well as Amerindian names of Tobago form the subject of this essay. The first recorded name for Tobago may have ...
jsa.revues.org/document1856.html - 58k -
Names for Tobago: Journal de la Société des Américanistes, 2001, 87,
The names of the islands of the Caribbean often form the oldest recorded toponyms of these islands. A good number of them owe their present name to Columbus who was profoundly concerned with the choice of names for the new world he had come across, as the act of naming symbolized taking possession. Relatively few islands have retained their original, Amerindian, name. The name Tobago is often assumed to be of Amerindian derivation, whereas its origin is actually Spanish. In fact, two now obsolete, genuinely Amerindian names are known for the island.... According to Las Casas, Columbus spotted an island... He called it Belaforma « because from a distance it seemed beautiful » (Las Casas 1957-1961, I, p. 357 ; Morison 1963, p. 270). According to Las Casas, Columbus sighted an island 26 leagues to the north of the Bocas, which he named isla de la Asumpción... Besides, he spotted another one Columbus called la Concepción ...these two names actually refer to one and the same island, i.e. Tobago...
Numerous variants of the island's name are to be found in the sixteenth-century Spanish sources. It is spelled as Tavaco in 1511 and 1512 , as Tabacho , as Tabaco in 1533, ca 1545 and ca 1560, as Tabago on Honem's map of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean dating from ca 1540, and as Tavago in 1569. The island remained to be called Tabaco or Tabago in Spanish throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries... The Dutch continued to use the variants Tabaco and Tabago until well into the eighteenth century... While in the mid-seventeenth century French sources refer to Tobago as Tabuco or Tabac , until recently the French, like the Spanish, still spoke of Tabago rather than Tobago.. As is indicated by its sixteenth-century variants, the original name of the island was undoubtedly Tabaco, i.e. the Spanish word for «
tobacco ». The noun tabaco has remained unvaried in Spanish throughout the centuries ; it is comparable to derivates such as modern French tabac and Dutch tabak.
The seventeenth-century English alteration from Tabaco or Tabago to Tobago is reflected by the vowel change from tabaco to tobacco in this language. The latter variant is undoubtedly related to the Dutch noun toebak, a now obsolete form which is synonymous to tabak. Unfortunately, the origin of the Spanish word tabaco is often misunderstood. Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica and N. tabacum) is an indigenous cultivar of tropical America which the Spanish as the first Europeans only learned to know as a result of Columbus' voyages to the West Indies. It is frequently assumed that together with knowledge of the tobacco plant the Spanish adopted the term tabaco as a
loanword from Taíno, the Arawakan language of the contact-period Amerindians of the Greater Antilles.However, according to Oviedo, the Taíno did not apply the term tabaco to the tobacco plant, but to an Y-shaped tube which he believed the Indians used to inhale tobacco smoke through their nostrils « in order to go out of their senses » by putting the end of the tube « in the smoke of the burning herb ... this tubical instrument was employed for sniffing powdered substances with hallucinogenic properties
during ritual gatherings, rather than for inhaling fumes. ...The Amerindians of Tobago itself and neighbouring islands had quite different names for Tobago. Two of these
have been recorded in the documentary sources. In the 1620s Vázquez de Espinosa noted that « Tobago is called Urupaina in the Indian language, meaning big snail ...Consequently, it can conjecturally be suggested that, like the Spanish, the Kalina Indians were struck by the characteristic contour of Tobago, seen from the ocean, which reminded them of the outlines of the large marine gastropods to be found in the Caribbean. The second name for Tobago, to be found in the historic
literature...the name may be related to beléuera or beréuera, i.e. the Island Carib ...This name appears to be a compound of béle, « soft, sticky », and éuera, « tool, penis » However, Breton (1900, p. 90) mentions the same word he records as the Island Carib name for Tobago, in a quite different context when stating that « la couleuvre, ou escarboucle » of Dominica is known as alloüebéra ... monstrous snake is a mythical animal ...The myth in question refers to a large snake or dragon that can make itself large or small at will. Moreover, it bears a bright, red jewel or carbuncle on its forehead which is moveable like a human eye-lid and is exposed when the snake is drinking, illuminating the surroundings. This bejewelled snake (boa) lives in a twin mountain inside a deep cavern where it deposits a red excrement, killing anyone who approaches it unless one has fasted and abstained from sexual intercourse for at least three days.

[ Tog as soccer shoes and clothing] the earliest quotation containing it is so indescribably wonderful: A lamb eight or nine months old, and until his first shearing, is called a heder or sheder, hog, hogget, or lamb-hog. In other counties a teg, tog, gimmer, and dinmont, &c. This from the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1851. Now, on to togs "clothes". This word comes from the language spoken by vagabonds, called Vagabond's Cant, in the 16th century. Their word was togeman or togman, coming from French toge and Latin toga meaning "toga". The -man ending is somewhat common in cant, for example, darkmans meant "night" and lightmans meant "day". Anyhow, togman was shortened to tog by the early 18th century. It originally referred to a loose coat or other outer garment; by the late 18th century it was being used to refer to "clothes" in general, and it was pluralized to match the meaning: togs. Apparently in Trinidad and Tobago, togs now refers to soccer boots. Etymologically you

Excerpts from "ADA" mentioning Tobak and Tobakoff:

Cordula- Van '...Tomorrow I have to be in London and on the third my favorite liner, Admiral Tobakoff, will take me to Manhattan. Au revoir. Tell him to look out for low lintels. Antlers can be very sensitive when new. Greg Erminin tells me that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four?'

Lucette-Van: 'I'm so happy and sad,' she murmured in Russian. 'Moyo grustnoe schastie! How long will you be in old Lute?' Van answered he was leaving next day for England, and then on June 3 (this was May 31) would be taking the Admiral Tobakoff back to the States. She would sail with him, she cried...

Van: (Tobakoff was an embittered old vessel) Van managed to sleep soundly.. the dream image of an aquatic peacock, slowly sinking before somersaulting like a diving grebe, near the shore of the lake bearing his name in the ancient kingdom of Arrowroot.

Lucette-Van: ...a steeplechase picture of 'Pale Fire with Tom Cox Up' above dear Cordula's and Tobak's bed...she wondered how it affected the Tobaks' love life during sea voyages. ...To most of the Tobakoff's first-class passengers the afternoon of June 4, 1901, in the Atlantic, on the meridian of Iceland and the latitude of Ardis, seemed little conducive to open air frolics... Lucette was a hardy girl...Spring in Fialta and a torrid May on Minataor, the famous artificial island...she evoked the Helmeted Angel of the Yukonsk Ikon whose magic effect was...

Lucette-Van : ...you swim faster,''Mezhdu prochim (by the way), is it true that a sailor in Tobakoff's day was not taught to swim so he wouldn't die a nervous wreck if the ship went down?''A common sailor, perhaps,' said Van. 'When michman Tobakoff himself got shipwrecked off Gavaille, he swam around comfortably for hours, frightening away sharks with snatches of old songs and that sort of thing, until a fishing boat rescued him - one of those miracles that require a minimum of cooperation from all concerned, I imagine,'...Demon, she said, had told her, last year at the funeral, that he was buying an island in the Gavailles... They had huge succulent 'grugru shrimps' (the yellow larvae of a palm weevil) and roast bearlet à la Tobakoff. ..Procrustean procrastination...'Hey, look!' he cried, pointing to a poster. 'They're showing something called Don Juan's Last Fling. It's prerelease and for adults only. Topical Tobakoff!'...She did not see her whole life flash before her and ends as she swam like a dilettante Tobakoff in a circle of brief panic and merciful torpor.


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