A sign on a snapshot booth

Kevin70s

Senior Member
Mandarin/Chiu Chow/Cantonese
In Chapter Five of Transparent Things byVladimir Nabokov, it reads as follows:
Hugh eyed the legs and then the sign on the booth. The masculine ending and the absence of an acute accent flawed the unintentional pun: HOTOS 3 Poses. As he, still a virgin, imagined those daring attitudes a double event happened ...

The booth mentioned above is a snapshot booth in Montreux, Switzerland.

I am French illiterate. Could someone please explain what is the pun and why it is a pun?

Thank you very much!
 
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  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    This is an odd one! I've checked and yes indeed, that is what Nabokov wrote:
    HOTOS
    3 Poses
    - which means exactly the same in French as in English

    Nabokov is usually such a precise stylist but here it's hard to see what he means. The only place for an acute accent would be on the 'e' of poses, making posés. Making that feminine would give us "3 posées" - does innocent Hugh see the misprint of hotos for photos and imagine that there are three hot women being posed in the booth?

    That's my best bet. I've tried to see this in Russian (Nabokov might have written the original work in Russian for all I know) but that doesn't help either.
     

    scive

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    I believe Nabokov wrote this book in English rather than Russian. I have searched through some Russian websites (since I speak Russian) and have only come across English versions. I'll keep searching though.
     

    scive

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    Yes he definitely wrote this work in English. He later translated it into Russian himself, but he spoke fluent French (since he also wrote a work in French) so I'd assume that he got the pun correct himself, and that the pun would have been unchanged in the Russian version. I would suggest that Keith's interpretation of the pun is correct.
     

    Kevin70s

    Senior Member
    Mandarin/Chiu Chow/Cantonese
    French is all Greek to me :) Well, not exactly. At least I know the morning greeting is Bon Jour in French while I don't know a single Greek word. With the (both my and your) knowledge of my ignorance, I am going to crack the pun with some guessing and the help of some resources, including you guys, some other forums and a book on French Grammar, which I only flipped through for "masculine ending".

    1. My first guess is that the sign was actually like this:
    HOTOS
    3P
    oses

    The 3 and P should be larger than they look here to cross both of the lines where
    "HOTOS" and "oses" are at (i cant make it happen technically), in a way that they are
    obviously meant to be prefixed to "HOTOS" and "oses" respectively, so it is supposed
    to read "3 HOTOS 3 poses".

    2. The sign may look like "3 photos 3 osées" (which means 3 daring
    photos) or:
    HOTOS
    3P
    osées

    In other words, this should have been the "unintentional pun", had
    it not been flawed by the masculine ending and the absence of an
    acute accent.

    The pun is self-explanatory, which lies in its double meanings of "3
    photos 3 poses" and "3 daring photos.

    3. But it's not a straightforward pun because people wouldn't be able
    to associate "3 photo 3 poses" with the second meaning without
    changing the masculine ending to feminine and adding an acute
    accent, i.e. from ose to osée. (think about in English, emperor
    — empress, tiger—tigress)

    So, does it make sense to you? Sorry for this long-winded post, but I am trying to explain this to a group of French illiterates (including me) too.

    Thanks
     
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    ruefranciscarco

    New Member
    Anglais
    Here's a few ideas:



    aux t'ose toi peu osée in dares you dare little or when daring yourself you dare little
    HO TOS 3 p oses


    au t'oses toi posés to dare yourself to pose
    HO TOS 3 p oses

    au t'oses toi pausée to dare yourself to stop
    HO TOS 3 poses
     

    bruguiea

    New Member
    France
    The manufacturer of the booth meant to say "3 photos, 3 poses." Both "photo" and "pose" are feminine nouns. This translates as "3 photos, 3 takes."

    However, in the narrator's mind, it is "3 photo osées." In that case, the second word is not a noun but an adjective. The second 'e' is the mark of feminine (adjectives follow the gender of the noun they are attached to, in French). In that case, the translation means "3 daring pictures." ("daring" as a euphemism for "pornographic").

    See, there is a woman in the booth:

    "Its brown curtain was only half drawn, disclosing the elegant legs, clad in transparent black, of a female seated inside."

    He is thinking about being with the woman inside the booth, taking 3 "daring pictures" with her.
     
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