Monday, June 30, 2014

Welcome to Usono

Nia Usonestro
It’s funny to think of a New York paper devoting this much space to a minor point of Esperanto usage, but on June 30, 1907, the New York Sun did exactly that with an article on how the new name for the country in Esperanto was Usono.

Despite the popularity the word had achieved, the older usage, “Amerika” was still retained in the principal magazine of the Esperanto movement in the United States, the Amerika Esperantisto, which would continue under that name at least until the 1930s. It finally stopped publication in the 1950s.

Happily, the article is not too long to quote in full (I’m a quick typist). The article appeared in the New York Sun on June 30, 1907. While it was a new coinage in Esperanto, in 1907, a lot of Esperanto was new. The language had vastly developed since 1887. The use of the word Usono dates back to 1905, and it seems it had quickly become established in Esperanto.
And T. Roosevelt Is the Usonestro — The United States in Esperanto

Usono is the new Esperanto word for this country.

Though it is new in Esperanto, it is not entirely original with the Esperantists, for it was proposed here some years ago, but the natural impatience of a citizen of the United States at the idea of the word American referring to anyone except himself and his fellow citizens choked off any chance of life the expression might have had at that time.

Now it springs into rejuvenescence and it has been found very convenient. The initial letters of the words United States of North America form the word Usona. As the terminal “a” is a sign of the adjective in Esperanto and “o” that of the noun, Usono comes naturally into existence again.

European Esperantists found some occasional misunderstandings in their use of the word Ameriko, which grammatically includes Canada and South America with the United States, and the derivatives Amerika, American; Amerikano, an American; Amerikanujo, the country which Americans inhabit, left it open to doubt to the reader what part of the continent was referred to, unless the context made it clear by either the use of the prefix Sud (South) or the word Kanado. The actual Esperanto for the United States of America is La Untigitaj Statoj Amerikaj, which writers found cumbersome.

Linvo Internacia, an Esperanto magazine published in Paris, was the first universal language periodical to make regular use of the word Usono and its derivatives, and Esperantists all over the world seized upon it gratefully.

Esperanto now has, therefore, the following words:

Usonano, a citizen of the United States.
Usonanino, a citizeness of the United States.
Usonanujo, the country where they live—practically the same as Usono.
Usonulo, a person with the characteristics of a citizen of the United States; Usonajho, some concrete thing made from, or having the quality of the United States—this word could be used as a synonym for chewing gum, for instance.
Usoneco, the abstract quality —“United Stateness.”
Usonanemo, an inclination to be a United Stateser.
Usonero, one of the individual States of the Republic.
Usonestro, the ruler of the nation—a graceful word which should delight Theodore Roosevelt.
Usoneto, a diminutive United States of America—a word that might be applied to the Confederate States during the civil war.
Usonido, an offspring, or descendant of our country—in case some States revolted and formed a similar republic.
Usonigo, the active making of the United States—which Washington helped to do.
Usonigho, the passive becoming of the United States—which they did themselves.
Usoninda, worthy of the United States—which we all ought to be.

There are a few other words with meanings more or less strained.

The Canadian Esperantists are more tickled over this word than any one else.
(In typing this, I’ve kept to the original typography, and not corrected Usonajho and Usonigho to usonaĵo and usoniĝo.)

I’m not certain if this was an attempt at snark or whether it was an over-enthusiastic application of the affixes. To an current Esperantist, even usonanino sounds somewhat odd, and usonano would be taken as any citizen of the United States, male or female. Roosevelt’s office was that of the prezidanto.

But since he went so wild with the affixes (without using all of them), though most of the remaining ones don’t typically make any sense, through the writer seems to have missed out on usonismo, an Americanism. Most of the words in the list are nonsensical in Esperanto. You can put all sorts of things together, but that doesn’t guarantee a useful result. Most of its words are quite silly and were certainly never used by any Esperanto speaker anywhere.

The list also has its obsessions. It has an odd interest in the Civil War, though that was only forty-two years in the past, and so still loomed large. And so, also we get the formation of the country, both through the deeds of Washington (and others, certainly), and the States forming themselves into a union.

Then we have usonanemo, which the author gives as an inclination to be a United Stateser (are we “United Statesers”? I suppose it’s better than “United Statsians,” though not by much). I would prefer usonanema, an adjective meaning “inclined to be a United States citizen.” This and usoninda (probably better usonaninda, and better yet left alone) are interesting words to bring up just as the United States started to create restrictions for immigration, sharply cutting off the flow in 1924. We have those who want to become Americans (usonanemuloj—I can hook affixes together with the best of them) and those who deserve to become American (usoninduloj).

It’s ironic that this crops up in a piece on Esperanto, since one of the worries of the era was that immigrants would either fail to learn English, or worse, debase it, fears that opponents to immigration still bring up. Still, I wonder who the Esperanto enthusiast was who wrote this piece.

Update: While I may never know who wrote the piece, I have been able to determine who coined the term Usono. Lingvo Internacia, in its earliest usage, cited a 1905 work by Gaston Moch, Historio Resuma de l'Arbitracio Konstanta. Moch cites the earlier coinage in English, and as this seems to precede its use by Frank Lloyd Wright, Moch was probably aware of its championing (as early as 1903) by James Duff Law, the author of Here and there in Two Hemispheres.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...