Ranto Appendix – Ĥ


Here just for light relief is a catalogue of accidental by‐products of Esperanto's neat snap‐together derivational system: words that can be interpreted in either of two unrelated ways.

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

Many 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; and in Esperanto, the rules say the derivational morphology is universally productive, so if it's possible to construct a compound 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.