Monday, March 9, 2015

After Esperanto and Ido…Esperanto?

Auguste Forel
Ant expert and temperance
The Butte Daily Bulletin got that one little detail wrong when they reported on March 9, 1920 that a solution had been found to the Ido schism. At this point, Ido had been introduced just over twelve years before, and there was probably no chance for reconciliation of the two movements.

The Daily Bulletin names one of the people involved in this, but it turns out that he wasn’t the main person. The article makes it clear that Auguste Forel is the “honorary president” of the new organization. He wasn’t running things, but they figured that his name would look really good on the letterhead. He was, however, one of those figures with something of a mixed legacy. On the one hand, he argued for world peace, female suffrage, disarmament, on the other hand, he argued for the sterilizing or euthanizing those with mental handicaps[1] or of certain races.[2] He was also a leader in the temperance movement and an important member of the International Good Templars. His reputation is clearly sufficiently redeemed (at least for the Swiss) that he appears on the Swiss 100-franc note.

Like many an early Esperantist, Forel was initially a Volapükian,[3] and like many of those left Volapük for Esperanto, he became a reformer in the Esperanto movement. But even with that, just about everything in the article is incorrect.
(By the Federated Press.)
Berne, Switzerland, March 9.—Reconciliation between the warring adherents of the two international languages, Esperanto and Ido, is expected to follow the recent birth of their child, Esperanto. An apparent solution to the set battle between the promoters of the two languages has now been found, since the new invention contains the best features of both. It is described as much simpler than Esperanto, and strictly international.

An academy of Esperanto has been established here with Dr. August Forel, famous scientist and founder of the order of Good Templars, as honorary president.
Let’s start with what the Daily Bulletin got right: Berne is in Switzerland.

Don't bet on it, kid.
The Esperanto movement had not patched up their differences with the Ido movement, nor is this ever likely to happen. The name of the proposed successor language that was supposed to effect this reconciliation was not “Esperanto,” but “Esperantido.” Auguste Forel was not the creator of Esperantido, which was the work of René de Saussure, himself a one-time Esperantist, but from 1919 onward, worked on a series of revisions to Esperanto. The Esperanto Wikipedia entry states that for a symbol of this revision, Saussure took the Esperanto symbol of a green on a white background and turned it into a white star on a green background.

The New International Year Book for 1919 (published 1920) had clearer account. In the entry “International Language” was the following:
Finally we must record a move long contemplated, to being about by mutual concessions a reconciliation between Idists and Esperantists, namely the launching of the Esperantidist movement (with central quarters in Bern, Switzerland, 10 Hotelgasse). The leader is Dr. R. de Saussure; the honorary president is Dr. A. Forel, the famous scientist. Esperantido is a simplifed Esperanto, but with less radical reforms than those proposed by Ido. The guiding principle of Dr. de Saussure is: “To tell all which is necesary and only what is sufficient for clear understanding.” Those who have studied artificial languages will appreciate the really useful element thus introduced into the discussion. For years Dr. de Saussure has been working on this problem. The first number of their monthly periodical Internacia Linguo Esperantida is dated November 1919.
The 1920 volume notes that
The Esperantidists or Antidists seem not to have gained footing on American soil yet; at least no organization has been formed.
The Ido movement today has a small following, but it would seem that Saussure’s various revisions, starting with Antido in 1919, and finishing with Nov-Esperanto, or Esperanto II in 1937 are forgotten.[4] No real movement seems ever to have been formed. The academy mentioned in the final paragraph is that of the Esperantida Akademio, devoted to Saussure’s continued revisions to his language. He quickly broke with both the Esperanto and Ido movements, making it unlikely that his creation was going to bring about any sort of reconciliation between the two movements.

It seems standard operating procedures for someone who revises Esperanto to announce that this is the real deal, accept no substitutes, and that the Esperanto spoken by however many people is actually a pale imitation of itself. No one ever buys this (particularly the Esperanto speakers), but it continues. Say with enough fervor and you can convince a journalist that your new language has replaced Esperanto. Convincing Esperantists is a good deal tougher.

That leaves the Good Templars, which had during the early twentieth century flirted with Esperanto as language of the temperance movement. The organization was founded in the United States as a Christian temperance fraternal society (complete with secret rituals). Forel started the first lodge of the International Order of Good Templars in Switzerland, but then broke away to form the International Order of Good Templars (Neutral),[5] which did not have a religious basis. This organization later merged with the earlier one. Eventually, the group dropped the word “Order” from their name.

  1. Cited, among other places in “Ants and the Nature of Nature in Auguste Forel, Erich Wasmann, and William Morton Wheeler,” by A. J. Lustig. In The Moral Authority of Nature, Lorraine Daston and Fernanado Vidal, eds.  ↩

  2. An additional fact pointed out in Charlotte Sleigh’s Six Legs Better: A Cultural History of Myrmecology.  ↩

  3. Noted on the Esperanto Wikipedia page for Auguste Forel. The English page and the French page have overlapping and additional information.  ↩

  4. Esperanto Wikipedia gives this series as Antido, Antido II, Lingvo Kosmopolita, Esperantido, Nov-Esperanto. Saussure seems to have used the term “Nov-Esperanto” at various times during this eighteen-year period of revision.  ↩

  5. From the entry on August Forel in Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History; A Global Encylopedia, by Jack S. Blocker, Jr., David M. Fahey, and Ian r. Tyrrell.  ↩

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