Monday, May 8, 2017

Nay to Née

Né? Not for me!
I tend to be fairly conservative in language, preferring the tried-and-true to the innovative, but there is one point where I have to draw the line. There may have been an era in which the use of the French word née didn’t come off as affected or pretentious. We are no longer in that era.

Worse yet, the only times I ever see it, it’s been misused. There are multiple forms. In French there are times in which you would write not only and née, but also •nés* and nées. It’s just the French word for “born” (that is, the past participle of the verb naître). As a convention in English, it’s acquired the meaning of “born under the name of,” and it’s typically used to indicate that some man is performing under a name other than that with which he was born.



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Friday, April 14, 2017

Zamenhof Died. Esperanto Still Lives

The Zamenhofs in Antwerp, 1911
We live in an age where when even the deaths of minor newsmakers and celebrities are reported globally almost instantly. When Ludovik Zamenhof died on April 14, 1917, this global communications network still in its infancy, but many American papers did report on Zamenhof’s death just two days after, which is (by the standards of the day) reasonably fast. They might not have heard about it until the Sunday, April 15, 1917 newspapers were set in type.

It actually says something that Zamenhof’s death in Warsaw hit the American papers so quickly. After all, Europe was at war. The front page of the April 16 New York Tribune (they fit the Zamenhof obituary on page 7) all about war: “President Calls Nation to War Duties,” “Treasury Asks for $1,807,250,000 in Special War Taxes,”[1] and “Socialists’ Peace Plan Called German Ruse.”

The reports given in various newspapers (New York Tribune, Washington Times, Washington Evening Star, The Tacoma Times) overlap in their text, so the whole thing was probably taken from the wire services. This is the article as it appeared in the Tribune:

Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof 
Author of Esperanto Dies in Warsaw at Fifty-eight
Amsterdam, April 16.—Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof, author of Esperanto, died yesterday at Warsaw, according to advices received here.

Dr. Zamenhof was born at Bielostok in 1859 and published his first book on the new language called Esperanto in 1887. Dr. Zamenhof chose the roots of Esperanto from existing languages, mainly European. There are 2,642 roots in his dictionary. The phonology of his language is said to be very simple. The grammar, like Volapuk, wich it succeeded as an international auxiliary languge is partially borrowed from existing languages.

The last ten years of Zamenhof’s life must have been difficult (even apart from health issues). He had seen the movement split with the Ido schism, a breakaway which saw more favor among prominent Esperantists than the rank and file, so Zamenhof saw old friends and allies break with him. He had seen the 1914 Universala Kongreso abruptly cancelled due to the beginning of World War I, and though the armistice would happen later in 1917, he wouldn’t be around to see it.

It was a low point for Esperanto.

The succeeding century saw mixed fortunes for Esperanto. French opposition to Esperanto in the 1920s was nothing to German persecution of Esperanto in the 1930s and 40s. Let’s be blunt: the French just blocked the use of Esperanto in diplomacy and education; they didn’t murder Zamenhof’s family. And yet despite attempts to stamp out Zamenhof’s dream, it persists after his death.

The 1915 UK was a hastily thrown-together affair, moved from the initial choice of Birmingham to San Francisco in the still-neutral United States. Only 163 people marked the tenth anniversary of the first UK. A century after that, in 2015, 2,698 Esperanto speakers participated in the 100th UK in Lille, France.[2]

Things have changed recently.

Join the club, it's easy and fun!
In May 2015, Duolingo released Esperanto lessons. As of today, 810,000 have signed up to take these lessons. Esperanto for Spanish came after that and has 94,800 studying it (and I hear that Esperanto for Portuguese speakers is coming next). It looks like Esperanto might be in a bit of a resurgence.

Ludovik Zamenhof died a century ago, but his dream lives on. A century after his death, people are learning and speaking the language that he published 130 years ago this year. Let us raise a toast to the memory of Ludovik Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto:

Zamenhof mortis, sed sia revo ankaŭ vivas!



  1. Can you imagine a newspaper today being so specific in a headline? Now it’d be $1.8 Million.  ↩

  2. Not the record. That would be Warsaw in 1987, the 72nd, and the centennial of Esperanto.  ↩

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pride

We are proud to be a
community!
Pride, Celebrating Diversity and Community, by Robin Stevenson (Orca Books) is geared to middle readers (8-12). I would suppose it would be perfect for a teen who is becoming aware of LGBT relatives or even teens who becoming aware that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I would be remiss in my review if I didn’t note that I, who was seven when the Stonewall Riots happened, actually learned something from this book.

