Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Esperanto Lives! A digression into video blogging #EsperantoLives

I am in no way a video blogger. This blog has been quiet lately, because I've been very, very busy lately, and I haven't had the chance to put together a blog post. But, for Zamenhof Day, I decided to get in on the #EsperantoLives project and create a snippet of video.

It took me several tries to do it, and perhaps I should have decided that I wasn't going to do it in one three-minute take. There was the time the cat walked in the room and meowed loudly just as I was finishing up. There was the flubbed line. There was the "perfect" take, except I forgot to pitch Duolingo (I don't have to pitch Duolingo, but it's a good place to learn Esperanto.

If I had to do it again (and I suppose I could), I would be pointing out that the books at right shoulder include some books in or about Esperanto.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Esperanto, the Uniter of Nations

Louis F. Post
Journalist, social reformer,
Esperantist
Expecting Esperanto to “unite nations” was probably somewhat beyond wishful thinking in October 1915. This was, after all, the year in which the Universala Kongreso had to be relocated since Germany had put all of waters around Great Britain into an exclusion zone, though which ships could only pass at their peril (ships like the Lusitania). The world, in 1915, seemed to be united only in so far that groups of nations were united in their efforts to conquer other groups of nations.

This did not stop Louis F. Post from extolling the virtues of Esperanto at a meeting of the Kolumbia Esperanta Klubo on October 14, 1915. It reached the pages of the Washington Post on October 17. There was certainly an aspect of preaching to the choir; you didn’t need to convince the Esperanto speakers of Washington D. C. that Esperanto was, on the whole, a good thing. Post was not the only speaker at the event, nor was the item in the Post the only article.

The Washington Times ran a long article on one of the other speakers, Hyman Levine, on October 14 (in advance of the evening lecture). Mr. Levine spoke on “Esperanto at Work.” The Times did a brief follow-up article on the meeting, but gave no detail of anyone’s statements. The Post quoted Mr. Post, probably not because of the similarity of names, but because he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor, a position he assumed in 1913, held until 1921, and for Wikipedia, is the start of his life story, merely omitting the first sixty-four years of his life.



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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An Esperanto Marriage, But Not the First

S-ino kaj S-ro Parrish
Despite the belief expressed by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, the September 12, 1912 marriage of Donald Evans Parrish of Los Angeles, California to Paula Louise Elisabeth Alexandra Christiana Grawe (or Paula Graves, as the articles had it) was not the first marriage of two Esperanto speakers. Even earlier accounts make it clear that other congress participants realized that—through Esperanto—they had found their soul mates. In 1908, the Esperantists Herman Sexauer and Frida Niedermuller married (in San Francisco). He was a German, she was an American.

Still, it is certainly an early such marriage, and marriages between Esperantists whose only common language is Esperanto are fairly rare, given the general rarity of Esperanto speakers in the world population (there are certainly Esperantist couples in which both individuals share a native tongue and speak Esperanto).


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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Esperanto — The Most Neutral Thing

Tobias Sigel
Not a funny man.
Except the hair
An Esperantist walked into a bar… Okay, that’s a setup for a joke, but I’m not certain what the punchline should be. Maybe it’s better that way.

Most of the article that appeared in the October 13, 1914 Washington Post was concerned with the then-current antipathy the Canadians had for the Germans. Canada had been in the war since August 4, 1914 and the Canadians were ready to cast off all things German, just as Americans did after their entry in the war.

Groucho Marx, in his 1972 album An Evening with Groucho attributed anti-Germany sentiments in Canada to the Lusitania, noting, “I was supposed to sing a song, a German song, and I was afraid they were going to kill me if I did, that audience.” Groucho’s fears might have been appropriate even before the sinking of the Lusitania, which (after all) wasn’t a Canadian ship (it was British), wasn’t sailing from or to Canada (New York to Liverpool), and Canada was already at war with Germany when the Lusitania was torpedoed (May 7, 1915). It is entirely possible that Groucho decided it would be prudent not to sing “Oh, How That Woman Could Cook” (and here’s a 1915 rendition, so it stayed popular for a while).



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Saturday, October 3, 2015

An Open Letter to Netflix

It's like a game! Can you find the three that match?
Update: I'm leaving this up, but as of October 13, 2015, everything I noted in this post has been fixed. See the end for further notes.

Dear Netflix,
It’s time to sit down and have a little talk about your interface. I know, I know, you were hoping that I was going to suggest that we “Netflix and chill,” but sometimes other things have to take priority. Yesterday, I sat down to see if there was something on Netflix I wanted to watch and experienced that same problem again, the one that makes me think that you don’t want to play nice. You know the one.

You see, Netflix, because this isn’t about me. It’s about you. Your interface is supposed to help me find a movie (or a television show) with which to pass the time. Lately, it seems not so much about what I want to watch, but what you want me to watch. Really, your opinions are not necessary here.


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Friday, September 25, 2015

An Esperantist President in Washington

Big man in the Esperanto movement
Despite Edwin C. Reed’s fairly central role in the U.S. Esperanto movement of the early twentieth century, there is no entry for him in the Esperanto-language Wikipedia, even though there is one for his wife, Ivy Kellerman-Reed. In a way, they seem to be Esperanto’s first power couple, she being a writer, editor, translator, and teacher, and he being guy who organized things. Organizing things can be less enduring; even if you put your stamp on an organization, organizations can quickly go from vibrant to nonexistent. While Dr. Kellerman-Reed’s books can still be found on bookshelves, her husband’s organizations are all now defunct.

Reed (and throughout, I’m going to distinguish them by referring to him as Reed and her as Kellerman-Reed) was the first secretary of the Esperanto Association of North America, but as the role of president seemed to be largely ceremonial, the actual administrative duties fell to the secretary. This probably hampered the organization’s ability to capitalize on its early growth, since it the actual presidents weren’t the slightest bit interested in being strong leaders, and the first two (while Reed was secretary) weren’t even Esperanto speakers. From about 1909 through 1913, Edwin C. Reed was pretty much the central figure in the U.S. Esperanto movement.



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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Menus in Esperanto!

All we are saying
Is give Esperanto a chance!
Okay, that’s a bit of a tease, since the article in the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 24, 1910 didn’t uncover menus in Esperanto, instead it was a suggestion that restaurants adopt Esperanto for menus, instead of writing them in French. While it makes perfect sense for a menu of a Paris restaurant to be in French, it doesn’t make that sense in New York, even if the food offered dead-on traditional French food. There is an element of shtick to this.

Several years ago, I was in a not terribly restaurant in Washington, D.C., and on the menu were the words, “Ask about the *soup de jour.” Soup sounded like a good idea, so I saked.

