Ranto Appendix – Ĥ


This used to be Appendix W, though I always made sure it was clearly labelled as light relief rather than a serious criticism; now that something else has turned up to claim that slot I'm promoting it into the comedy addenda.  It's a catalogue of accidental by‐products of Esperanto's neat snap‐together lexeme‐building system: words that can be interpreted in either of two unrelated ways.

Esperanto Meaning A Meaning B
acheto “a purchase” “a contemptible little thing”
alterni “to alternate” “to sneeze at”
avaro “avarice” “a group of grandfathers”
banano “a banana” “a bath member”
barbaro “a barbarian” “a group of beards”
dankanto “thankful person” “Danesong”
delegi “to delegate” “to read off”
dieto “a diet” “a minor deity”
ekstero “an exterior” “a former world”
elfaro “an accomplishment” “a group of elves”
filino “a daughter” “dirty linen”
galero “a galley” “a drop of bile”
kolego “a colleague” “a big neck”
kukurbo “a pumpkin” “a city of cakes”
lavenda “lavendery” “in need of cleaning”
lekanto “an oxeye daisy” “someone licking”
menstruo “menstruation” “a mind‐hole”
marmito “a casserole” “a sea‐tale”
misilo “a missile” “a tool for missing”
modulo “a modulation” “a fashionable guy”
nevino “a niece” “non‐wine”
okulo “eye” “eighth person”
paperaro “a ream of paper” “a papal mistake”
persono “a person” “a sounding‐out”
postulo “a demand” “a successor”
pretenda “pretend” “needing to be ready”
rapido “speed” “a turnip‐sprout”
regula “regular” “aristocratic”
revido “re‐seeing” “child of a daydream”
sardino “a sardine” “a Sardinian woman”
sentema “sensitive” “without theme”
sukero “sugar” “a drop of juice”
supero “superiority” “a serving of soup”
trukarto “a hole card” “art of faking”
urino “urine” “an aurochs cow”
vespero “evening” “wasp component”
virtemo “virtuousness” “the topic of men”

Most of these come from the longer list that Geoff Eddy used to maintain, which itself made no claims to being exhaustive.  But for the benefit of those who insist I justify mentioning them, I'll say again that I am not presenting them as evidence that Esperanto has more such ambiguities than English – they're just funny!

That said, misinterpretable English words like “unless” aren't strictly comparable, because a natural language is defined by the usage habits of its native‐speaker community; the conjunction derived from the Middle English expression on lesse may look as if it should be a synonym for “more”, but that's not what it means.  It's only artificial languages that are defined by the prescriptive grammarbooks they're learned from; for them, if the rules allow a coinage fi‑lino (literally “shameful flax”) then that word's as legitimate as any.  Oh, and the mis‐division problem is not inevitable in a constructed language; for a start, hyphens could be compulsory.