Europe marks 150th birthday of Esperanto creator

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 12:08 PM

Pomoj and pantalono _ Esperanto for apples and trousers _ went on sale in some Warsaw shops Tuesday as Europe marked 150 years since the birth of the creator of the international language.

Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Jewish eye doctor born in the Polish city of Bialystok, then part of the Russian Empire, hoped that a universal language could bring understanding and harmony to the world.

Though Esperanto never caught on as a real lingua franca, it continues to have its faithful followers across the globe.

"I believe Zamenhof's idea was very right and I wanted to take part in this action to honor him," said Joanna Klimas, the owner of a clothing shop in Warsaw's former Jewish district that added tags with Esperanto names to her wares.

On display in the shop window _ a red pelto (coat), bluso and pantalono (blouse and slacks) and edziniga robo (wedding dress).

Two nearby food stores, on a street named for Zamenhof, labeled their edibles with their Esperanto names _ fumiga sinko (smoked ham), maleagra mamo (turkey breast), pomoj (apples) and pano (bread).

Surprised customers proceeded with their orders in Polish.

Bialystok, where Zamenhof was born on Dec. 15, 1859, also held observances, playing back footage from an Esperanto convention that took place there this year.

Other nations across Europe, where Esperanto has a small but faithful following, are also honoring Zamenhof.

Croatia's association of some 500 members will mark Zamenhof's birthday next week with a new, comprehensive Croatian-Esperanto dictionary and a play performed in Esperanto by a drama groups, said Spomenka Stimec, the association's secretary general, who writes novels in Esperanto and teaches the language across the globe.

A Russian Ham Sandwich
Derek Hunter

In France on Monday, the Le Monde daily ran a full-page ad by the European Esperanto Union under the breathless headline, "Europe is suffering under the domination of the Anglo-American language."

The tabloid-style ad made a pitch for Esperanto, noting that it can be "learned 10 times faster than English and has no irregularities or complications."

The search engine Google also celebrated Zamenhof on Tuesday, with the site in many European countries replacing the "L" in its name with Esperato's green and white flag.


AP Writers Snjezana Vukic in Zagreb and Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed to this report.