NABOKV-L post 0023132, Sat, 28 Jul 2012 17:37:59 -0600

Re: [Fwd: Re: Pale Fire Commentary on Line 130]]
First let me belatedly thank Jansy Mello, Carolyn Kunin, and Alexey
Sklyarenko for their kind words about my pictures or the creatures in my
pictures. However, I don't know why the "striped woodpecker" on Sapsucker
paperbacks in *Ada* has to be the striped woodpecker (or Striped
Woodpecker) of South America and can't be the sapsucker, the striped
woodpecker that the imprint is named for. (By the way, in *Ada* some
vernacular species names are capitalized and some aren't. I only looked at
a few chapters, but I wonder whether capitalization suggests Ada's
influence or point of view.)

Let me assure Jansy that Kinbote's "Ordinary Razor" is a straight razor.
The phrase seems to have been used about 100 years ago. I don't know why
he capitalizes it.

Barrie Karp brings up interesting examples of Kinbote's American idiom,
which I didn't notice because they don't stand out for me. I think the
American spelling throughout the book was simply standard for American
books at the time.

Maybe I should mention my suspicion that at that time Kinbote would have
learned "coed" on his first day at a coeducational college. I might add to
Barrie's list that "cinemactress" (Index s.v. "Odon") was a *Time* magazine
coinage, as far as I know. On the other hand, in the note to lines
385-6, Kinbote
says "You are telling me!" (meaning "I know that better than you"), but any
American would say "You're telling me!" Typically, he thinks he's mastered
American slang better than he has.

"Railway" is known here ("Sittin' downtown in a railway station"), but I'd
be very surprised to hear "torch" instead of "flashlight".

Shade uses some British words, despite various reminders of how American he
is. There's a "whilst" (line 43) in his poem and two occurrences of
"chap"; one is needed for the rhyme (line 135), but the other could have
been "man" or "guy" (line 732). And "possibilities" rhymes better with
"Sybil, it is" in British Received Pronunciation than in "General
American". As Barrie says, even Homer nods, and of course Shade as a poet
and English professor and scholar of Pope must have read a good deal of
British literature, but I've wondered what else Nabokov could be trying to
bring up with these usages. They do work very well with single-author
theories, which I don't find convincing for other reasons.

By the way, I've been writing this note with the help of Matt Roth's Pale
Fire Concordance at <>. It
seems to be a work that's no longer in progress--at least I haven't
contributed to it for a long time--but if you scroll down to "C" and "Word
list: C", for example, you can find every word in the book with references
to line number, note number, foreword page, or index page (except words
that occur with more than 20 references or some number like that).

Kinbote's description of Botkin as "an American scholar of Russian descent"
is one of his more puzzling moments, especially since Nabokov said Botkin
was a Russian.


Possibly Kinbote is using the phrase "of Russian descent" unidiomatically,
or denying Botkin's Russian-ness as much as he can?

And you can pretty much believe Wikipedia on bird systematics. Our orioles
are in a different family from the original Old World orioles.

Jerry Friedman

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