Saturday, May 16, 2015

No Lies in Esperanto

Lies. All lies.
The Honolulu Star Bulletin doesn’t offer any clues as to the identify of the (deluded if not mendacious) college professor mentioned in their (wholly untrue) short item about Esperanto, so unless I get lucky, I won’t be tracing this claim back to its source.

People have devised languages around various ideals far more utopian than that Esperanto (that is, to enable people to communicate in a shared, easy to learn language, not one imposed by the stronger party). While many early wags made the claim that you couldn’t cuss in Esperanto (and I’ve recently found an early rebuttal to that by Joseph Silbernik), the language Triniti was created with the intent that there would never be an indecent word in it. So why not a language that made it impossible to lie?

The whole notion of not being able to tell a lie gets nicely explored in James Morrow’s City of Truth. Despite the dreams of the Honolulu Star Bulletin on May 16, 1913, it’s possible to lie in a gathering of Esperanto speakers (though probably not the right thing to do).
A prominent college professor says it is impossible to tell a lie in Esperanto. What a fine language this would be enforce on office-seekers around election time!
Candidates for elective office don’t usually lie to the electorate. That’s for amateurs. They mislead. I can think of plenty of instances in which politicians said things that sounded a whole lot better to voters than they really were. Politicians get in trouble when they get wholly unambiguous.

Esperantists in the early days encountered plenty of politicians who said what a wonderful thing it would be if Esperanto was in general use, which is not the same thing as a promise to help get Esperanto into general use (unfortunately, in the the United States they put some of those people at the head of the Esperanto movement).

If you couldn’t lie in Esperanto, there probably wouldn’t be need to be a word for it (though one might have to describe the behavior of those lying non-Esperantists). The word is mensogi, as in la artikolo mensogas.
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