Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002481, Sat, 18 Oct 1997 15:40:50 -0700

Re: VN pronunciation (fwd)
From: Earl Sampson <esampson@cu.campus.mci.net>

Sorry to have misled Mary Krimmel, and perhaps others. You were right,
Mary, that the rhyme you quoted gives the correct stressing of NabOkov. But
there's no need to replace his first name with "Professor", as VladImir is
also stressed on the second syllable. Thus his name comprises a two-foot
amphibrach, and when stressed correctly cannot fit into a line of a Double
Dactyl, to which genre my poem belongs. About a year ago, NABOKV-L had an
exchange on Double Dactyls, and as I recall, the issue of the stressing of
VN's name came up. One person had solved the dilemma by spreading his first
name over two lines:
DAH-dah-dah DAH-dah-Vla-
DI-Mir-Na BOK-ov.

The "narrator" of my poem is not myself, but an alter ego who knows
something, but not enough, about VN: doesn't know the correct pronunciation
of his name (and thus "mistresses it in the usual way," i.e. as Alex Trebek
did and as most English-speakers do); doesn't know the exact number of his
Russian novels (nine, if you count THE EYE as a novel), and oversimplifies
the history of the translation of his Russian novels. When I submitted the
poem to the local campus newspaper, I fitted it out with footnotes, one of
which pointed out the incorrect stressing - guess I should have included
them in my posting. (Another note pointed out that "auto-metaphrastically"
would make more sense linguistically, but again would spoil the meter.)

So, Mary, remember Nabokov's poem, not mine, and *don't* be guided by
huggery muggery (which is another poetic license, anyway; it's really

Earl Sampson
Boulder, CO

Mary Krimmel wrote:

>Earl Sampson's note, with the clever verse, brought me up short. A long time
>fan of VN simply as a reader, have I been mispronouncing his name? I took as my
>guide what I read somewhere - that VN himself gave his students the rhyme:
> The querulous squawk of
> the heron at night
> Prompts Nabokov
> to write.
>(I don't remember the form, but am practically sure about the words, as I read
>them in whoever-it-was's article or essay or reminiscence.)
>From which I assumed that I ought to say Nah - bawk - uv, with the stress on
>the second syllable.
>It's hard not to stress the squawk above. In fact, I liked to insert Professor
>before Nabokov for meter's sake, Vladimir not fitting my idea of the "right"
>So now I learn that I too have been "misstressing in the usual way" and will
>endeavor to remember and be guided by huggery muggery. But what of the
>querulous squawk? Surely many others of this list have seen it, and likely know
>Mary Krimmel