Carolyn Kunin: What you are thinking of is the purple martin, which is a large swallow.  I believe the word martinet comes from a particularly odious military man [" after General Jean Martinet (died 1672)"].


Jansy Mello:  Carolyn Kunin skipped my posting that preceded the one she selected to comment* and she informs me that I am thinking of some other bird unrelated to links, bobolinks and various other birds in PF and PNIN.

Actually the word “Martin” ramifies differently in the English and the French (romance language) worlds. In French you’ll find it being attributed to four different birds: “martinet, martin, martin-pêcheur and martin-chasseur”. Martinets may have been associated to the feasts of Saint Martin which occur during their migratory period and it was the polissemic “martinet” that originated the designation “Martin” for the other bird. The other two belong to various species of the same family that, in English, correspond to the “Kingfishers”.


The fascinating thing for me… [and here’s another distant connection, now to ADA, or Ardor, where we encounter references to Greek mythology and Leda, her eggs and her impregnation by Zeus disguised as a swan (Jupiter Olorinus, using Nabokov’s choice**)] … is the association between the family of kingfishers (“martin-pêcheur” and “martin-chasseur”, from the Alcedinidae, order Coraciiformes) and another mytological set of Greek deities who lay eggs during their “halcyon days”: it is the legend of Alcyone and Ceyx. These, in turn, are related to the ALKONOST, a bird with the face of a woman that is sometimes presented together with the SIRIN.  

Cf. Viktor Vasnetsov’s painting of the “Birds of Joy and of Sorrow”






*Since in Portuguese the superficial similarity between both birds is reflected on the choice of similar names for them (Swallow: Andorinha; Swift: Andorinhão), I felt curious about their differences and did some googling, when I found another word in English for the swift: a “martlet” (little martin)*. Unfortunately the Wikipedia site on heraldry seems to refer to the swifts and to the swallows indiscriminately, at least in one paragraph, although the reference to the swifts is left clear in the rest of the notes. Cf. [ * ). The reference in PF, though, is not to the whip nor to the bird, but to people that behave with the cruel strictness of the French inspector named Jean Martinet. It’s impossible to be certain that V.Nabokov didn’t play with the misadventures of this word’s various meanings when he chose to describe Pnin landing in the ornithological PF as a “martinet”…]


**Baron Klim Avidov… the letter J on the two joker blocks (as thrilling to get as a blank check signed by Jupiter or Jurojin).// Their open mouths met in tender fury, and then he pounced upon her new, young, divine, Japanese neck which he had been coveting like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus throughout the evening.// In the lounge, as seen through its entrance, the huge memorable oil — three ample-haunched Ledas swapping lacustrine impressions — had been replaced by a neoprimitive masterpiece showing three yellow eggs and a pair of plumber’s gloves on what looked like wet bathroom tiling. //     p.407. Olorinus: from Lat. olor, swan (Leda’s lover).                (ADA)


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