Thursday, May 29, 2008


I was reading the mystery Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers this week, and in a list drawn up by the sleuths for 'Things to Be Noted' and 'Things to be Done', I kept running into the initials N.B.

Since N.B. always came toward the end of each note, setting off the last thing mentioned in each section, I thought at first that it was a variation on P.S., but after a while I decided that didn't work, so I abandoned the novel and went to my primary dictionary, which informs me that NB (the periods seem to have been dropped over the years) means "note well" and is derived from the Latin nota bene.

Ooh, this could be useful. I wonder why it's not in common use?

P.S. As far as the mystery goes, Have His Carcase is rather more gruesome, complicated, and clever than I wanted. Being by Sayers, it has a great deal of wit and substance, but it is decidedly more graphic in places than you might expect from a British mystery from 1932. Overall it's pretty good, and it places it heads toward brilliant, but it has a high enough "yuck" factor to take it off my "recommend it to everybody" list. If you like codes and ciphers, though, toward the end of the book it has some rather detailed lessons in making and breaking a certain type of cipher.

And, yes, Lord Peter Wimsey fans, this is one of those books starring that hero and Miss Vane, where he knows he's in love with her, but she isn't sure what she thinks about him.

Update: Hmmm. Now that I know about NB (or N.B.), I suppose it's going to pop up all over the place, and I'll feel silly for not knowing about it already. Exhibit A: see this multi-book book review post, specifically the review for Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good by Wendy Shalit.


hopeinbrazil said...

Kathryn, I've never heard of the NB annotation and I read A LOT, so don't feel bad. Now we both know.

Kathryn Judson said...

Dear hopeinbrazil, Thanks for writing. It's nice to know I'm not alone on this. :)

Pinon Coffee said...

I love Lord Peter. One of my favorite college memories was reading _Have His Carcase_ aloud with a half-dozen buddies, a great multilingual group. A natively bilingual girl translated the French; a Greek student translated the Greek; and two or three others translated the Latin. Sayers was so much better educated than we are... and yes, she's fun. :-)

Kathryn Judson said...

Dear Pinon Coffee, Oh, my. I can just see a multi-lingual college-aged group tackling Sayers out loud! How fun. And how useful. There are times with both Sayers and Christie that I wish I had translaters at hand. Or an edition with endnotes. Or both.

I'm rather a Lord Peter fan myself. Have you tried the Tommy Hambledon books by Manning Coles? A fair percentage of Lord Peter fans like Hambledon, too.

Pinon Coffee said...

Ooh! No, I have not tried Manning Coles. I will have to. Thank you for the recommendation. :-)