Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Swimmers and That Esperanto Sign

They swim, but do they
speak Esperanto?
The main point of the article in the Washington Times of June 3, 1911 was that the municipal swimming pool had opened, and that it was preferable to their drowning in the Potomac. The article notes that of the six hundred and fifty-eight small boys gathered there, about one hundred and fifty “couldn’t swim a stroke,” and their gathering was described as “just so many possible drownings in the river averted.” Sadly, though the municipal pools seemed to be a safeguard against drowning, there wasn’t a safeguard against segregation; the article notes that “eight small colored boys paddled leisurely around the separate pool designed for their use” (I wasn’t aware of any special design needs for black children; oh, they mean “designated”).

In addition to being segregated on racial lines, the pool was also sex segregated. The final paragraph notes that the pool was open for boys on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and for girls on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The pool was also open on Sundays, but the article doesn’t note who got to swim on those days.

So, what does this have to do with Esperanto? According to the article, there was a sign at the pool in Esperanto. The article is divided into three sections, the last one headed with the words “That Esperanto Sign.”

That Esperanto Sign.
At least 100 mothers came to the pool to watch their freckle-faced progeny. Most of these adults tried to decipher a sign which read:

“Attentu Tiu chi Promenjo estas sole por la Banantjo.”
According to Superintendent Hudson, they learned this is Esperanto for “This walk is for bathers only.”
Well, I hope it didn’t say that, because that’s dreadfully garbled Esperanto.
Atentu Tiu chi Promenejo estas sole por la Banantoj!
Or better:
Atentu! Tiu ĉi promenejo estas sole por la banantoj!
I might prefer to call them naĝantoj—swimmers, but okay. But who was the sign for? Certainly C. B. Hudson, the superintendent of the municipal pool understood the sign, but presumably he wold have also understood a sing that said “Warning, this walkway is only for bathers.” Was it a left-over from the 1910 Universala Kongreso? Did someone suspect that the Esperantists wanted a jolly day of splashing about in the akvo?

Sure, they told us what the sign meant (and I hope it was as wrong as the Times reported it), but no word on why it was there.
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