You know, Beaufort, Couturat, Zamenhof, de Waal et al. would probably like you to write graffiti on their graves

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not really Louis Couturat's tombstone. I suspect he would be pleased with a nice bit of Ido graffiti like this on his, however.

Interesting bit in an article here about Ben Yehuda, the man most responsible for taking Hebrew from a dead/liturgical language and turning it into a modern language that is now spoken by some 7 million people:
And while some of the words Ben Yehuda invented are now taken for granted - like ofanayim for bicycle - 2,000 of his words were stillborn. His word for tomato, for instance, which Hebrew speakers now universally call agvania, was badura. And his word for democracy: amunot.

Still, Ben Yehuda's achievement in midwifing a modern language that so keenly feels the press of its ancestors is immense. When he died in 1922, at age 64, his funeral was attended by 30,000.

Stavans closes his book - and the personal journey it traces - with a pilgrimage to Ben Yehuda's grave on the Mount of Olives. When he finds the gravestone, he notices that it has been spray-painted. A friend tells him that when a member of the Ben Yehuda family was informed about the desecration, apparently at the hands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, she asked, "In what language was the graffiti splashed on?"

"In Hebrew."

"Ah, then Ben Yehuda won."
It's actually pretty funny to think of a group of people with spray paint in their hands, hunched over the grave of the person that spent his life promoting the language, and then further strengthening it by writing graffiti in it, which is about as informal a setting as language can be used (generally the last place that a language begins to infiltrate and thus proof of its strength).

In the same vein, I couldn't imagine a greater honour for someone who had created and used a language for decades and decades that they intended to be the world's 2nd language than a nice bit of graffiti in the language they promoted (Linguistacho! Pro quo tu ne mortis plu frue?!).

Graffiti in another IAL, of course, would be an insult.


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