“What’s the soup de jour?”



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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Early Chicago Esperanto Society?

William E. Curtis
What did he know about
Esperanto?
The column, “Matters of Interest to Women and About the Household” that appeared under the name Marion Harland was edited by the American writer Mary Virginia Terhune (she wrote a number of books under the name, including some novels and an autobiography). The column in the (Richmond, Virginia) Times of September 23, 1902, includes four photos of women’s hair styles (the fashion seems to be “adorned with artificial leaves and flowers”), a couple of recipes (the first done by weight, the second by volume measures), and in between, questions and answers.

I should note that though these were noted to be “For the Housewife,” they did not deal with domestic matters, for the most part. The first is on croquet rules, the second a series of disconnection questions (“Was any Pope of Rome a Mason?” “What is the square area of New York and of Philadelphia?”), and the third is how to contact the Ethical Culture Society. Not all questions get answered, and the final question (of nine) is one.



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Monday, September 21, 2015

Doctors Take Early Look at Esperanto

And a good attempt, at that
In Esperanto’s early period, there was much interest in the language in scientific circles, particularly medicine. This makes sense, since science is more firmly international than many of the other subjects of study. Poetry may be, as Robert Frost famously put it, “the stuff that gets lost in translation,” a carbon atom is a carbon atom, whether you’re in Germany, France, the United States, or Brazil (and everywhere else too—far off planets have carbon, but they don’t have the works of Shakespeare).

It was early lamented that at international scientific (and medical) conferences, people just couldn’t understand each other. You were just guaranteed that someone wouldn’t be able to to comprehend the language of at part of the sessions. (This actually still persists. I know of a conference that happened in Germany only a few years ago, at which some of the talks were in German, which not everyone there spoke. The main language of the conference was English, but talks could be given in German.) One of the early reviews of the first Esperanto Congress noted that it was an amazing thing that someone put together an international congress where everybody understood everything.



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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Esperanto Becomes Popular

Popular is good.
I would think when a newspaper describes and article as “special” to that newspaper, that they’ve got some sort of exclusive on it, and not that it was written by a stringer and not a staff reporter. But for an article that appeared on September 10, 1905 in both Washington, D.C. Evening Star and the Omaha Daily Bee, the second meaning was clearly the correct one. Someone in London cabled off to the two newspapers (and doubtless others) news Esperanto activity in London following the excitement generated by the first World Esperanto Congress, the 1905 Universala Kongreso.

The tale told by the cablegram correspondent seems a little fanciful, but on the other hand, it was clear that there was a real surge of interest in Esperanto after the first congress. Certainly, not long after the New York Esperanto Society had to take measures to exclude those who wanted the prestige of being a member of an Esperanto society without the actual bother of learning the language.



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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Esperanto and the Friends

Ĉu ni devas esti Amikoj?
Given the interest paid to Esperanto by various religious groups, it’s not surprising to find the Religious Society of Friends (that is, the Quakers) among their numbers. The event that caught the attention of the Quakers was the first Universala Kongreso in 1905. Just a few weeks after the close of the Congress, a brief item appeared in The Friend, a Religious and Literary Journal in their September 9, 1905 issue.

Certainly the Friends (and a whole lot of other people) could get behind the idea of reducing “ misunderstandings, quarrels, and stupid hatreds.” (Ah, if only a language could do that; you don’t actually become more saintly when speaking Esperanto.) The bulk of the article is a quotation from somewhere. The words aren’t familiar to me, but the bulk of the article is quoted, although no source is given.



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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Zamenhof in the Independent

Did he really write
the article?
Zamenhof’s article “Esperanto: A New International Language” in the August 11, 1904 Independent is two long to include in full. Despite the attribution to Lazaro Ludiviko Zamenhof, it was probably translated from the Esperanto, although no such credit is given. If you’re interested in Esperanto, it’s well worth reading, since it’s one of the early statements about the language in English. My guess is that, despite the attribution, it was not written by Dr. Zamenhof, since it has a sort of third-party quality to it.

At some point, the Kansas City Journal (which is not available online) abridged this. This abridgment was then reprinted by the Los Angeles Times on September 8, 1904. Newspapers don’t seem to do this as much anymore, thought it’s become pretty standard for bloggers; rephrase and quote an article in an existing source.


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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Independent View of the First Congress

Just one big paragraph
The Independent, as Wikipedia points out, was a supporter of various progressive movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For abolition, for women’s suffrage, and so, it should come as no surprise that their initial view of Esperanto was, on the whole, positive.

The 1905 Esperanto Congress, the first Universala Kongreso, was a big thing. It wasn’t the first international language congress, but the first two Volapük congresses were in a mix of German and Volapük, and the third was the one that brought that movement to its end. And now the Esperantists were trying it.



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Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Linguistic Hodgepodge — Either Esperanto or English

Or, as we now say, "hodgepodge."
Reading the newspapers of a century ago is a great way to prepare yourself to rebut the current detractors of Esperanto, because, yes, their arguments are that old. Unfortunately, even though their arguments were rebutted a century ago (yes, even the “English is destined to become the world’s language”), the same arguments still manage to convince people. When you’re an American in a foreign hotel dealing with the clerk’s substandard English, you blame the poor clerk and not the situation that made the clerk expend time in learning a fairly difficult language.

But one of the oddest criticism is that it’s made up out of a bunch of languages, as if some other languages were some sort of seamless whole, sprung from the hearts of its speakers. There’s a graphic going about Facebook that states that English knocks down other languages in dark alleys and rifles their pockets for loose grammar. Vocabulary. English pillages vocabulary, not grammar. But we’re not alone.



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Monday, August 31, 2015

Esperanto Goes to War, Almost

Make Esperanto, Not War
One of the great promises of Esperanto is that it is significantly easier to learn than any national language (and, for that matter, many constructed languages). The only problem is that, easy or hard, a language doesn’t have much utility if you’ve no one to speak it to. (Personally, I expend some effort just so I can have a change to speak Esperanto with people.) The problem with this (as my own experience has demonstrated) is that you need someone else to have learned it, or you’re just babbling.

French, on the other hand, is fairly difficult language. There are tougher, but given the disconnect between pronunciation and spelling in French, and a good number of verbs which though not irregular, might be termed “idiosyncratic,” teaching the American troops French probably wasn’t high on the list of things to do in 1917. Writing to the the New-York Tribune, in a letter they published on August 31, 1917, James McKirdy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had another idea. Why not Esperanto?



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Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Temperance Beverage for Esperantists?

