It will be marked that I substitute time terms for spatial ones. In fact, I would have the reader see “nine” and “fourteen” as the boundaries – the mirror beaches and rosy rocks – of an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast, misty sea. Between those age limits, are all girl-children mymphets? Of course not. Otherwise, we who are in the know, we lone voyagers, we nympholepts, would have long gone insane. Neither are good looks any criterion; and vulgarity, or at least what a given community terms so, does not necessarily impair certain mysterious characteristics, the fey grace, the elusive, shifty, soul-shattering, insidious charm that separates the nymphet from such coevals of hers as are incomparably more dependent on the spatial world of synchronous phenomena than on that intangible island of entranced time where Lolita plays with her likes.
(Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)

I know adverb neither is followed by verb and its subject. But there are two nouns after verb: good looks and any criterion. Why is that, and what does this sentnece mean?

1 Answer 1


You should be more careful in future about deriving grammatical rules from novels - particularly old novels. This text is very non-standard in its use of modern English, and you would get surprised looks from most native speakers if you wrote text like this in formal writing, emails or as part of spoken English.

To specifically answer your question, the sentence "Neither are good looks any criterion" has equivalent meaning to:

Good looks are also not a criterion.

In this case, Neither is taking two parts (as usual), but the first part is either implied, or refers to a criterion specified before the text you've written. If you want, you could read the sentence as

Neither that, nor are good looks any criterion

with the emboldened text implied.

  • 6
    +1 for the explanation. But I take exception to characterizing Neither BE Subject Complement as "non-standard"; and I take violent exception to characterizing as "old" an acknowledged masterpiece published when I was in my seventh year :) May 5, 2013 at 12:08
  • @StoneyB: Are you seriously telling me that "... the coevals of hers as are incomparably more dependent on the spatial world of synchronous phenomena ..." is something you'd expect to hear on the bus?
    – Matt
    May 5, 2013 at 17:08
  • I didn't say that; I said that Neither BE Subject Complement is standard. From an ordinary blog: "Copper is not a typical family dog according to Terry. Working makes him happy. Neither is he a house dog. He has a kennel but, occasionally he is allowed in the Nelson’s home." And "standard" can mean lots of things, but it is certainly not restricted to the language of idle chit-chat. May 5, 2013 at 18:00
  • 2
    @StoneyB: I didn't actually say Neither BE Subject Complement is non-standard; I just said that this novel, like many of the OP's chosen texts (indeed - like most novels), use English in ways that are not appropriate for everyday use. Learners would be well advised to avoid divining how English is used in practice by reading old novels or novels which employ flowery language such as this one. Acknowledged masterpieces give you a great insight into culture. They give you a very poor insight into everyday usage and grammar.
    – Matt
    May 5, 2013 at 18:48
  • @StoneyB: I've edited my answer to make this a bit more clear.
    – Matt
    May 5, 2013 at 18:51

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