Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Esperanto on Mars

A Martian.
Does he speak
That’s the implication of a short item in the Washington Herald on April 15, 1908. It’s a little comic item, meant more to poke fun at (then) contemporary fashion foibles than to seriously make reference to Esperanto. In this case, Merry Widow hats are the subject at which fun is being poked. For those who don’t follow women’s fashion, the Merry Widow hat was a broad-brimmed women’s hat, often decorated, which was popular in the early twentieth century.

In the science fiction of the era, Mars was often depicted as a vastly older planet with the remnants of a once-glorious civilization, now in its dying days, but whose inhabitants (if they still existed) were intelligent and wise beyond the measure of man. (On the other hand, Edgar Rice Burroughs created a Mars of both futuristic science and a variety of fairly savage, feudal societies.) In the comic item in the Herald, we seem to have the wise survivor of the dying society, speaking a logical language, since in the quip, the Martian speaks Esperanto.

No word on how they might have learned Esperanto on Mars. It was a little too far for an Esperanto pamphlet to go.

An Optical Blunder.
The man from Mars wanted to see New York from the most favorable point of view. So they took him up on the Singer Building.

He looked about him with great interested. Then he looked down.

“It seems to be raining in the streets below,” he said, in the purest Esperanto.
The man who understood the language followed the stranger’s gaze. 
“No,” he said, “it isn’t raining. Those are not umbrellas that you see—they are ‘Merry Widow’ hats!”

And the man from Mars made a note of it.
They may have Esperanto on Mars, but apparently they don’t have Merry Widow hats. Is that how we will know them as an advanced civilization?
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