Elbe nur malgranda glaso.
The Methodist weekly Zion’s Herald gave a somewhat snarky view of Esperanto in their issue of August 30, 1905. This was the magazine’s first encounter with Esperanto (they would go on to publish a few more articles over the next few years), occasioned by the first Universala Kongreso. The first few congresses were great opportunities for publicizing the Esperanto movement. This had been done before (by the Volapük movement), but no one had done it in the sixteen years following the last of the Volapük congresses.[1]

Esperanto had taken its time to grow slowly over the previous eighteen years, including an influx of former Volapük speakers as the Volapük movement crumbled. It’s not clear why it took until 1905 for the Esperanto movement to hold its first congress, although in 1891 (four years after the introduction of Esperanto) it hadn’t gone nearly as far as Volapük had in the same number of years. Volapük’s rise and fall encompasses a mere nine years; during the first nine years of Esperanto, it was still fairly obscure.



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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Esperantist Agricultural Expert

Li revas pri bienoj kaj Esperanto.
The Washington D. C. school board was probably well rehearsed on reasons why not to introduce Esperanto into the curriculum by 1914 when Richard Bartholdt, Representative from Louisiana, suggested that Congressional intervention might be the way to go. Their first encounter with the idea seems to be when Sara Crafts, a noted social reformer (and early Esperantis), attempted this in 1908. Even the students got involved with petitioning the school board to teach Esperanto in 1913.

With the suggestion raised in 1908, 1913, and 1914, the big missing number is 1910. You would think that with the Universala Kongreso in Washington D. C. in 1910 that local Esperantists would have been emboldened to bring up the idea once again. And you would think right. In August 1910 (presumably as part of the preparations for the 1910/11 school year), the Washington D.C. school board made their second evaluation of Esperanto in the public schools.



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Friday, August 28, 2015

An Esperanto Enthusiast in Ohio

Entusiasmo estas bona!
There were a series of letters to the Omaha Daily Bee in August 1915 debating the relative merits of Esperanto and a language that was championed and invented by one D. C. John, Monoglott. Though Mr. John said that he was “trying to prepare a Monoglott grammar,” (the language is referred to both as “Monoglott” and “Monoglot”; I’ve decided to use the version ending in two t’s) I have found no evidence that any such document was ever published. Many proposed international language projects turn out to be vaporware, with no final product ever seen. This is common and I continue to see evidence that people loudly announce language projects and then quietly slip out of view.[1]

It does not surprise me that no evidence exists for Mr. John’s Monoglott project beyond a few letters to the Omaha Daily Bee. On August 28, 1915, one more correspondent came into this conversation held in the Bee’s “Letter Box” column. It’s signed by James G. Hayden, who was eager to rebut the question of Monoglott as an Esperantist. Hayden left little trace of his activity in Esperanto, but there was sufficient information with which to identify him.



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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Long Plan for 1915

Personally, I want to know how
many members they had.
In 1912, the committee working on the Pan-American Esperanto Congress had no idea that their efforts would also incorporate the eleventh Universala Kongreso, since their hopes for another Esperanto congress in the United States weren’t receiving an enthusiastic response. Really no surprise, given that 1910 Universala Kongreso in Washington, D.C. was the second smallest ever (with only 357 participants), with the last time the a congress held in Europe had fewer than 1,000 participants was right before World War II (preceding an eight-year gap). The United States probably isn’t ruled out of hosting a congress, but it’s my guess that the UEA would want to see that 1,000 American participants were likely first.

In 1912, the Esperantists who met in Oakland were just planning the eighth national congress of the Esperanto Association of North America. The hopes of the Universala Kongreso returning to the United States had already been dashed with Edinburgh, Scotland chosen as the site of the 1915 Universala Kongreso. And that all changed in March 1915, with little time to turn this from a national congress to an international one.

In a way, as the smallest Universala Kongreso ever (and I doubt there will ever be a smaller one), the 1915 Kongreso really was a national congress with a bit of international tacked on. But they didn’t know that in 1912. They were just planning the EANA congress. The San Francisco Call ran an article announcing their meeting on August 27, 1912.

ESPERANTO ADVOCATES WILL MEET THURSDAY
OAKLAND, Aug. 26.—The monthly meeting of the Oakland branch of the Universal Esperanto association will be held in the Oakland high school Thursday evening. Papers will be read by Miss Emma Rathgeb, William T. Drake, Miss E. Stevens and Miss Alice Lercher. Edward Irving will read a paper on the value of Esperanto to science. A short talk will be given by L. H. Gorham, who will tell of the plans of the society, including the pan-American congress of Esperantists in San Francisco in 1915.
The date in question for the meeting was September 30, as the 27th was a Monday in 1915. That’s an awfully long lead-up to a convention that was only going to be a couple hundred people at best. It’s clear that in that era that was the size of the national congresses in the United States. So why three years in the planning? Couldn’t this have been handled in about a year or less?

Sadly, there’s not much value in reading a paper on the importance of Esperanto to science to a bunch of Esperanto supporters. Really, it’s the scientists that you need to convince. In any case, this seemed to be pretty standard for a meeting of the Oakland Esperanto Society, and the San Francisco Call was pretty good about letting the public know of their events.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Esperantists Hold a Congress

Still not taken seriously
There is a tendency in the early reports about Esperanto to continually emphasize the “newness” of the language, even as it it approached twenty years since it had been initially published. I keep coming back to the thought that the final Volapük congress took place only about nine years after Schleyer published that language, while there were eighteen years between the Unua Libro, the first book on Esperanto (not that it was called that at the time) and the first World Esperanto Congress (which was called by its participants the Universala Kongreso). And yet, when the Minneapolis Journal wrote about the first Universala Kongreso, they felt obligated to describe Esperanto as “the new tongue.”

The first Universala Kongreso occurred in Paris from 7th to the 12th of August 1905 in Boulogne-sur-Mer, with 688 participants.[1] It took some time for the news to go from Paris to Minneapolis, although there was a wire services article[2] which appeared on August 13, 1905 which preceded it. The earlier article was probably the source for this August 26 article.

This one combines a report of the congress with some thoughts about Esperanto, sort of giving us the bigger picture. Not just the congress, but also the importance of the congress.

The New Tongue.
When the papers announced a year or more ago, that the universal language “Esperanto” had been formulated, in the hope of undoing the mischief caused by the tower of Babel, people smiled and then forgot all about it. That is, most of them smiled and forgot. The rest of them began to study Esperanto. The result was that a congress of Esperantists has just been held in France, with delegates attending from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Russia, Germany, Sweden and Canada. Speeches were made in Esperanto, everybody talked in Esperanto, and much to the pleasure of all concerted, everybody could talk with his neighbor, no matter what his nationality and native tongue. Esperanto, evidently, must be taken seriously.
While the Journal felt that Esperanto must be taken seriously, in the century since that sentiment was uttered, it’s unfortunately been viewed more as the exception than the rule. I just encountered someone who, after two months of study, was able to translate my Esperanto into English for people who were just starting out. Yes, Esperanto should be taken seriously.

