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.


About Edmark M. Law

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. I blog at You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkLaw and Facebook. My email is
This entry was posted in Anecdotes, Language, Oddities and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Not Lost In Translation: A Curious Language Anecdote

  1. acheblogweb says:

    One of the many reasons why I love learning languages, a single letter can change everything…


  2. anne leueen says:

    Spanish has that tricky thing of casada and cansada. One means ‘tired’ and the other ‘married’. In my ignorance I once told someone in Argentina that I was “very married”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. B. says:

    This is really intriguing…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. craftysurf says:

    Fake news 😳😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pvcann says:

    This was a great piece, and it sure made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. curioussteph says:

    Perfectly possible now in the times of autocorrect

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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

  7. ivor20 says:

    The last piece of your article amused me greatly, “having a language coincidence like this is so minuscule that it may as well elude computation.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Travel and commented:
    Interesting things happen when we write. Language coincidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. masercot says:

    The old Korova Milk Bar satisfies this malchick real horrorshow.

    Oh, and let me recommend Invitation to a Beheading to people who think all he wrote was Lolita.

    Liked by 1 person

What's On Your Mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s