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The Gift of One Common Tongue

Condensed from The Survey (Graphic No., August 1, '26)

Colonel J. C. Breckinridge, U.S.M.C.

UCH of the wastage of the world is caused by lack of understanding. In our efforts to promote peace and its arts it seems folly to overlook so simple and easy a device as agreement upon a common medium of expression. Our civilization reminds me of the Tower of Babel. This does not mean that all nations should speak a single tongue, but that it would simplify human intercourse if the nations would agree upon tongue to be used in addition to their own. Think of the time saved in the study of languages, and the better un. derstanding that would follow in the interests of commerce, education E human relations and peace.


In 1916 I was crossing Siberia. One evening I became interested in dinner, and spoke to the conductor. He looked as though he were undecided whether to put me off or lock me up. After a time a swarthy individual was ushEered in by several helpful passengers, and he addressed me in what was evidently Italian. I replied in English and in French, and then in Spanish. He understood that tongue, and answered my questions. There was an Italian, who had been in Russia for many years, translating from Russian into Spanish, for the benefit of an American! I do not know how many other languages he spoke, but they were useless in this particular case, as were the French and German of the American.

Several days later a bearded individual was put into the compartment with me. His first effort at conversation was in Russian. I replied in Eng. lish, and he shook his head. Then he tried another. I caught the sounds of "por Polski" and answered, this time in French, saying I could not speak Polish. He then spoke in a tongue I was unable to identify, and I shook my head. Next he whispered:

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" I admitted that I did, but mentioned the fact that there was in Russia a fine of 2000 roubles for speaking German during the war. He said that did not make any difference if nobody heard it! The point here is that our understanding was found in the German tongue, and the study of all other tongues was, so far as we were con. cerned, wasted effort.

A Dane boarded the train at Omsk. He did not consider himself a linguist, although he was accustomed to transacting business in English, Rus sian, Polish, French, modern Greek, "a little Turkish," and "naturally in Norwegian and Swedish because I am a Dane," and "of course everybody has to know German." Consider the years of that man's busy life that had been necessarily wasted in fitting himself to conduct his business!

When the war broke out I was in Norway. One day a Frenchman and two ladies attacked the head porter with a volley of language. They seemed to be in a frenzy to get information about a certain train. The porter waved his arms and spoke in Norwegian. I asked him if he understood German. He did. Then I asked the questions the French family had been asking. In a few moments the situation was clear. In order that two people could exchange ideas and information it took three races and four languages!

I was first impressed by the complicated problems of language about 30 years ago. I was traveling in Europe, probably in Germany. In the compartment with me were three men of whose nationality I am now doubtful. Somebody started speaking in languages none of the others understood. As I now recall it he tried to open conversation in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. That makes three languag·

es. Another spoke in Russian, and at least one other language that I could not identify. That makes a total of five languages. The third man was an Italian or a Greek; he spoke in both languages, and in Turkish, I sup. pose, because he kept mentioning Constantinople; he also spoke in Spanish. That makes four more languages, and a total of nine. I tried English, French and German. This makes a total of 12 languages that were spoken by four men, and they could not un derstand each other!

Whenever there is an international gathering the language must be agreed upon, and then there must be interpreters. The agreements, treaties, decisions, etc., must be made in the language agreed upon and then translated into every language that is represented at the gathering. Will the Americans get the same meaning and sense from their translation that the people of Japan, Italy, Bulgaria, Ger. many, Siam and all the confused mixture of nations and races get from theirs?

There is in our civilization too much room for differences and misunderstandings. Too much effort is required for the bare necessities of comprehending. Human beings cannot engage in commerce and make agresments until they understand each other. In the same way that the telephone, telegraph, cable and radio bridge the physical distance that separates man from man, so would a com. mon language bridge the mental distance that separates mind from mind. My suggestion is not to replace any language, but to agree upon some one language as a means of common international communication, to the end that in commerce, diplomacy, politics and society at large, there would never be any necessity for any one to learn more than one language in addition to his own. But what language?

English is too complicated, and too unreasonable in its method of spelling. Again, French, German and Italian could not be agreed upon, because of opposition on the part of all the others. To select one of these might unbalance some kind of a bal

ance, a balance of commerce, balance of power, or a balance of prestige somewhere.

For many years English was the trading language of the world because the English people did more than any others to discover and develop foreign trade. Just before the great War the German tongue was making rapid advances, keeping pace with the expan sion of German trade. Since then however, English has regained its old importance. By common agreement French is the generally accepted medium for diplomatic intercourse, although here, too, the growing political power of the English-speaking nations has caused their language to menace French. The point I wish to make clear is that the rise and fall of any language has always been due to the political and commercial power of the country to which it was natural, and this shifting condition will continue to an increasing confusion until the use of some common language is sensibly agreed upon by a majority of na tions. Efforts to solve the problem by an artificial language, such as Esperanto, have proven fruitless.