But the Journal is off by a few years when it says that “the papers announced a year or more ago that the universal language ‘Esperanto’ had been formulated,” unless by “or more” we can understand it to mean “eighteen years prior.” Several newspapers in the United States wrote about Esperanto less than a decade after its publication, with a few even writing about Esperanto in 1887, the year of its publication.

People did seem to smile and forget. There seemed to be a need to continually re-introduce Esperanto, reminding us that someone had proposed the language, whether that person was a Spaniard, or had spent fifteen years in a Polish prison.[3] More than a century has passed since that initial gathering of people who could speak to his or her neighbor.

Typical of early twentieth-century writing, the Journal’s “his” is quite inaccurate. The Esperanto Wikipedia article on the “Unua Universala Kongreso de Esperanto” has a photograph of congress participants. The first row of the photograph has twenty-two people in it, all but three of whom are women (and there are other women in the photograph). In the center, amongst the women is Dr. Zamenhof, and two seats away from him appears to be Émile Boirac, who chaired the congress. The person I’m most curious about is the man on the right edge of the photograph. With no chair available for him, but clearly wanting to be in the front row, he is reclining in front of three women.


  1. There’s an excellent summary at the Esperanto Wikipedia entry UK 1905.  ↩
  2. Other matters prevented me from getting to it, which is a shame, because I skipped it in 2014 intending to write it up in 2015 (the 110th anniversary). I’ll slip it in out of date.  ↩
  3. Zamenhof was twenty-seven when he published Esperanto. Do the math.  ↩

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

An Esperanto Congress at a Time of War

How international
was it really?
August 23, 1915 was the opening day of the eleventh World Esperanto Congress, the Universala Kongreso. It’s not wholly the fault of the San Francisco committee that it was the smallest on record (a mere 163 participants). After all, until the outbreak of WWI in August 1914, the plan had been to hold the 1915 Universala Kongreso in Edinburgh, Scotland. But there was a war on. Plans for the Kongreso don’t seem to have started until March 1915, although the committee actually had been working on this since 1915.

In 1915, the United States was still maintaining its neutrality in WWI, which at that point wasn’t per se a “world war” (the term only came into use after the end of WWII, renaming the earlier war; personally, I lean to the view that there was a cease-fire of about twenty years within a single conflict). Although, one of the papers that covered the opening of the 1915 Kongreso, the Bemidji Daily Pioneer has a comic strip, Scoop, The Cub Reporter, on the same page as one of the articles about the Kongreso. In the strip, the characters are on a ship worrying about the potential for being struck by a torpedo. While the war in Europe was far from the waters Bemidji, Minnesota, it was clearly still on their minds.



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Friday, July 31, 2015

Al Miaj Legantoj

Vi ne estas forgesitaj. La blogo daŭros. Dum la lastaj kelkaj tagoj mi ne skribis ĉar mi estas ĉe la 100a Universala Kongreso en Lillio. Bedaŭrinde, mi ne havas la tempon por verki aliajn artikolojn. Antaŭ mi eliris mian domon, mi demandis min ĉu mi devas afiŝi noton ke mi havus ferion. Finfine, mi diris ne. “Mi havas multe de blogaĵojn. Neniu noticos se mi ne verkas.” Mi malpravas.

Do, mi pardonpetas, miaj karaj legantoj. Ŝajnas ke kelkaj aliaj kongresanoj sciis ke mi ĉeestus, sed hodiaŭ, viro haltis kaj diras al mi ke li legas mian blogon. La sama okazis je aliaj tempoj dum de la kongreso (sed, ne la sama viro).



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Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Army of Esperantists!

The Esperanto movement
wasn't really that organized.
It seems unlikely, but so mocks the writer of a column in the New-York Tribune of July 23, 1908. Did the Esperanto movement, at that point in its earliest moments in the United States, resemble a nascent government in any way? The satire in this one seems to be laid on just a tad too thickly. The first Esperanto congress in the United States had raised the banner of the Esperanto movement, but although this was the first time the flag had been raised on US soil, it wasn’t exactly a banner of conquest.

It may even be that that Esperanto movement was more-or-less collateral damage on this part, since many of the terms cited speak to American exceptionalism, which might be the real target here. The topics that Esperanto orators were described as eager to talk about were already the topics of American political figures.



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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Esperanto’s One Advantage

Harsh words from a small paper
At least, according to the County Record of Kingstree, South Carolina. There were certainly more advantages to Esperanto than as determined by the Record, but they found only one. We can probably attribute the short editorial statement to Louis J. Bristow, the Editor and Proprietor of the County Record. According to a contemporary American newspaper directory, the circulation of the Record was estimated at fewer than a thousand subscribers.

At the time that Mr. Bristow was writing about Esperanto, it was still fairly new. This was printed not long before the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Unua Libro. Unlike Volapük, the first decade of Esperanto was fairly quiet. In the course of a decade, Volapük had managed to go from publication to the total splintering of the movement. Esperanto took things slowly.



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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Everybody Works in Esperanto

Except it's really bad Esperanto
You may not know the song “Everybody Works But Father,” but it was a hit of the vaudeville era. The 1905 song is significant enough to have a Wikipedia entry, and was recorded by artists of the day such as Billy Murray and Bob Roberts (later, it was in the repertoire of Groucho Marx). (Just a note: both of those links are for 1905 recordings of the song, so if you’ve never heard of “Everybody Works But Father,” this is your chance to not only hear of it, but to hear it.)

The Chicago News probably assumed that most of their readers would know the song (unlike most of my readers), although it’s not clear from where the Esperanto translation came. Like many early purported samples of Esperanto, it lacks accented letters and makes plenty of errors. Of course, in that day, if you wanted to typeset Esperanto, instead of learning how to hit the right key combinations on your computer (of which there were exactly none in 1906), you had to order special type, which makes me wonder if Esperanto typesetters ever ran out of certain letters.



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Friday, July 17, 2015

Khayyam and Esperanto

A very rare book
I love old books. I could easily be blogging about my love of poking around used bookstores, sometimes coming home with piles of old things. I love old books. Every once in a while, you find something that’s a bit of a rarity, but the book that was described in the New York Times on July 17, 1909 was a true rarity: it was produced in an edition of twenty-copies. That’s all.

The book in question is an Esperanto translation of the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám based on the translation by Edward FitzGerald. My searching lead me to a bibliography of the Rubáiyat, which lists the first Esperanto translation as coming in 1915 (which was the product of John Pollen, the head of Esperanto Association of Britain). But Pollen’s 1915 translation of of Khayyám can’t the be subject of a 1909 bookstore ad. I mean, advance copies are one thing, but what bookstore can get a book six years before it’s printed?



