"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Work, Play, Wordplay

As Far As the I Can Sea

For cruise reading earlier this month, I took along Lolita, which has been on my "to read" list for 40 years or so. After the first few pages of Humbert Humbert's clever alliterative word sequences, I thought back to the time when I set out to write a paper about Work, Play, and Wordplay in the short story "Araby." I never tire of re - reading this story of illusion and disillusion:
"The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens . . .

"I answered few questions in class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play. . . .

"My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the old saying: 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' "

James Joyce ~"Araby" ~ Dubliners ~ 1914
"The career of our play" -- there is just something so pleasing about that phrase and the use of "career" to mean a crazy path -- not a life - work trajectory. Even though I know that Joyce meant play, I still thought of work -- as does the boy's uncle. After all, the narrator of "Araby" is a very serious boy, earnest and task - oriented, who merges work and play. He is not looking for fun at the bazaar, he is on a quest.

Likewise, I know the boys in the story were rushing headlong around the neighborhood -- careering. But perhaps they were also tilting and veering -- careening. Work Play Career Careen. How enmeshed are these linguistic connections? Word Detective explains the etymology:
Although “careen” and “career” as verbs are often used interchangeably today, they are, in fact, quite separate words. Strictly speaking, “careen” [Latin root = “carina" = “keel of a ship”] means “to lean over, to tilt,” while “career” [Latin root = “carrus” = “wheeled vehicle”] as a verb means “to rush at full speed” (with implications of recklessness). . . .

“Career” as a verb meaning “to move at full speed” is actually the same word as the noun “career” meaning “profession or course of employment or activity.” . . .

Interestingly, “careen” and “career” began to be used interchangeably only in the early 20th century, just about the time people noticed that a motor car rounding a curve at high speed (“careering”) tended to tilt quite a bit (“careening”). Purists still draw a distinction between the two words, but it’s really a losing battle at this point.
At long last I realize what would have saved the day for my rejected paper proposal -- having read Lolita 35 years ago instead of waiting until now! If only I had done so, I could have bolstered my argument with numerous examples from Nabokov, the Master of Wordplay! Some of my favorites:
43: "Monsieur Poe - poe," as that boy . . . called the poet - poet

43, 81: a swim in Our Glass Lake . . . Hourglass Lake -- not as I had thought it was spelled

50: she denies those amusing rumors, rumor, roomer

53: Haze, Dolores . . . dolorous and hazy

54: creeping . . . crippling

57, 60: Humbert the Hummer . . . Humbert the Hound

60: Carmen - barmen . . . barmen, alarmin', my charmin', my carmen, ahmen, ahhamen . . .

70: the dreadful, mysterious, insidious words "trauma," "traumatic event," and "transom"

71: I might blackmail -- no, that is too strong a word -- mauvemail

77: ecru and ocher and putty - buff - snuff

92: Campus, Canada, Candid Camera, Candy . . . Canoeing or Canvasback

112: Anyway, something abdominal. Abominable? No, adominal.

114: "Ensuite?" . . . "Ansooit . . . "

118: not Humberg and not Humbug, but Herbert, I mean Humbert . . .

118: "I think it went to the Swoons," said Swine . . .
Unfortunately, as with Catcher in the Rye, I came late to Lolita. Otherwise, I might have used Nabokov's examples of connective wordplay to substantiate my own: work play career careen. Or as Humbert Humbert himself might have elaborated: Career Careen Cartoon Cardoon. If one well - placed word brings to mind another, follow the connection and see what happens! Who knows what truth may be revealed by the time you reach then end of the chain? Never mind the naysayers and killjoys; no vocabulary connection is without merit.

After reading Lolita at sea, it is now time to re - read Reading Lolita in Tehran. No doubt, thanks to my new, improved understanding of Nabokov, many previously missed connections will fall into place. Coincidences are always there for the taking. Connections are always there for the making.

". . . to the Bermudas or the Bahamas or the Blazes."
(Lolita, 36)

Wordplay from previous posts . . .

Len Lent Lentils

Cat, Bat, Batman, Batuman, Batground

Annecharico, Carrigan Carrillo, Carriker, O'Kereke


Cerebral Typos . . .
When I meant THOUGH, I added a final "T" and typed THOUGHT.
When I meant THIN, I added a final "K" and typed THINK.


Gerry's Cruise Reading:
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, March 15th ~ "Beware the Ides of March!"

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST ~ "Short Books for a Short Month"
my running list of recent reading

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