Thursday, August 7, 2014

Esperanto and the Danger of Snark

Dear sir, I wish to call to your
attention that your compositor has
been drinking.
There seems to be a rule in the universe: if you mock someone’s language, you will make an error yourself.

This was in effect at the Guthrie Daily Leader on August 7, 1908, and I’m going to take the risk and point it out. Oh, what terrors I am braving for you! The Daily Leader should have been paying more attention to its compositor and less to the Dallas Times-Herald. This is going to be another one of those cases in which I transcribe exactly, making no alterations.[1]

And so, to show that it wasn’t just this one item, I have also included the one after, which also has a misspelling. Okay, in 1908, nobody could set things up on a computer, and they certainly didn’t have squiggly red lines underneath suspect words. They were working under more difficult conditions. And these short items are more-or-less page fillers.

After all, from the publisher’s view, the content is the stuff that gets you to turn to the page with the advertisements.
The Dallas (Texas) Times-Herald makes the assertion that it is going to use language after this all folks can understand. Must be Esperanto fiend downi n that office.
Did you ever pause to refuect? If so, did you ever hear of a chronic kicker doing anything of value to itself or others?
I had a difficulty that didn’t exist in 1908: my computer tried to correct the errors made by the Guthrie Daily Leader.

Here we see the idea (again) of Esperanto as a language that anybody can understand, which is a distortion of it being one that anybody can learn easily (and more so than a national language). If I burst into a room of people who don’t speak Esperanto and yell out, “Saluton, ĉiu! Kiel vi fartas?”[2] no one will know what I mean.[3] It doesn’t work that way.

But the Daily Leader in mocking someone else's attempts at clarity only made things less clear themselves.

  1. My usual practice is to silently correct small errors, apply missing accents to Esperanto, and so forth. (Though I have tended to use Volapuk or Volapük depending on how the source used it.)  ↩
  2. “Hi, everyone! How are you?”  ↩
  3. Although my friends probably wouldn’t be terribly surprised.  ↩

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