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Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Canadian President for Esperanto Group

Bardorf
On July 15, 1921 the Esperanto Association of North America elected a new president. This is not the sort of thing that makes the news any more, but in 1921 it was reported in at least two newspapers, both from the District of Columbia, the Washington Post and the Evening Star. By 1921, the EANA was long out of Washington D.C. (they relocated to West Newton, Massachusetts in 1913), so it wasn’t even local news.

It was something of a first for the organization. The new president, Charles F. Bardorf was the first president of EANA who was not an American citizen. He was citizen of Canada. He was also first European immigrant to head the organization. And, he was the first chemist to lead the group. (Not sure how many, if any, seconds there were of any of these.) Charles F. Bardorf was the seventh president of the Esperanto Association of North America. The group was the Esperanto Association of North America in more than just name: from the beginning it included Canadian members and clubs, although the American side dominated it. There was also a Canadian Esperanto Association. Oddly enough some of the Canadian Esperanto groups were affiliated with the British Esperanto Association.

It hit the papers the following day, although the Post still referred to the events as happening “today.” In the Evening Star, it’s a very brief article, tucked in at the bottom of a page.



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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ice Warriors — Blogging Doctor Who

The First Doctor would
have told them to
speak up!
There’s a temptation to call “The Ice Warriors,” which is padded out at six episodes, “glacial” (there, I’ve done it). Trimmed down to five episodes it might have been better. Maybe even four. The main problem is that the “ice warriors” don’t make particularly good villains. I’m not even certain what their objective was in the story (and wouldn’t that objective change, given that an unspecified number of years had passed?).

But first, some background. The Tardis materializes on its side, leaving the Doctor and his companions to scramble awkwardly out the door. You would think the thing would have some sort of automatic adjustment for upright (in relation to local conditions) and stable (though the plot device of the Tardis landing somewhere that couldn’t support it had been used before and would be used again). They’ve arrived somewhere in Britain, but mistake it for Tibet (the location of the previous—and lost—adventure) as the Earth has entered a new ice age.



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Monday, July 13, 2015

An Esperanto Opera in Chicago

Open wide and say
"Saluton!"
Well they both couldn’t be the fifth United States Esperanto congress, and really this is a question of the Chicago Daily Tribune making a small but important error in their article of July 13, 1914. The fifth United States Esperanto congress had been held in Boston in July 1912. I am slowly building a list of these, as I hit references to specific conferences.

Let’s put this in context: on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated, throwing Europe into crisis, but the war hadn’t started yet. The tenth Universala Kongreso was still being planned for Paris. And the 1914 congress of the Esperanto Association of North America was planned for Chicago. For its prospective attendees, the troubles of Europe were somewhat irrelevant. Finally, the Esperanto Association of North America had held a conference every year since 1908 (the conference at which it was founded). 1914 was the seventh.



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Sunday, July 12, 2015

North Dakota News of Esperanto

Civilization demands Esperanto!
The Pioneer Express of Pembina, North Dakota got to Esperanto fairly early. In July 1901, most people in the United States were completely unaware of Esperanto. There had been the occasional reference beforehand (dating all the way back to Esperanto’s introduction in 1887), but as Esperanto neared its fourteenth birthday, out of the slightly more 5,567 Esperantists (that number being the final name in the listings that ended for January 14, 1901), almost none were Americans.

[Digression 1. Esperantist 5,567 was Miss Ingeborg Bergqvist, of Södertelge, Sweden, and her name had been sent in by J. J. Süssmuth.]

[Digression 2. It’s not a solo project to create, so I won’t be the one, but it would be great to have a database of the early Esperantists listed in these directories. I really don’t want to type in tens of thousands of names; I just don’t have the time. Really, we need people to take ranges of a couple hundred names at a shot. Then I could simply search to find out how many Americans were in the international movement. Series XXI of the Adresaro de la Esperantistoj includes two Americans, neither of them in North Dakota.]



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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Esperanto at Twenty-Five

And the party is in Poland
It’s one of those accidents of history that the outlook for Esperanto looked better at twenty-five than it did a century later at one hundred twenty-five. In 1912, although the 1910 Universala Kongreso had been a bit of a disappointment (and financial loss for the Esperanto Association of North America), there was still hope in the United States Esperanto movement.

And so, when the Bridgeport Farmer of Bridgeport Connecticut wrote about the Esperanto movement on July 11, 1912, the national convention had just begun in Boston, and (as the article notes) many American esperantists were heading off to Europe for the Universala Kongreso in Krakow, Poland. Though the 1912 UK would be smaller than preceding or succeeding one, it nevertheless had nearly three times as many participants as the 1910 Washington UK.


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Esperanto Congress in Boston

Iru ni Bostonen!
I’ve said this before (and doubtless will say it again) that today the annual North American Esperanto Congress probably doesn’t even get media coverage in the town where it’s held. Certainly a check of Google News around the time of the meeting turns up nothing. I don’t know if the blame rests solely on the media, though I know I’ve been involved in large conventions and the local made no reference to the swarms of conventioneers. This was not the case when the Esperantists of North America met on July 9, 1912. There was press coverage.

I’ve found articles from the New York Evening World and the Washington, D.C. Evening Star, so this press coverage actually extended outside of the convention city, since the 1912 convention was in Boston. There was probably coverage in the Boston papers, but unfortunately, I don’t have access to any of them. The two articles are nearly identical to each other, with the only difference within the actual article being something that can be attributed to house style. That said, the ultimate source was probably a press release either from the Esperanto Association of North America or the New England Esperanto Association. At the time of the meeting, EANA was headquartered in the Boston suburb of West Newton, so there was probably some overlap between the two organizations.



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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Esperanto, a New Kind of Volapük

An Irish Esperantist
in Parliament
Not really, but that’s how the New York Times decided to explain it to its readers on July 4, 1903, reviewing J. C. O’Connor’s book Esperanto. They clearly got to this much earlier than the New York Observer and Chronicle, (which didn’t review it until June 28, 1906). Clearly, at the New York Times, they don’t let books sit around for three years while they decide whether or not to review it. They were prompt about this one.

The Times, oddly enough gets to the size of the book, and so for anyone not familiar with book sizes, the spine height of Esperanto, the International Language, the Student’s Complete Text Book is 17.5 cm, or as the New York Times put it, “a 16mo of 176 pages.” I’m familiar with the various book sizes, but tended to think of sextodecimos as being smaller than they actually are (and clearly I’ve been thinking of the next size down, octodecimo). In other words, it’s a small hardback, about the size of a paperback book. Easy to carry about in pocket or purse for use while on the train or while waiting in lines (“on lines” if you’re a New Yorker, or (as this is a British book) in queues).

