Friday, December 5, 2014

An Idist Counteroffers

Free offer:
What's wrong with Esperanto?
Yeah, that sounds tempting.
Arthur Baker made a regular practice of offering a free introductory brochure in Esperanto in order to induce people to learn Esperanto. Since he published books and a magazine in Esperanto, he was just trying to increase his customer base. Eventually, Baker decided to drop any attempts to become the major publisher of Esperanto items in the United States, and in 1911 left the editorship of Amerika Esperantisto, selling it to the Esperanto Association for North America. While he was in it, according to Esperanto Wikipedia, he distributed approximately 100,000 copies of the brochure Elements of Esperanto.[1]

He distributed these by writing to papers across the country, asking them to include the notice that people could write him for a free copy of the brochure. A fellow Chicagoan, O. H. Mayer, decided to offer the same for those who might be interested in Ido. He was published in the December 5, 1910 Los Angeles Herald. There’s no way of knowing how much response Mr. (my assumption) Mayer got with his offer. (The only O. H. Mayer I can find in Chicago in 1910 was an eleven-year old, Otto Mayer. Our O. H. Mayer was a representative for Chicago of the “Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language” and clearly active in promoting Ido from 1909 through 1912 (at least), which seems an unlikely activity for a small child.

Just as Arthur Baker sent his letter to whatever newspaper he could think of, so did Mayer. There are other examples of the letter. Here it is as published in the December 5, 1910 Los Angeles Herald.
Editor Herald: A short time ago you printed the offer of an Esperanto publisher of Chicago to give away booklets on receipt of a postage stamp. As a tribute of fairness to another international language scheme, which claims to be an improvement upon Esperanto, I would ask you to give publicity also to the following offer:

I will send to all applicants free literature that shows many glaring defects in Esperanto, and how they have been remedied by the new International language Ido. This is a simplified and perfected Esperanto strongly recommend by Scientific American and other high authorities, and so thoroughly international in its vocabulary that it can be deciphered without previous study and without a dictionary by 300,000,000 persons, including especially those of English speech.

The recent world congress to the Esperantists at Washington was attended by only 350 men and women, one-third of whom were not delegates, but visitors. This proves that at present none of the competing systems has a very strong numerical following, and that only intrinsic merit can decide this friendly rivalry; hence my offer.
1716 LaSalle avenue, Chicago, Ill.
This was the standard line for advertising Ido. What it really accomplished was to act as a negative advertisement for Esperanto. Esperanto books don’t start with telling the reader how awful other international auxiliary languages are, they just talk about the benefits of Esperanto. I suspect that few of the people motivated to write for the brochure on “the glaring defects of Esperanto” were convinced to learn Ido.

The claim that three million people can immediately read Ido strikes me as doubtful (or perhaps “contrived” is a better word). I have no idea what populations Mayer added up to reach three million. Even I, able to read English, French, and Esperanto, occasionally find a passage of Ido confusing.

Mayer citing of the size of the 1910 Universala Kongreso is completely accurate but somewhat slanted. If Mayer had been following the previous five Esperanto congresses, he would have known that the 1910 Kongreso was about half the size of the first congress and a quarter of the size of the immediately preceding. One might conclude that the 1910 congress was a sign that the Esperanto movement had imploded, but the 1911 congress would go on to be about five times as large.

The Ido Wikipiedia lists a large number of Ido Conferences, for the most of which there is no information beyond year and location. They apparently got off to a bad start; their 1914 conference was cancelled when Germany invaded Luxembourg.[2] They met in Luxembourg in 1924, and this is the only conference for which there’s a number. “About 300.” So that would be fewer than the 1910 Esperanto congress. For comparison, the 1924 Universala Kongreso had about 3,400 participants.

Mayer’s description of the rivalry between Esperanto and Ido as “friendly” can hardly be described as accurate. Since the initial goal of the Ido movement was to replace the Esperanto movement, many early Idists attempted to have “reformed Esperanto” get a place in Esperanto congresses. This was not seen as friendly.

  1. A 1912 issue of Amerika Esperantisto has a letter from Mr. Baker noting that he is now the editor and writer of the Workers World, which was published by the Socialist Party of Chicago. He described himself as “la humble sklavo” (the humble slave) of the party. Baker was also the first translator of the Communist Manifesto into Esperanto. He was thirty-three when he left off being editor of Amerika Esperantisto. He would live to be ninety-five.  ↩
  2. Noted here. The 1914 Esperanto congress, slated for Paris was also cancelled.  ↩

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