|Flaws. Dangerous flaws!|
A doctor says so.
It’s not a coincidence that many who joined the Esperanto movement, then sought to reform Esperanto, went on to propose their own languages, which they proclaimed were even better than their prior allegiances. Not just Esperanto, but the same story can be found among the Volapük reformers; adherence, reformist zeal, independent project. It should come as no surprise that that’s exactly the story found with Dr. Max Talmey, who was until autumn 1907, the president of the New York Esperanto Society. In happier days, he wrote Practical and Theoretical Esperanto. Dr. Talmey resigned with great publicity, abandoning Esperanto for Ido, which was then being called “ILO.” Dr. Talmey even wrote a book, The Defects of Esperanto, its decline and the growth of ILO (which, alas, does not seem to be available online).
Dr. Talmey started with Volapük, switched to Esperanto, then to Ido, and finally… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start with his comments to the New York Times, which printed an article on Dr. Talmey’s criticisms of Esperanto on December 29, 1907. The article is a bit long, so I won’t be quoting the whole thing (the entire text can be found in Esperanto in the New York Times (1887–1922)).
Let’s stop there and think about it. Can tongue twisters actually cause physical harm? Let’s be serious. You can spend all say saying “she sells sea shells by the sea shore,” and while your jaw muscles might get tired, there is no chance of permanent damage. Dr. Talmey’s criticism of Esperanto is that you can have tongue twisters in the language.THERE ARE FLAWS IN ESPERANTODr. Talmey, the President, Says So, and Gets out Pending a Pledge to Mend them.SOME DANGER TO THE JAW
Neither ciamo nor ĉiamo are words in Esperanto. Ulrich Becker in Esperanto in the New York Times amends this to “Ĉu ŝi scias ĉiam ĉion,” which translates as “does she always know everything.” The Esperanto isn’t that difficult to pronounce.Involved in Saying “Cu si scias ciamo cion,” and He would have this Remedied.
There is trouble in the ranks of the local Esperantians, and the trouble all about things like “Cu si scias ciamo cion.” Esperanto, of course, is and should be the coming international language—in the opinion of all Esperantists.While Dr. Talmey’s 1906 Practical and Theoretical Esperanto beats Arthur Baker’s The American Esperanto Book by about two years, it’s actually not the first Esperanto grammar published in the United States. The article goes on to say that Dr. Talmey felt that the group failed to work for the improvement of Esperanto, but said that he would return if they passed a resolution to work for reforms.
The trouble is between the progressive branch of the New York Esperanto Society, composed largely of Dr. Max Talmey of 62 West 126 Street, the President, and the conservative branch, consisting of the rest of the society. So keenly does the author of the first Esperanto grammar to be published in this country feel about such small matters as “Si sanceligis car si ne sciis cu cinz gastoj cirkan la sesa”—which means in English “she hesitated, for she did not know whether all of the guests would be present in the festival hall when it was 6 o’clock”—that yesterday he wrote a letter to the socieyt (afterward carefully translating it into Esperanto) in which he resigned the Presidency.
“But they believe that the language is perfect,” he said last night, “and they will not vote. A way to get rid of the imperfections in the language was pointed out by a European scholar of international repute, but the Esperanto lovers vilified him, and even attacked his private character. Some of the devotees to Esperanto are childish.”Dr. Talmey sounds like he’s in a bit of a snit. A time-out might be in order. In addition to contrived phrases that sound difficult, Dr. Talmey had another objection that was simply ridiculous. As he calls it “the first objection,” it’s worth looking at.
“The first objection,” he said, “is that The New York Times could not appear in Esperanto because they haven’t the characters. No newspaper could. For instance there is the C with the grave accent over it, and the G with the grave accent, and the S, likewise with the grave accent. No newspaper has these characters. They should be changed.”He means, throughout, a circumflex, referring to Ĉ, Ĝ, and Ŝ. I can’t produce a grave accent over those consonants, but over an e, it’s è. The È exists as a possible character because somebody uses it. Even in 1906, publishers of Esperanto materials had the ability to put circumflexes over letters, though I’ll admit that ĥ often gets set as fairly badly. If newspapers were frequently quoting Esperanto (or were written wholly in it), the typesetters could just lay in a larger store of circumflexes (at least in the days of cold type).