Now the word “16mo” in the third line of the New York Times review holds no mystery as to its meaning, only as to why the Times decided to describe the book this way, instead of calling it “a small book of 176 pages.” Esperanto texts do tend to be short. Seven years after J. C. O’Connor, Ivy Kellerman Reed called her book A Complete Grammar of Esperanto. It is just a little taller than O’Connor’s book, so technically an octavo (or 8mo), but we’re talking about a half centimeter taller, and it comprises 334 pages. Not a huge book, but it is complete. An introductory text book in French or German would run to far many more pages and still leave plenty of grammar for the next volume.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Esperanto at the 1904 World’s Fair

It's a nice column head.
There seemed to be a running association between Esperanto and the World’s Fair, just one of those newfangled things of the twentieth century. You know, electricity, ice cream cones, Esperanto. It’s really something more minor than would be indicate by the article in the New-York Tribune on July 3, 1904. It’s not like there was a concurrent Esperanto congress (that would happen in 1915), or even a discussion of the choice of an international language (which had occurred without result in 1900) and it’s likely that many of the people who attended the Louisiana Purchase Exposition had no idea of the presence of Esperanto, as it seems much more limited than the Tribune indicated.

The Fair had stared on April 30, 1904, so it was in full swing by the time the Tribune reported on it. The Tribune also covers the spread of Esperanto to that point. In 1904, the number of Esperanto clubs in the United States was a solid zero; no one would form one for more than a year. However, the Tribune notes that both the Harvard University library and Boston Public Library already had books about and in Esperanto as early as 1904 (a time when every single book and pamphlet published in or about Esperanto would have been a short shelf).



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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Esperanto, The Improbable

Israel Gollancz
Not a fan of Esperanto
Duolingo is just another chapter in applying technology to language learning (not to knock Duolingo, I think it’s great). Its forebears included language lessons by early twentieth century cylinder recordings (including Esperanto), and radio was considered, as noted in a July 2, 1922 article in the Washington Post. At the risk of belaboring the point, radio is one of those technologies that can be called “the Internet of its day”; a technology that transformed how information was handled (until the next transformation).

Radio brought the world closer, and Wikipedia notes that in the 1920s, shortwave radio grew rapidly, “similar to the internet.” As sounds were being transmitted over ever-greater distances, there came the question of what language those sounds would be in. Several pundits, including Professor Arnold Christen, suggested that Esperanto be the language of the airwaves.



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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Esperanto on Street Cars

Somewhat dated, alas.
Oh, were this the reality now, and perhaps it will be again. I’ve been making periodic checks of the number of people who have signed up for Esperanto lessons on Duolingo. As of today (June 28, 2015), it is just past thirty-seven thousand. In a way, it resembles the wave of enthusiasm that happened in the United States from about 1906 through 1912.

In the “Book Chat” column of the June 28, 1906 edition of the New York Observer and Chronicle, that’s exactly the vision brought forth by the writer: “it would not be surprising to hear ‘Esperanto’ conversations on board the street cars.” It would be today. I have the sneaking suspicion that there were more Esperanto speakers in 1915 New York than there are throughout the entire United States in 2015 (I hope I’m wrong).



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A (Partial) History of Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage. Nothing new.
Same-sex couples may now marry in all fifty states, and people are beginning work on histories of the marriage-equality movement.[1] I hope that these histories go back far enough. There is a stark difference between this history of same-sex marriage and the history of same-sex marriage in the United States.

When I was listening the Obergefell hearing, I was not particularly surprised that several justices brought up the question of whether there were historical examples of same-sex marriage. I actually think this line of questioning was profoundly irrelevant. We can find plenty of historical examples, and even contemporary ones, for things that are prohibited by the constitution. I don’t need to go deep into history to find examples of the suppression of freedom of speech. Just as a lack of freedom of speech in other places and times says nothing of our rights, a lack (or even existence) of same-sex marriage in history would say nothing about whether or not it was part of basic human liberty.



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Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality — At Last!

Let freedom ring!
I’ve been waiting a long time for this! I’ve been arguing in favor of same-sex marriage for more than twenty years. When California authorized domestic partnerships, I saw them as half a loaf (or maybe even less, given the limited rights initially granted, though even this was better than the almost completely symbolic domestic partnerships that the city of Laguna Beach offered in the early 90s).

Opposition to marriage equality came from not only those who sought to roll back gay rights, but also from those who, though in favor of gay rights, were either opposed to marriage itself, or felt that the gay community should be pursuing other goals. If you had asked me in 1995 if employment protections or marriage equality were more achievable, I would have said, “no doubt about it, employment.” I’ve seen arguments that we should have gone for ENDA. Employment protections are important, but during the same time that Obergefell moved through the courts, the Republicans have been in control of Congress. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has no chance of budging in a Republican-controlled Congress. In other words, if all our efforts for marriage equality in the last five years had been applied to employment non-discrimination for LGBT people, we’d be in the same place on employment, and still not have marriage equality.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gambling in Esperanto

Baccarat? But I wanted
to study Esperanto!
Was every Esperanto club in 1907 Paris a front for a gambling den? It might seem that way. When I discovered an June 24, 1907 article about raid on a gambling den in Paris, I assumed it was the one that the WashingtonEvening Star had written about slightly later in 1907. Then I realized the names the proprietors were different. Did Paris really have two cunning ladies who decided that an Esperanto club would be the perfect cover for an illegal gambling den? At least that many. There were two separate raids on Esperanto clubs in 1907.

The article in the Los Angeles Times does not give the location of Madame Schwob’s gambling club. I’m going to make guess that it probably wasn’t too far off from Madame Beaujon’s secret club on the Boulevard Clichy, since another source does say that Madame Schwob also had an apartment on the Boulevard Clichy. I guess in 1907 it wasn’t just the place to go for an illegal baccarat club, but the place to go for an illegal baccarat club that was masquerading as an Esperanto group. But where did you go if you wanted your friends to think you were engaging in gambling, when you really just wanted to get together and talk Esperanto?



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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Tomb of the Cybermen — Blogging Doctor Who

A tomb? Don't you need
to be dead for one
of those?
At the end of “The Moonbase,” the Doctor expresses his wish that he not deal with the Cybermen again for a very long time. Had the BBC actually released the reconstructed “Underwater Menace,” there would have been a small break between “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen.” Ironically, just after I finished watching “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” Amazon sent me an e-mail that “The Underwater Menace” was available for pre-order, but although they list a price, they don’t have a release date for it. I think we’ve heard this one before. So, instead, “The Tomb of the Cybermen” is the third of a sequence of Cybermen stories. The next serial I blog about will not have Cybermen in it (it’s an easy promise; I’ve already started watching “The Ice Warriors,” nothing’s showing up on my shelves that will make me say, “gotta watch this first”).

