Esperanto and the -enzo suffix

Penumbra Overture Esperanto Map
Penumbra Overture Esperanto Map

So, today i was translating the maps for Penumbra Overture. I was curious as to where the “-enzo” suffix comes from. Many if not most of my Dictionaries don’t have it mentioned. Peter Benson’s comprehensive dictionary is one of the few that do, and actively uses it. Here is a neat article i found that describes how the term was invented.

Here is a copy of the important parts in Bold:

Cu iu ci tie parolas Esperante?
(Anyone here speak Esperanto?)
By Korey Willoughby

Despite a bad rainstorm, 25 members of the Chicago Esperanto Society have gathered at the Public Library Cultural Center to dedicate a new book, a translation into Esperanto of a college-level chemistry text………………<SNIP>

Thus the chemistry book that has provided the occasion for this meeting–it’s called Generala Organika kaj Biologia Kemio or “General Organic and Biochemistry”–is being dedicated to the countries of the third world. Bixby tells the audience that third world people are at a tremendous disadvantage because they have to spend years learning English before they can study science. “English is not an easy language to learn,” she says. “And scientific English is definitely not easy.”

Because Esperanto has a simplified grammatical structure and follows regular rules of pronunciation and spelling, Esperantists say it can be learned in much less time than it takes to learn English. “We believe the time will come when people of the third world can learn Esperanto in one-sixth the time and then learn science through Esperanto,” Bixby says.

But as the chemistry-book project demonstrates, translating scientific material into Esperanto takes a lot of time and hard work. Fifteen people from nine different countries worked on the translation. The project took six years to complete.

One of the problems was that much of the scientific terminology needed for the text didn’t exist in Esperanto before the project started. Scientists had to devise it as they translated the book.

“People said the book couldn’t be done because Esperantists hadn’t worked out the chemical and scientific terminology,” says Bixby. “But the way you create a language is by needing it, by using it, by working with it every day. We now have made a host of scientific terminology clear.”

For example, Esperanto had no word for what English-speaking scientists call “tracers,” the radioactive chemicals used in nuclear medicine. The editors of the textbook had to combine the Esperanto verb traci, “to trace,” with the affix enzo, derived from the Esperanto esenco, “substance.” The result was tracenzo, “substance that traces.”……………<SNIP>

Esperanto’s capacity to grow and change in the face of new situations has made it much more successful than a host of other created languages, most of which have dropped into obscurity………….<SNIP>

EDIT: i found a torrent which has a copy of the rare Esperanto chemistry book mentioned above. (Get it here)

4 thoughts on “Esperanto and the -enzo suffix

  1. Two details:

    1. Zamenhof was not a Polish Jew; he was a Russian Jew (“rusa hebreo”, as he called himself).

    2. During Zamenhof’s life-time, Bialystok was not situated in the Russian part of Poland, but in Belarus.

  2. The Esperanto root for ‘trace’ is actually ‘trace-‘: traceo, tracei, traceado.
    On occasion possibly also ‘pausi’ or ‘biri’ might be relevant depending on context. The word ‘traco’ means ‘a Thracian’.

    Erich-Dieter Krause: Großes Wörterbuch Esperanto-Deutsch, Hamburg 1999.

    When was Willoughby’s article written? I don’t find any date on it.

    1. If you look carefully near the top it says June 25, 1987.

      I was curious to see if anyone still offers copies in Esperanto bookstores, but it seems it’s so old that it is now out of print and rare. There seems to have been a pdf version in a torrent, but seems to no longer work. i could find a copy of the esperanto chemistry book mentioned in the article.

      Edit: I found a copy! here

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