Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Words from Nabokov

Today I read the first half of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  I was impressed by many things including the wit (mainly because I wasn't expecting it) and the man's vocabulary/  I made a list of the less familiar words he used below (some of which I have tried learning before, but since they haven't stuck, I'm trying again)

ribald = humorously vulgar.
torrid = emotionally charged and physically energetic, hot, intense
phocine = relating to seals
nacreous = resembling mother of pearl
nates = buttocks
dolour = painful grief
nictate = blink
limpid = clear and bright
pederosis = pedophile 
davenport = small desk or sofa
solipsism = philosophy that the self is the only thing that exists
seraglio = living quarters reserved for women and servants in Muslim household.
iliac = pertaining to the hip bone
incubus = male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with a sleeping female, situation like a nightmare, a person who depresses others
incarnadine = make flesh coloured
eructation = belching or erupting
duenna = a woman chaperon
philtre = drink which makes the one who drinks it fall in love with the one who gives it.
nonce = the present occasion
lentigo = small brown spot on the skin
umbra = shadow caused by interruption of light

 According to Wikipedia, he was fluent in three languages (French, Russian and English) at an early age because they were all spoken at home.  He was also an expert on insects and had a vast collection of the genitalia of a certain blue butterfly because he believed that by microscopic examination of the differences was the best means of classifying them.  I expect he would have loved silkworms.


Blogger Sue Guiney said...

Great! I wonder, if he was writing today, if he would feel like he could use that sort of vocabulary. I bet he would have been edited into an inch of his life. But then again, I doubt that he would have put up with that and would have done what he wanted, how he wanted anyway.

Wed Jan 23, 10:07:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Gathering new words is a wonderful past time - I jotted quite a lot down while reading Self's Umbrella last year!

Davenport is my favourite from your list - because it's also a surname - I love words that are names - they offer a whole new level of interest to people who bear them!

Wed Jan 23, 12:38:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, I think you're right, Sue - after the life he'd led I should think he'd do exactly what he thought he should do.

Yes, in my brief (so far) encounter with Umbrella, I encountered quite a few new words, too Jem. Since it's an audiobook it's not quite so wasy to jot them down though - bit of a disadvantage, that.

Wed Jan 23, 07:40:00 pm  
Blogger cromercrox said...

'Incarnadine' occurs in MacBeth, where it possibly means the colour of blood:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Sat Feb 09, 12:55:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Wonderful, Cromercrox! Thank you. Every time I read some Shakespeare my heart soars.

Sat Feb 09, 01:30:00 pm  

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