Our first encounter with the Cybermen was set in 1986, although it was a 1986 in which technology hadn’t much progressed beyond 1966. Then, we jumped forward to the only slightly more advanced time 2070, and everyone has assumed that the that the Cybermen were wiped out more than a century before with the destruction of Mondas. Now we’re at some unspecified future time when it is again believed that the Cybermen were wiped out years before. We’ve got a group that going to find their tombs. They have landed in the dorkiest-looking spaceship imaginable. On the other hand, we get a group shot of captain and crew, and I have to wonder if Captain Hopper chose his crew for looks, but I’ll get to that later. He clearly didn’t choose his spaceship for looks.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Limericks in Esperanto

Ŝi havas grandegan kapon.
Here, once again, I’m complaining about journalists not doing their job. Even for a joke, you need to stick to the facts. The first cartoon with joking caption in the “Our Funny Man’s Column” in the Whitefish Pilot of June 22, 1911 makes a completely untrue statement about Esperanto. Where were the outraged letters to the editor noting that the Pilot had been complicit in spreading a scurrilous lie about the noble language Esperanto?

This was (at least as indexed at Chronicling America) the final time that the Pilot made any reference to Esperanto (Chronicling America only has it for 1908 through 1912, though the paper started in 1904 and is still published). The early press on Esperanto is filled inaccurate statements, including odd claims that the inventor of Esperanto was a Spaniard, or that he created the language while serving a long prison term. Not true. Not true.


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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Veltlang at the Esperanto Meeting

The Veltlang Alphabet
Not sure if you can use it to write Esperanto
Veltlang clearly got more press than it deserved. Chronicling America has thirteen articles on it, ranging from its introduction in May 1910 through 1913 (when journalists seemed to tire of it). Its creator, Frederick Braendle, was a translator for the Pension Office (and so his designation of “Professor” was undoubtably self-conferred), who spoke sixteen languages. For the world, he gave English, slightly respelled with a new alphabet.

Those thirteen article are a bit too much coverage because Braendle’s only publication on Veltlang is a twelve-page pamphlet which gives little detail about the language itself (which, once again, is really English), and goes into greater detail of the somewhat mystical implications that Braendle felt his language had.

There does seem to have been a language, since he told the press the he used it in correspondence with friends. However, his book World-English, A New World Language, Veltlang, with English Words and English Grammar, Subject to the limitations of the phonetic writing of Veltlang, together with a simple phonetic world-alphabet, Seuastikon is his only book. (This title brings to mind the long titles of eighteenth-century novels, which are typically chopped down in modern editions.)



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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Third Esperanto Jest

On June 16, 1903, the Chicago Tribune humor column “A Line-O’Type or Two” included an item headed “Our Esperanto Department.” This was followed up on June 18 with the second “lesson” of “Esperanto in Six Easy Lessons.” If, on June 20, 1903, Tribune readers turned to the column with anticipation of more Esperanto, they were not to be disappointed.

Well, not yet.

Near the end of the column, Bert L. Taylor, did include a third Esperanto installment, this one titled “Esperanto in Six Easy Lessons—III.” I would caution anyone who thinks this might be a substitute for learning Esperanto on Duolingo, or with the book Saluton, or at the site Lernu, that Taylor’s “easy lessons” don’t actually teach Esperanto. This third installment brings up an interesting question.



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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Los Angeles Report on the Esperanto Congress

LA Times readers had an uncanny
experience of déjà vu.
Journalism by press release is clearly nothing new, given the overlap in information in the articles that appeared in the Los Angeles Herald and the Los Angeles Times on June 19, 1910. It’s also clear what the source of the article was: the Esperanto Society of Los Angeles, which managed to get a plug in for their own events. (I’d like to note here that while I struggle to maintain monthly meetings of my own Esperanto group, in 1910 there were weekly Esperanto meetings in Los Angeles. On the other hand, when I moved to California in 1991, there were weekly meetings in my area; that group has since folded.)

Because there is so much overlap, I’ve decided to take the irritating way out and combine the articles. I’ve set them below in three columns, the Herald on the left, the Times on the right, and everything where they’re using the same words is in the middle.


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Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Jest for Esperanto 2 - A Lesson!

There's more Polish than Esperanto
“A Line-O’-Type or Two,” the humor column of the Chicago Tribune in the early twentieth century, wasn’t done with Esperanto with its entry of June 16, 1903. No, there was more to come. For the sake of history, let’s put this in some context. In June 1903, the first Esperanto group in the United States, the American Esperanto Association, was nearly two years in the future. The North American Review woulnd’t start its Esperanto lessons for another four years, and the establishment of the Esperanto Association of North America wouldn’t come for another five years. Even most of those referred to as “pioneers of Esperanto” in the United States had yet to learn Esperanto.

This joke is about as obscure as you can get. This was not the first reference to Esperanto in the Tribune, not even the first reference in the “A Line-O’-Type or Two,” but the preceding references in the Tribune were sparse enough that Chicago readers could be excused if they had never heard of it. Getting back to historical context, Chicago didn’t get an Esperanto group until three years later.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Esperanto By Radio

Esperanto on the air
If you follow the sources, there’s some confusion about the middle name of the Esperantist radio expert mentioned in a short item in the June 17, 1922 Evening World. The World gives his name as “James Denison Sayers.” Geoffrey Sutton in Consise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto, 1887–2000 gives his name as “James Denton Sayers,” and on Vikipedio, he’s listed as “James Denson Sayers.” We’re giving this one to Vikipedio, since that’s he wrote on his draft registration cards.

Sayers (now that we’ve properly identified him), was a telegraph operator, novelist (including one in Esperanto), and founding member of the Esperanto League of North America (the organization that rose as a rival and successor to the Esperanto Association of North America, after EANA was pushed out of the Universal Esperanto-Asocio), and one distressing thing (I’ll get to it, reluctantly). At the same time, Arnold Christen was also talking about the important of Esperanto to radio.



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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Jest for Esperanto

Warning: Not real Esperanto
Jokes about waiters seemed to be a special theme in the humor column “A Line-O’Type or Two” that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 16, 1903. There’s a longish item item titled “The Perfect Waiter,” attributed to “Sambo J. Johnson, Esq.” and an item signed “B. L. T.” includes a waiter joke. And the somewhat tongue-in-cheek endorsement of Esperanto also seems to include a waiter joke.