No fooling. It wasn’t something that happened in the last year or two that had slipped my attention, but the origins of gay-straight alliances, which Stevenson notes started at George Washington High School in New York City in 1972. She further cites a 1976 pamphlet from the Youth Liberation Front (her research and scope is impeccable) which exhorted gay teens to come out, a message that still needs to be heard today by people who have left their high school days behind.



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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An American Anthem…In Esperanto

Dr.James McFatrich
Sought to select anthem
Probably not the Esperanto one
The status of the “Star Spangled Banner” as the national anthem, has apparently been of discussion ever since it was chosen (and clearly a bit before that). While it’s been the United States national anthem for forever, it only become so in 1931,[1] despite that the lyrics, “Defense of Fort M’Henry” were written in 1814.[2] People have complained that the song is difficult to sing, and that the music comes from a drinking song (which must have been damn difficult to sing drunk), “To Anacreon in Heaven,”[3] so maybe not the best tune for a sober nation.

There were various attempts to find a national anthem, because all the cool nations had one. England had “God Save the King,”[4] France had “La Marseillaise” and even the Esperanto movement had “La Espero” as anthems before 1911.[5] Unofficially, the United States was using “My Country, ’tis of Thee,” which has the problem of using the tune of “God Save the King.”


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Monday, May 2, 2016

I Stalk Dead People

Someone got buried in 1881, but probably not someone
named Mary Anne Maddicks
This blog is two years old, and this is the first time I’ve really covered genealogy. Oops. It’s odd that it hasn’t come up since not only have I used genealogical research over and over on this blog, but I’ve been researching my own genealogy for about the last sixteen years.

In the blog, I’ve used genealogical research to find out more details about the people I’ve written about as part of the general background material of the blog post. “Hey, this person seemed so active in the Esperanto movement. What happened? Oh, they suddenly died.”[1] The same techniques that go into finding out where great-great-grandpa lived.[2]



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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Second Blogaversary

Two years!
It’s been two years. On May 1, 2014, I wrote my first post on this blog and on May 1, 2015 wrote a followup. If the first year of the blog was filled with great hopes, the second year, reality set in. In the first year of the blog, I turned out 528 posts (more than one a day), but in the second year, I turned to other things, and only wrote a further 103 posts (call it one every three and a half days). Ouch. What happened?

Mostly I was busy. I started the blog with a few things in mind, although there was the hope that somehow the blog would bring me an ever-increasing readership. This is not the case. If you’re reading this post, you’re one of the few. Be proud of it. After a few months, in anticipation of the coming readership, I started serving ads on the page, but at my current readership, that should pay off sometime in 2034 (and then again in 2054).

One of my goals was to recapture my own voice, to make this blog sound like me. In my prior life, I did a lot of corporate writing, and I found that when I got home I would be writing in that same corporate speak. Who wants to read that? Not even the recipients of those corporate screeds really wanted to be reading it, but that’s what I had to write. I am happy to say, in that respect, the blog has done its job and I am writing something that is my own voice, for better or worse.



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Friday, April 22, 2016

No Exodus, And Maybe Moses

Mummy!
Passover starts today. According to the Torah[1] the holiday is the annual commemoration of the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt. It’s a great story, but the problem is that it’s almost certainly a story. It doesn’t hold together, and that’s even without getting into the magical elements, but the whole thing is more mythic account than clear reporting. It’s a story.

The first little hint is that we now know that the Egyptians used contract labor to build their pyramids.[2] No slaves. The phrase “for we were contract laborers in Egypt” just lacks something. There’s no indication that the contract laborers were some sort of foreign presence either. But someone could argue that the records of all this were lost.[3] Not gonna wash.

The bigger problem comes at the other end, where all the archeological evidence of Bronze-Age Israel indicates a standard slow rise of populations (with the occasional falls due to the usual, followed by slow rise). No big jumps in population because a major group suddenly came in, or city suddenly being established that didn’t start out as much smaller communities.[4] As you add up the evidence, it seems clear that there was no Exodus.



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