I suggest Spanish as the supplemen tary language to be encouraged in all other countries and for these reasons: 1. It is the easiest and simplest of all languages. 2. It is flexible, expressive and musical. 3. It is already in use in many of the most important and growing commercial in the world. 4. Spain is not so great in the world of commerce, industry, wealth, politics and power as to have the selection of her language opposed on any of these grounds, or for any of the reasons already suggested.


The first thing to do is to agitate such a step, to get people interested in it. It does not seem impossible that the numerous leagues, conferences and assemblies that are already in ex istence for the furtherance of peac should make it their concern. I would facilitate commerce, social re lations, and harmonious well-being and so doing would help to remove on of the chief causes of misunderstand ings.

Can We Have a Beautiful Race?

Condensed from Physical Culture

Albert Edward Wiggam

This article is reprinted by request from the February, 1922, issue of The - Reader's Digest.



HE laws that govern the evolution of plants and animals apply to We can have any kind of a race we want-beautiful or ugly, wise or foolish, strong or weak, moral or immoral.

The whole question lies in what we can induce people to want. Greece wanted beautiful women and got them. Rome did the same thing. The Dark Ages wanted ugly women and got them. The Renaissance wanted beautiful human beings and got them. We Ewant ugly women in America and we are getting them in millions. Three or four ship loads are landing at Ellis Island every week.

The moment we lose beauty we lose intelligence. Every high period of intellectual splendor has been characterized by "fair women and brave men." 1 You can measure the nobility of any - civilization by the beauty of its women and the physical perfection of its men. In the glory period of Babylon, Crete, Phoenicia, Egypt, every evidence of history assures us that the women Ewere of a high type of beauty. When Alexandria was mistress of the world's learning, she was likewise the home of art. And the home of art is always the atmosphere which breeds the beauty and charm of woman.

The noblest type of womanly and manly beauty the world has known dates back to days of Grecian greatness. Horace and Vergil sang the beauty of Rome's noble women.

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the intellectual and professional sections of the population as well as the "mere millionaires" simply are more beautiful than the lackadaisical, the thriftless, the day laborer and the ne'er do well.

Go into backward sections of the United States. Where there is no vision of beauty the very physical beauty of the people perishes. It is even reflected in the very ugliness of their animals. I believe with Secretary Coburn of Kansas that "you can't raise high class hogs from low class people." Scrawny hogs and scrawny people go together.

Henry Ward Beecher gave this ad. vice to a young pastor on choosing a pastorate: "The first thing you should look at is the horses. You will find that handsome, intelligent people and handsome, intelligent horses go to. gether. If you find that the people drive in rickety wagons, with scraggly scrubs of horses, get out of there at once. You can't save those people's souls for they have no souls to save."

It is only people with beautiful souls that ever develop beauty of face and manner and form. And with these come grace of manner and all that makes living an art instead of a mere existence.

If you doubt that the sort of women that men learn to admire does have its influence upon the very figure and physical appearance, as well as men. tality of the race, just take a look at the farmer women of East Prussia. Hard work for generations has broken down the delicate, lovely, high strung, beautiful girls and either killed them


else destroyed their beauty so early in life that they failed to get husbands. In addition, when men put their wives at hard labor, or economic

conditions compel them to do so, the men themselves grow to admire only that type of woman that is built like a draft horse.

I have studied thousands of women unloaded at Ellis Island. They are broad-hipped, short, stout-legged with big feet; broad-backed, flat-chested with necks like a prize fighter and with faces as expressionless and de. void of beauty as a pumpkin.

These women are giving us nearly three babies where the beautiful women of old American stocks are giving us one; hence, the beauty of the American women will steadily de cline.

If we can educate children to love and admire and want that which is good and beautiful, they will want that kind of men and women. We have not educated our young men and women how to pick out good husbands or wives, and do it unconsciously. If ideals of beauty and intelligence are in the minds of the people beforehand they will unconsciously reject the ugly and stupid and find their happiness only in people that are lovely and of good report. Professor William James said that the final aim of education is to teach us "to know a good man when we see him."

Not one man in a hundred is a judge of womanly beauty. We could do much to improve the human race in health, vigor and energy by cultivating men's ideals of beauty in woman. It is not solely beauty of face that makes a beautiful woman. It is a combination of all the elements of vitality, idealism and energy that shine out from the human body, and express the real beauty within. It is not altogether mere regularity of out. line nor a wonderful complexion, nor a face that is commonly described as pretty. It is commonness that makes ugliness. It is character that makes beauty. People who are always making you think of somebody else are not beautiful. Beauty is individual and distinctive.

