Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Esperantists Arrive in Washington

Gabriel Chavet
Appreciative tourist
Not all of the European attendees of the 1910 Esperanto Congress travelled on the George Washington (though with twenty-two of them, that might have been the largest crowd, and with the Zamenhofs, the most celebrated). A group of three French Esperantists travelled on the Rijndam, leaving Boulogne-sur-Mer on July 30 and arriving in New York on August 9, slightly ahead of the George Washington group.

The three were Gabriel Chavet (30), Claudius Colas (26), and Georges Warnier (27). All three are listed as “linguists.” All three are listed in Esperanto Wikipedia, while only M. Colas has an entry in the English language Wikipedia. In that same year, under the pseudonym Prof. V. Esperema, Colas published L’Adjuvilo; Langue Auxilaire Internationale, or, “simplified Ido.” As Colas never joined the Ido movement or even left the Esperanto movement, it has been suggested that Adjuvilo was created to sow dissension among the Ido speakers, by suggesting further reforms.[1]

But the Washington Herald focussed not on Claudius Colas, but the eldest of the group, Gabriel Chavet. Chavet was at that time the congress secretary in the Esperanto Central Office. It’s a long article (and so I’m not transcribing that whole thing), more than a column long, but I’ll give the entire part that covers Gabriel Chavet.

Secretary of Congress Gives Opinion in Esperanto


Van of Delegates Reach the City from All Points Halls of Arlington Hotel Reverberate with Cipher Conversations that Sound Like Combination of Russian-Hindu Dialects—Baseball Fans to Her “Frapuma Dua” and Other Translations of Expressions.
“Washington estas unu el la plej belaj urboj, kiujn mi konas, plena je mirindaj monumentoj, konstruitaj, laŭ bela klasikia stilo, kaj je belaj avenuoj, tre puraj kaj tre grandaj. Tiu urbo donas al mi, franco, plej bonan kaj favoran ideon pri la potenca kaj bela juneco de Ameriko.”[2]

This is what Gabriel Chavet, of Paris, secretary of the International Esperanto Congress, thinks of Washington. He doesn’t mean all that, of course, because he is a kind-hearted l’homme de Paris, and to prevent a wrong impression he has kindly consented to give the following translation:

“It is one of the most beautiful cities I know of,” he says; “full of wonderful monuments, built in beautiful, classic style, with the beautiful avenues, and all very clean and very grandiose—very large.”

It gives him (Gabriel Chavet un Parfea[3]), he adds, a most excellent and favorable idea of the powerful and beautiful youth of America.

Headed by M. Chavet, the van of the Esperantists has arrived for the congress, which opens Monday, and the halls of the Arlington Hotel reverberate with cipher conversations that sound like a combination of Russian-Hindoo dialects mixed with gumdrops and eight-nine-degree Igloo.[4]

Smile In Esperanto
There is a joyous meeting every couple of hours or so as a brother Esperantist drops in at headquarters and real English[5] smiles of cheer light up the faces of the delegates. The smile is one of the few genuine universal language expressions. There is no mistaking its import, whether in Timbuctoo or Alexandria.

Then, too, there has appeared another international method of expression that the delegates have found considerable humor in.

It is the musical scale.

There is to be a concert Sunday night at the hotel, with a number of vocal features, all of which will be rendered in Esperanto. Unconsciously, Secretary Chavet admitted that the instrumental music would be in French. Adjunct Secretary Reed, one of the American members of the international committee, said it would be in English.

On Thursday next the delegates will witness the Washington-Cleveland game, and the common baseball enthusiasts, who have a special code of their own, will see how universalist can let loose on the umpire’s famous “Strike one! Strike two! Strike three!”

“Frapumo unua! Frapumo dua! Frapumo tria!” is how the delegates will hear him.
The article continues, but I’m leaving off there. The Congress hasn’t officially opened. The delegation that sailed on the George Washington hasn’t arrived yet (more on that later), and yet things are fully in swing. Despite the mocking comments the Herald made about Esperanto, they did publish a fairly lengthy extract in it.

The August 1910 newspapers are full of news about the Esperanto congress, although many of them reprint the same information: there will be a play in Esperanto, there will be a church service. In the period of August 10—25, 1910, the Chronicling America site has 210 results in various newspapers for Esperanto.

Perhaps that justifies the short item in the August 12, 1910 Deseret Evening News of Salt Lake City (then it was called “Great Salt Lake City”):
Everybody thought that Esperanto was a dead language but it seems that it is not.
Esperanto vivas!

  1. Adjuvilo does seem to have some adherents today, including an Google Group for Adjuvilo users.  ↩

  2. I have taken the liberty of correcting the Herald’s “une” (first) to “unu” (one). Similarly, I have added a breve to laŭ.  ↩

  3. This is probably some sort of typesetting error on the part of the Herald. I have no idea what they mean by “un Parfea.” The same place in the Esperanto reads “a frenchman.”  ↩

  4. Here, of course, the Herald is both snide and erroneous.  ↩

  5. Why are the smiles “English”? Just what does this mean?  ↩

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