I’ve skimmed through other insertions of the column (which later gets attributed in its entirety to “B. L. Taylor”), and waiter jokes are pervasive. The handbook for waiters joke continues through several issues. It’s an early treatment of Esperanto as a source of humor, since in 1903 it was pretty obscure in the United States; you couldn’t count on people to get the joke. A few years later, it was still being described as “the new universal language,” even though it had been published nearly sixteen years before. Yet the column describes (accurately) as “not so new.” For comparison, consider that the period encompassed between the publication of Volapük and the collapse of the movement was only nine years. At fifteen, Esperanto was still getting off the ground, with its first convention not even an idea yet.

Skimming past the waiter jokes and and other such items (and the two mocking comments about King Peter of Serbia—there’s a third at the end of the column) we get the the Esperanto part:

OUR ESPERANTO DEPARTMENT
[Esperanto is a universal language. It is not so new. Ten papers are printed in it. It has not, however, got a start in this country, and as we regard it as a good thing, we propose to push it along. Esperanto is a simple language. Count Tolstoi learned it in two hours. It took us 2:05:16. This argues that Tolstoi is a better linguist than we are; but as nobody held the watch on him we must take his word for two hours flat. Esperanto not only looks well, but sounds well when played on the piano. Follow the lesson for today: 
La frapo de attendistoj estas en la aero, kaj la attendisto estas en la supo. 

VERY SPECIAL.
For the best triolet written in Esperanto we offer a fine cigar case. Competition closes July 1.
I should note here that the competition (if there truly was one) closed on July 1, 1903. Anyone starting a triolet is more than a century late. I suspect the particular verse form was chosen because of its difficulty. I’m not writing one in any language.

The phrase in the “lesson” is interesting, because though it makes errors, it’s not total gibberish (or, as would be said in Esperanto, volapukaĵo). Someone used an Esperanto source and, probably not finding the word “waiter,” actually figured out how to phrase “one who waits.” There, the problem is Zamenhof’s.

The word for waiter in Esperanto is kelnero. It’s right there in the Universala Vortaro of 1894, but perhaps the Tribune was working from the shorter word list of the 1887 Unua Libro, which does not have the word kelnero. Or, maybe the wording of the Universala Vortaro confused them. Compare these two entries:

kelner’ garçon | boy | Kellner | половой, кельнеръ | kelner.
knab’ garçon | boy | Knabe | мальчикъ | chłopiec.

Wait! Is this something that means the same thing in French and English, but something different in German, Russian, and Polish? Happily, my small amount of skills in German helps me through this, since the German is clear: kelnero is “waiter,” and knabo is “boy.”

Attendistoj is an impossible word in Esperanto, though it’s a good guess. According to the rules of word formation in Esperanto, you’d have to break up the word as at-tend-ist-o-j. All of these parts exist in Esperanto, but you can’t assemble them to mean “waiter.” At can only be used as a suffix; it indicates the present passive participle of a verb (it only goes at the ends of words). Tendo means “tent.” The rest would be fine if they dropped that second t.

But even atendisto isn’t a great word in Esperanto. Yup, it literally translates waiter, as in “one who waits around professionally.” Is there money in that? I have a French translation dictionary (dated 1991) which under “waiter” puts “garçon” first, then “serveur.” The Larousse dictionary on my iPad switches these two. Servisto is closer to the French, but is really going to mean “servant.” I suspect these are the sorts of thoughts that Zamenhof went through in choosing vocabulary.

Even with the substitution of kelnero, it’s still a pretty strange phrase:
The blow of waiters is in the air, and the waiter is in the soup.
Huh?

The claim that Leo Tolstoy learned the language in just two hours was an oft-repeated on in the early days, which did come from the authority of Tolstoy himself. I suspect that the two hours of study allow Tolstoy to create a letter by flipping through the (then very limited) word list and applying various word endings, so that he could compose a letter. We’re not talking someone who could just drop into casual conversation. I mention this because with the recent release of Esperanto on Duolingo, I have seen the question, “how long does it take to learn Esperanto?”

That’s hard to quantify, of course. It depends on how diligent you are, probably some innate abilities, and what level of competency you mean by “to learn.” If you go by the example given by “A Line-O’-Type,” the answer is “infinitely long.”
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Monday, June 15, 2015

Early Results on Students’ Petition for Esperanto

We want Esperanto now!
On June 8, 1913, two of the Washington D.C. newspapers, the Washington Herald and the Evening Star reported on plans by D.C. students to create a petition to have Esperanto taught in the public schools. This was neither the first nor last attempt to get Esperanto into the D.C. schools, though none of them were successful. We can cheer for the students in their attempts at convincing the board of eduction to have Esperanto as a subject, while at the remove of more than a century, we know that their efforts were not successful.

But they tried. What it does show is just how energetic and large the Esperanto movement was in just one American city a century ago, and that they were doing the work to try to perpetuate the movement. They had big plans in era when the hope was still alive that Americans traveling abroad would speak Esperanto. The Esperanto Association of North America was still headquartered there, although they would soon move their offices to West Newton, Massachusetts (Amerika Esperantisto had already moved there). Sadly, in a way this move showed that the Esperanto movement was diminishing in the United States; the EANA presidents would be Esperantists, not those who held power in diplomatic circles. The organization would no longer be headquartered in a major city, but was in a suburb. The Esperanto movement in the United States was somewhat running out of steam. A petition drive for Esperanto in the public schools was a bold move that, if successful, might have been imitated.



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Friday, June 12, 2015

Esperanto and the Sciences

Some things never
change. That headline
could be current.
Virgil C. Dibble was not a scientist. When he wrote a letter to the magazine The Outlook, he was probably by the a salesman for a map publisher. He was, however, a fervent support of Esperanto, and so when the first Pan-American Scientific Congress took up the question of Esperanto, Dibble was not going to let the editor of The Outlook remain in the dark on this, especially as The Outlook had written about the congress.

The Outlook was, according to Wikipedia one of the leading news and opinion magazines of its day, beaten out (perhaps) only by The Independent and The Nation (of these three, only the Nation is still around). Dibble’s piece was not one of their bits of news and essays, but instead was in a section (at the back of the issue) under the heading of “Public Opinion,” appearing on the fourth and final full page of that section in the June 12, 1909 issue. It’s a letter to the editor. The only letter after that is on how English place and family names retain spellings that are no longer indicative of their pronunciation. After that it’s advertisements, with a charming advertisement for Porosknit summer underwear two pages later (a dollar for a summer-weight union suit). (Lest you think it’s all about forgotten products, the bottom of the page after Dibble’s letter contains advertisement for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and Borden’s evaporated milk).


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