Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026607, Sun, 8 Nov 2015 03:31:17 -0200

RES: [NABOKV-L] Pronunciation
J. Aisenberg: “by the way, I was under the impression that Spanish people actually pronounce the "O" in Lolita as a long deep "Ohh" and not as "ahhh" as in lollipop as N. suggests.”*

JM: It was necessary for me to check how “lollipop” sounds in English. ** Might VN have had in mind the word as it is pronounced in the UK and not in America – at least not in New England? A tape of this interview with VN’s spoken words must have been recorded.

Btw: here is how the middle “o” in “Nabokov” is pronounced, in his own words: “Englishmen say Nabokov, accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle, as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open "o" as in "Knickerbocker". My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle "o" of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful "Na-bah-kov" is a despicable gutterism. Well, you can make your choice now.” http://lib.ru/NABOKOW/Inter05.txt
( What an interesting choice of “Knickerbocker” as an example, a word originated after a fictitious author of Washington Irving’s 1809 “History of New York”. Read more at <http://www.yourdictionary.com/knickerbocker#GHGIB72SWUmZPlcZ.99> http://www.yourdictionary.com/knickerbocker#GHGIB72SWUmZPlcZ.99).

In a past posting I contrasted the sound of “Haze” and “Hase” without noticing that VN, quite pointedly, avoided to pronounce the word “Hase” : it was his interviewer who said it whereas VN only mentioned “bunny” and “hare”. Well!


*”…Lolita. However, it should not be pronounced as you and most Americans pronounce it: Low-lee-ta, with a heavy, clammy “L” and a long “o.” No, the first syllable should be as in “lollipop,” the “L” liquid and delicate, the “lee” not too sharp. Spaniards and Italians pronounce it, of course, with exactly the necessary note of archness and caress. Another consideration was the welcome murmur of its source name, the fountain name: those roses and tears in “Dolores.” My little girl’s heart-rending fate had to be taken into account together with the cuteness and limpidity. Dolores also provided her with another, plainer, more familiar and infantile diminutive: Dolly, which went nicely with the surname “Haze,” where Irish mists blend with a German bunny—I mean a small German hare.

Playboy: You’re making a word-playful reference, of course, to the German term for rabbit—Hase. But what inspired you to dub Lolita’s aging inamorato with such engaging redundancy?

Nabokov: That, too, was easy. The double rumble is, I think, very nasty, very suggestive. It is a hateful name for a hateful person. It is also a kingly name, and I did need a royal vibration for Humbert the Fierce and Humbert the Humble. Lends itself also to a number of puns. And the execrable diminutive “Hum” is on a par, socially and emotionally, with “Lo,” as her mother calls her.”

** <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pt/pronuncia/ingles/lollipop> http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pt/pronuncia/ingles/lollipop
(English pronunciations of lollipop from the <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pt/dicionario/ingles/> Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus and from the <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/pt/dicionario/ingles/> Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, both sources © Cambridge University Press)

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