NABOKV-L post 0012035, Thu, 10 Nov 2005 12:17:23 -0800

Fwd: Merriam-Webster Nov. 10, 2005 Word of the Day: "carceral"
EDNOTE. Can someone find "carceral counterpoint" in Invitation to a Beheading?
I'm curious about the original Russian.

----- Forwarded message from -----
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 08:45:05 -0700
From: Matt Evans <>
Reply-To: Matt Evans <>
Subject: Merriam-Webster Nov. 10, 2005 Word of the Day

Don, This VN name-check might be of passing interest to Nabokovians.

Did you know?
Describing a painting of John Howard visiting a prison in 1787, writer
Robert Hughes reminds us that Howard was "the pioneer of English carceral
reform" (Time Magazine, November 11, 1985). Hughes might have said "prison
reform," but what about Vladimir Nabokov, when, in his inimitable prose, he
describes a prison scene in Invitation to a Beheading: "The door opened,
whining, rattling and groaning in keeping with all the rules of carceral
counterpoint." Here we find "carceral" not only practical but practically
poetical. An adjective borrowed directly from Late Latin, "carceral"
appeared shortly after "incarcerate" ("to imprison"), which first showed up
in English around the mid-1500s; they're both ultimately from "carcer,"
Latin for "prison."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence

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