The "homeliness" of Abraham Lincoln has become a sort of tradition. I

heard an artist say recently in\ ture: "Students of art have now come to regard Lincoln as represent ing one of the highest types of human beauty. Perhaps his lanky, awkward figure would not give him a blue rib bon at a beauty show. But that is because they are thinking of Adonis or Apollo as the only type of human beauty. Artists have come to the con clusion that especially in Lincoln's face there is a majesty of outline, a dignity and nobility of contour, a sweep and distinction in the lines and a definition of character and a great soul within that stamps Lincoln as one of the most beautiful specimens of the human race. There is not a commonplace line in his face. Of course the beauty of Apollo and the Greek heroes is the beauty of spring days, of nature leaping with joy and of running, shouting waters. Lincoln's beauty is the beauty of mountain peaks and rugged fastnesses and in his energy you see the beauty of the ocean storm.”


Beauty is not only skin-deep. Bodi ly beauty is as deep as the human soul. It is the revelation of character. True, some famous beauties have per- b haps not been great women. But near-α ly every great man or woman has been beautiful. I believe that every woman the of character shows beauty somewhere in its infinite revelations.

Again, it is not true that "most beautiful people have no brains." All the studies that have been made show that beauty and brains are in quite a high degree associated. It has also been shown that people with brains are usually better morally than people with empty heads. Further, people of high ability are also people of abundant energy and vitality. And Sir Francis Galton, the great founder of the science of eugenics, has proved that energy is the most distinctly in herited character we have.

Every increase of beauty in the race will mean an increase of bodily and mental energy; that in turn will result in an increase of the spiritual virtues and an expansion in the whole moral output of the race.

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The Synthetic House of Tomorrow

Condensed from The Nation's Business (August, '26)
Gerald Wendt

ODAY wood is precious even beyond its price. Our disappearing forests are needed for a host of chemical products. Wood is rapidly taking its place as a unique and valuable raw material which, like coal and petroleum, cannot indefinitely be used for the crude purposes of heat, power and construetion.

The possibilities of steel as a dɔmestic building material are just be. ing realized. A number of model homes have recently been built on steel frames, and steel plates for walls have much to recommend them. Certainly when the corrosion problem has been solved and the new lacquers, such as Duco, become universal, steel dwelling walls will be irresistible, combining the strength and safety of factory construction with the sanitation of the Pullman car and the beauty of the automobile. Our present stone and wood construction, made prehistoric almost overnight, will pass out swiftly as the carriage did.

But it is in the interiors that the most startling changes will come. Walls, wall coverings, floors, woodwork and furniture will all be composition, or synthetic materials. For one example, take the molded plastics or resinoids, such as bakelite. For each of their present thousand uses there will be another thousand in a few years. Today, speaking of domestic uses only, they can be discovered

everywhere as ash trays, door-knobs, lamp pulls, electric switch plates, drawer pulls, percolator handles, casters, picture frames, radio panels, and toilet seats. And tomorrow will come resinoid furniture. Desk-tops and dresser tops are already on the list.

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or oak, can be so perfectly imparted that a wood expert can scarcely distinguish the product from wood. No fire, no deterioration, no limits to decoration, finish or shape-obviously such a material will replace wood for all fur. niture and interior fittings. It is superior to wood in every respect except weight, and that may be overcome by hollow moldings, possible because of its great strength.

And what are resinoids made of? Two simple chemicals, formaldehyde and phenol. Natural gas, coal tar, and wood distillation products are the raw materials. It is an ideal case of using these great natural resources for their highest value, i. e., as chemical materials. It is a symptom of the future.

Floors will have a composition base, of course, whether concrete, asbestos or other stone substitutes. Even concrete is now tinted to give effects that no natural stone can equal. As for floor coverings, today's linoleum is quite a different thing from what we used to see. The artificial leathers and pyralins which are now used for automobile tops, seats, and artificial ivory can be adapted to any taste. Sanitary, noiseless, warm, gay or quiet in color as desired, they will replace not only wooden floors but the rug and carpet as well. These again are cellulose or wood products.

Another cellulose product is rayon -artificial silk. Five years ago who would have predicted that a woman's daintiest clothes would be made from wood? Yet behold her today-clothed in wood, dyed with coal.

Our house, then, with concrete foundation, steel walls, synthetic stone floor bases, surfaces of rubber, leather or cellulose compositions, draperies and curtains of rayon, furniture of

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