Dr. Talmey was asked whether, if the society continued recalcitrant, he would drop Esperanto. His eyes gleamed as he walked back and forth.The New York Esperanto Society, of which Dr. Talmey had been the president, had only started renting space for its meetings shortly before, as reported in the Sun in the middle of November, 1907. Judging from the various reports, the conflict over Ido (or ILO) pretty much destroyed the New York Esperanto Society. However, as Arthur Baker wrote in Amerika Esperantisto in 1909, the New York Esperanto Society was just one of many Esperanto clubs in New York City. (Baker notes that another promoter of Ido finished the job after Dr. Talmey’s departure.)
“I would never give it up,” he said. “If I am compelled to work alone I shall do so for the sake of a more melodious and modulated Esperanto.”
Dr. Talmey did give up Esperanto, becoming a promoter of Ido for a while, predicting the demise of Esperanto. In the 1930s, he introduced a language that he initially called Arulo (short for “Auxiliary Rational Universal Langauge”), but later named Gloro (“gloto racionoza” or rational language). In in 1939, in the pages of The American Mercury, Walter Modell wrote that
Only two people can speak Gloro. One of them is a physician in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the other is its inventor, Dr. Max Talmey of New York. Despite this paucity of users, Gloro need not be taken too lightly. It ranks importantly among synthetic tongues and is touted by its few by fervent champions as the language the combines the best features of all others.Mr. Modell doesn’t enumerate the “champions of Gloro.” Were there more than the two? He also makes it clear that during the time that the leaders of the Ido movement called for a moratorium on reforms, Dr. Talmey would have none of it. Modell writes:
Ido was brought to a reasonably high degree of developemnt, but in 1914, because of the World War, its adherents decreed a ten-year layoff. Dr. Talmey objected to any lay-off, war or no war, and for years he worked alone.In its 1937 article, Time provided an extract in Gloro.
Originally his intention was simply to improve Ido. In his enthusiasm, however, he added so many new roots and eliminated the arbitrary elements so completely that he had a brand-new language on his hands.
Questa es nula konference por formacar alianci, por dividar la preduri di milito, por repartar landi, por traktar homa enti, velut se li esud la gaji in un ludo di hazardo. Nia skopo, sub fortunoza auspicii, es sikurigar la continuations dil prospero di paco.So there’s the story. Volapük to Esperanto. Esperanto to Ido. Ido to creating his own language, Gloro, now more obscure than any of them. There’s no pleasing some people. Dr. Talmey has one other claim to fame, in fact, it’s probably his greatest. In 1889, the twenty-year old medical student gave some books to a ten-year-old whose family was kind to him. Talmey encouraged the child, Albert Einstein, to develop his interest in science.
- This happens all the time. I recently had to choose between three articles, published on the same dates of three different years. I only had time for one, so I saved the others for the future. Ironically, other days I turn up nothing. ↩
- Both works are published by the Universal Language Publishing Company of New York. Later works were published by the Ilo Press, the Ido Press, and the American Gloro Society. I suspect all of these publishers were Talmey himself. The first one certainly was, as it shared an address with Talmey. The head of the firm is Minnie Talmey. ↩
- Well, not really, since the Times garbled the Esperanto. Becker substitutes “Ŝi ŝanceliĝis ĉar ŝi ne sciis ĉu ĉiuj gastoj ĉeestos ĉe la festoĉambro ĉirkaŭ la sesa,” but that’s not what the Times printed, although they do get it right later in the article. ↩
- Time, April 5, 1937. ↩
- “The Road to Gloro,” Walter Modell, American Mercury, July 1939. ↩
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