Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000220, Mon, 21 Mar 1994 13:19:56 -0800

Re: Safire on Nabokov (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 1994 10:15:01 -0800 (PST)
From: Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L%UCSBVM.BITNET@uwavm.u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Safire on Nabokov

(The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, March 20, 1994; William Safire on


An etymological find! Phrasedicks have long attributed POLITICALLY
CORRECT... to Chairman Mao's little red book of the 1960's. Now comes
Prof. Irving Lewis Allen of the U of Connecticut with an earlier
citation. Writing in a forthcoming issue of American Speech... he finds
the full phrase in Vladimir Nabokov's 1947 novel, BEND SINISTER, a
fantasy about a clownish dictator: 'It is better for a man to have
belonged to a POLITICALLY INCORRECT organization... than not to have
belonged to any organization at all.' The author of LOLITA has thereby
earned a place in the hearts of linguistic heavy hitters, etc."

A personal observation: If it takes "linguistic heavy hitters" all these
years to discover this phrase in Nabokov, and if those same heavy hitters
appear astounded that Nabokov would use a phrase like that back in 1947
(as if Russian revolution and communist ideology did not precede the
Chinese one) what does it say about those aforementioned heavy hitters?
And what does it say about William Safire who appears to be equally

If, after all that, you still want to see the article when it comes out,
the address of the publication is -- American Speech: A Quarterly of
Linguistic Usage, University of Alabama Press, Box 870380, Tuscaloosa,
Ala. 35487-0380.

Galya Diment