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I've found the phrase "another link in the daisy-chain" in Nabokov's Lolita. Here's the whole sentence:

I do not know if the pimp's album may not have been another link in the daisy-chain; but soon after, for my own safety, I decided to marry

I understand it as similar to "another notch on one's belt"—perhaps a more poetic version. Is it an idiom or just a linguistic invention of Nabokov's?

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It's Nabokov's conflation of "another link in the chain" and "daisy chain". –  Peter Shor Jun 8 '12 at 17:54
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's certainly not what I would call an idiom - a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. Google Books has just 8 instances of “another link in the daisy chain”, and most of those are this Lolita quote. That's as opposed to 143,000 for “another link in the chain”.

The word "daisy" in OP's version probably doesn't add any meaning - it's only there because the writer is aware of the actual idiom daisy chain, which as a noun can mean a series of associated people or things, and as a verb can mean to connect (several devices) together in a linear series.

In general, chains are strong (though in the context of a chain, a link is usually the weakest link). Daisy chains, on the other hand, have no connotations of strength - they simply convey the interconnectedness of the "linked elements").

Note that later in the text, Nabokov writes "I still have, vibrating all along my optic nerve, visions of Lo on horseback, a link in the chain of a guided trip along a bridle trail". I personally do not think it would make any difference to the book if he'd swapped "daisy" to that sentence, used it in both, or left it out altogether.

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Really? looking at the links, I was hoping for some more substantial (non-technical) metaphor that daisy chain was going for, something more than 'things connected together like a chain'. –  Mitch Jun 8 '12 at 19:34
    
@Mitch: Nah. As Peter Shor says, it's really a semantically meaningless conflation of two elements. I'm sure you could "Lit. Crit." your way to justifying some significance in Nabokov's choice, but it certainly didn't catch on. More than half the 8 instances I linked to are direct quotes from Lolita. –  FumbleFingers Jun 8 '12 at 21:07
    
Knowing Nabokov, there could be some deep meaning here, which it could take years of close reading and cogitation to uncover. Or, more likely, it might just be a play on words without any deep significance. –  Peter Shor Jun 9 '12 at 18:11
    
@Peter Shor: You have the advantage of me, in that I've never actually read anything by him. My guess though is that it's the story/subject matter that makes Lolita famous, not the finer literary qualities of his writing style. I can't in all honesty say I'm impressed by the evocative qualities of "vibrating all along my optic nerve", for example. Some might think that's "poetic", but frankly, it just sounds a bit precious to me. –  FumbleFingers Jun 9 '12 at 18:17
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