Nabokov makes me run for the Dictionary!

Published by peachalulu in the blog peachalulu's blog. Views: 236

Okay , I have a pretty good vocabulary. Note the stellar use of pretty good. I mean not anyone could just come up with that, they would use a word like tolerable or acceptable but me I toss out pretty good. Well anyhow - this pretty good vocab of mine can stand up to most of my reading but when I get to Nabokov - yeesh, he’s got me running for the dictionary. But , I have to admit - I love it. I love a challenge , I love discovering new words. I love his cocktail mix.

And while reading the wonderfully bizarre - Invitation to a Beheading...


Convexity - raised curves.

I know , I know this should’ve been easy but it’s the vex that threw me, I was off imagining a twisting vortex - something more complicated than the context required.

Sough - sigh.

What an odd one - looks like some object you’d find in a farm-wife’s kitchen.

Coeval - contemporaries

Right off I was thinking of a baby deer or a baby something with nubby horns and colt legs.

Upsilamba - one of Nabokov’s coinages

Sounds like a college fraternity with it’s own rah rah, upsilamba, chant.

Mottles - blotches.

Now, you could be going - seriously? Mottled - you’ve got mottled up there - everyone knows what mottled is ( only secretly you could be checking your dictionary thesaurus, touching finger to filtrum, just to be sure ) yes, mottled means blotches, duh. Well, I want to be absolutely sure. I had an inkling it had something to do with splotches or dots or speckles or spots - he’s very fond of the word mottle especially when it pertains to sunlight.

Hauberk - medieval coat of armor

Actually , given it’s context I guessed this one.

Indefatigable - inexhaustible

Never would’ve guessed this one - looks like a promise on a Dexatrim package - in three weeks you’ll be indefatigable.

Purling - chirp or gurgle

Knit one , purl two was the first thing that came to mind , second a purling kitten. And no, the kitten wasn’t knitting.

Iambic - to do with poetry

For some reason I thought it had something to do with music.

Nictitating - winking

I recalled this from Lolita but forgot it’s context and was thinking it had something to do with tongue-clucking - you know - tsk tsk.

Pedagoguette - female teacher

I looked this up just to be sure - but having heard of ped from such news-at-eleven tags like pederasty and pedophile that the initial ped was Greek for child and in it’s context that it meant children’s teacher. But I looked it up just to be sure. Interesting syllables - unfortunately it conjures images of pagodas and usherettes and shoes ( keds, pegaboo , clogs ) anything but a teacher!

Hirsute - hairy

Sounds like a German salute - I think I prefer in the context hairy hands to hirsute hands. But hirsute sounds so refined.

Veracity - truth

Just checking. Does that count?

Salutary - Promoting health

A salute? - this was a tricky one - especially when linked up with it’s noun - tears. Salutary tears.
Love that. Wow.

Flotilla - small fleet of ships.

Given the context flotilla of tea leaves I was guessing something lily pad-ish.

Torpor - drugged stupor

I guessed , and checked - I was right!

Parallelogram - a shape ( I'm not describing it - too long )

What a whopper. Lovely to say though. But the meaning was a bit of a disappointment considering it’s lovely yo-yo syllables - it should’ve been some futuristic, valentine delivery service.

Spelean - of a cave or cave like

Strangely enough I just finished a short story in which my character mentions spelunking - but given Nabokov’s context spelean water in a pitcher, I was thinking more along the grosser lines of spittle. Which actually would’ve made for an interesting, if disgusting, image of comparing his water pitcher to a spittoon.

Dissemble - mask or cover under a false pretense.

Unfortunately , years of 80's movies confused this for me, with Short Circuit’s cry of “No disassemble!”

Coulisses - a space that fits between two flats as in a theater stage.

Given the context Nabokov could’ve went with crevice - until of course one gets to the end and sees this odd word choice fits perfectly.

Macules - blotches

Again with blotchy alternatives.

Vespertine - Night blooming.

Lovely connotation.

Integument - skin , shell , husk.

Given the context I’ll take a stab - likeness? - not even close.

Venerable - old but noble

I was thinking easy to veneer. He was a laquerable old man. Oh yuk, Yuck.

Logarithm - mathematical formula

A sound an instrument makes? Root word for loganberry? Now I’m grasping at straws. Or as Nabokov might say -
I was grasping at jipijapa.

Tympanum - drum or drumhead


Houri - seductive woman

Considering it was a carving on a pipe I didn’t have too many options though I knew it was mythological.

And the rest - meerschaum , bream , goffered , talus , rampart , samovar , perambulation, halberd, lambent, plafond, stillicide, interlocutress, carceral -

which in turn made me think of -
Beerbohm , the sound a blender makes , when a gofer pranks you , talon-like , the part of ramp,
Indian cuisine , a fall down a hill , a type of duck , reclining , a curious object for a curio cabinet ,
dead of night , a female gate-crasher , and surreal cars. Which had I kept any of these
confusing images it might’ve made the book even more
bizarre than it was!
  • Mckk
  • peachalulu
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