Not Lost In Translation: A Curious Language Anecdote


Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov, in his 1962 novel Pale Fire, related a remarkable, albeit probably apocryphal, Russian language anecdote. The story went that a newspaper which covered the coronation ceremony of a Tsar “accidentally” misprinted “корона” (korona) (crown) as “ворона” (vorona) (crow). The following day, the newspaper apologized for the error and promptly “corrected” it. However, the word was misprinted once again as “корова” (korova) (cow).

According to Nabokov, “The artistic correlation between the crown-crow-cow series and the Russian koronavoronakorova series is something that would have, I am sure, enraptured my poet.” He also believed that the probability of having a language coincidence like this is so minuscule that it may as well elude computation.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

18 thoughts on “Not Lost In Translation: A Curious Language Anecdote

    1. He’s not talking about the “misprints” as they were intentional. What he meant was the coincidence between the two languages is not a common one.

      Nonetheless, autocorrect can be messy. I personally don’t use it but I have received too many emails and messages with weird and hilarious errors to know.

      Liked by 1 person

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