Cherpillod, Andre: _Konciza etimologia vortaro_. Rotterdam: Universala
Esperanto-Asocio, 2003. 503 p. Paperback. ISBN 92 9017 082-4.

One of the watershed moments of recent Esperanto publishing (though, of
course, not _the_ watershed moment) came a decade and a half ago when Andre
Cherpillod in France bought himself a Macintosh computer.

In the old days (the _really_ old days) of the computer revolution, you
could neither display Esperanto special characters on a screen nor print
them on the inflexible typewriter-like printers of the day. (*) Heck, you
couldn't even display or print the _English_ special (lower-case)
characters. But as time went on and random-access memory tended to
increase, computer manufacturers started moving character generation out of
firmware and into software, thus making it peculiarly amenable to
intervention and modification by persons other than the manufacturer. By
the time of the Mac SE, which I think is the variety that Cherpillod
bought, the software font and the user-defined character map were standard
on the machine; and with the advent of, first, dot-matrix printers and,
later, laser and inkjet printers, it was possible to print just about
anything as well. You could go beyond English upper-case letters to
Esperanto special characters and even cuneiform and Klingon.

But, then as now, those who had computers but considered them little more
than an electronic version of the 1906 Underwood typewriter (U.S.
manufactured version) liked to argue that "computers can't handle
Esperanto's special characters". (**) Cherpillod, having discovered that
computers _could_ handle Esperanto's special characters with relative ease,
decided to prove them wrong -- with a vengeance. He published a book in
Esperanto -- I don't remember the title at the moment -- in which he gave
the equivalents of many Esperanto words in a number of ancient Middle
Eastern languages -- and scripts! All, of course, typeset using that (by
modern standards) relatively primitive Mac SE and output on a dot-matrix

Typographically, the current work is a lineal descendant of that first
book; in fact, it looks as though it might have been typeset on that same
SE, though Cherpillod has now apparently graduated to a laser printer. The
book is, of course, in Esperanto, supersigns and all, but also includes a
number of other scripts; in the discussion of "alef", for instance, we also
find both Hebrew and Phoenician script (along with Latin transliterations
for those of us who are too lazy to learn other scripts). In fact, though
the book is supposedly oriented towards etymology, Cherpillod regales us
throughout with tables of letters and syllabaries for: Arabic, Armenian,
Cyrillic, Devanagari, Ethiopian, Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek, Hebrew,
Hieroglyphic, Irish Gaelic, Japanese, Georgian (Sakartvelian), Coptic,
Runic, Syriac, Slavonic, Tibetan and Tifiniga (Touareg). Missing are a
couple of those he used in the earlier work, i.e., if I remember correctly,
cuneiform and Akkadian.

Content-wise, the book demands comparison with Vilborg's recent five-volume
"Etimologia Vortaro de Esperanto". If you are looking for depth, I can
unhesitatingly recommend Vilborg over Cherpillod. Cherpillod's entries are
concise (often not more than a line long) and show relationships rather
than origin, or so it seems to me; Vilborg's entries are generally long,
attempt to show from which language Zamenhof originally obtained the word
in question, and often reconstruct the reasoning that led Zamenhof to
deviate from the "natural" form. A good example is "vestiblo". Vilborg
relates it to the modern languages first, only adding the Latin
"vestibulum" as an apparent afterthought; he also explains why Zamenhof
converted "-ul-", standard in Latin and its successors, to a simple "-l-".
Cherpillod gives us the Latin form first (and, interestingly, shows how
this was [probably] derived from "vero-stabulum"; Vilborg is less certain
about this derivation), and only then shows how the Latin form was taken
over into some modern European languages; nor does he indicate why the
Esperanto word diverges from these with the loss of the "-u-".

On the other hand, if you are looking for breadth Cherpillod is the book to
have. Vilborg restricted himself to the roughly 4000 Fundamental and
official roots in Esperanto; Cherpillod, on the other hand, is not so
discriminating, and gives us, by his count, 15,081 Esperanto words and
their close (and often distant) relations. These range from "la" and the
standard suffixes to such stillborn fantasies as "mava" and "poka".

Vilborg also provides comparisons with words in some other planned
languages (Ido, Occidental, Interlingua, sometimes Volapuk). In line with
his etymological aims, Cherpillod provides no information about the first
three of these, but he does include Volapuk equivalents when these are
sufficiently close to the Esperanto, presumably because Volapuk antedates
Esperanto and so could have contributed, at least slightly, to the
development of its vocabulary.

What it comes down to is that the person interested in Esperanto's
etymology should have both books on his shelf. He will get more out of
Vilborg, I believe, about those words that are found in Vilborg; but
Cherpillod will be a valuable supplement for those words, more than ten
thousand of them, that Vilborg omitted.


(*) This is a blatant exaggeration, of course. To take an example: my
original Apple II used an encoding ship to convert keyboard scan codes to
graphic entities for display on the screen, and so you could only display
upper-case English characters and, of course, punctuation marks and
numerals. However, by early 1978 there was already an easily available and
cheap (i.e. free) program for building fonts for use on Apple's
"high-resolution graphics" screen (which, by current standards, was pretty
low-resolution), and when Apple published its "DOS Toolkit Disk" in 1979
that disk already had an Esperanto font on it (in fact, one that I had
devised and, in a fit of generosity, given a copy of to a Korean teenager
at the El Cerrito Computerland store -- how it worked its way from there to
Apple, I never did find out). Esperanto displayed on that screen could be
printed on the popular thermal printers of the day, as a screen print,
though text print could not show Esperanto characters.

And even the "inflexible" daisy-wheel printers were amenable to non-English
printing. My first task, when I went to work in the R&D department at
Fairchild Camera & Instrument in 1983, was to write a driver that would
permit my boss to write letters in Esperanto on the department's
daisy-wheel printer. This turned out to be a particularly easy task,
largely because (a) whoever invented ASCII had already dedicated one byte
code to the concept of "back up one space"; and because (b) for some reason
Esperanto's circumflex (also known as a "caret") has been one of the staple
characters of computer keyboards and printer-character sets since the
beginning of time, though one may suspect that Zamenhof did not choose it
precisely for this reason ...

(**) Few people will argue this today, and the argument has now moved to
the internet, which also, it appears, can't handle Esperanto's twelve
special characters -- though it has no problem with symphonies or motion


Pasis longa voj'
Iri ĉi tien de for;
Pasis longa temp',
Sed alvenas mia hor' ...