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Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Nabokov

“The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution”*…

An Ernie Bushmiller “Cross Word Cal” cartoon, from Sunday New York World, 1925. Note how the animals are caged by letter length and genus — Source.

Roddy Howland Jackson (himself a setter of puzzles) considers the origins of, and reveals the pleasures and imaginative creatures lurking in Torquemada’s seminal puzzles, the original cryptic crosswords…

Just a few years after The Waste Land appeared — a poem whose difficulty critics compared to some “pompous cross-word puzzle” — Edward Powys Mathers (alias: Torquemada) pioneered the cryptic: a puzzle form that, like modernist poetry, unwove language and rewove it anew…

“The Swan” from Torquemada’s Cross-Words in Rhyme for Those of Riper Years (1925) — Source

T. S. Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, Torquemada, and the Modernist crossword: “Beastly Clues,” from @roddyhj in @PublicDomainRev.

See also “Topic: Surprise, Drowsy Cows RIP, as Corrected (2,5,7,10)

* Stephen Sondheim (who helped introduce Americans to British-style cryptic crosswords)

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As we contemplate circuitous clues, we might note that today is National Thesaurus Day, celebrated each year on this date in honor of physician, natural theologian, and lexicographer Peter Mark Roget, who was born on this date in 1779. In 1852 Roget published his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition (or, as we know it, Roget’s Thesaurus), a pioneering collection of related words.

Modern thesauri tend to be collections of synonyms and antonyms. Roget’s Thesaurus was…

… essentially a reverse dictionary. With a dictionary, the user looks up a word to find its meaning. With Roget’s, the user start with an idea and then keeps flipping through the book until he finds the word that best expresses it. The organization of the book reflects the unique intelligence of the polymath that created it…

Roget’s was a two-for-one: it put both a book of synonyms and a topic dictionary (a compendium of thematically arranged concepts) under one cover.

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Roget’s official portrait by Thomas Pettigrew

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The art of failure*…

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From Matador Networks, “20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World,” from…

1. Toska
Russian – Vladimir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

to…

20. Saudade
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”  Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)

* “Translation is the art of failure.” – Umberto Eco

As we console ourselves that, as Robert Frost observed, “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” we might recall that Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov, and a master– perhaps the master– of “toska,” was born on this date in 1821 (in the “old style” calendar, adjusted to January 1 on the Julian calendar; his birth date is November 11 on the unadjusted Russian version of the Gregorian calendar.)

Dostoyevsky (source)

Definitely definitive…

.. a veritable treasury of similarly helpfully defined words at My First Dictionary.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the first Earth Day (1970), we might scribble a birthday greeting to a master wordsmith, the “daddy” of Lolita,  Vladimir Nabokov, accomplished lepidopterist, creator of chess problems, and novelist extraordinaire..

Nabokov was born on April 10, 1899 according to the Julian calendar in use in Russia at that time. The Gregorian equivalent is April 22– found by adding 12 days to the Julian date…  one shouldn’t be taken in by sources that incorrectly calculate a date of 23 April, using the 13-day difference in the calendars that applied only after 28 February 1900. Indeed, in Speak, Memory Nabokov himself affirms today’s date as the big day, and unpacks the too-common error.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 22, 2009 at 1:01 am

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