Author's Defense of "Sanskrit Wordplay in Gulliver's Travels"

(Note: In view of this discovery of Sanskrit puns in Gulliver's Travels, there are most likely many other puzzles which are still undiscovered, involving other languages.) Copyright 2000, Richard Stoney of Orleans, CA.
Shiva and 'Ring around the Rosy'

If you found it too hard to understand "Sanskrit Puns in Gulliver's Travels", go instead to this easier site: Sanskrit in Beggar's Opera. Beggar's Opera was written by John Gay, who is believed to have contributed to Gulliver's Travels.

The first major obstacle to overcome is the general misconception that the late 1700's represent the earliest that European linguists knew about Sanskrit; it was during this time that the theory of Indo-European languages was formulated along with its phonetic laws. This would seem to negate any possibility that Jonathan Swift could have known about Sanskrit. Truth is, "after the 16th century, European missionaries acquired some familiarity with the Sanskrit language and literature" ["Sanskrit Language", Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000, 1993-99, p. 1]. Since Travels was published much later in 1726, it would be well in the realm of possiblility for a man of Swift's position to obtain this information directly from India. After all, he had easy access to the highest echelons of government, religion and academia. One must also remember that England had influence in India starting around 1600 and ruled it for a long time.

There is a Hindu connection to Travels: "The basic pattern of Gulliver's Travels--the vehicle of the traveller's account together with satiric commentary arising from the portrayal of fanciful communities--is perhaps its least original feature. It is impossible to say when Swift first sensed the possibilities afforded by a satiric narrative of this kind. The Spectator for 27 April 1711, (#50) told of four Indian kings lately in England and went on to give a summary of the journal said to have been kept by one of them during his visit. The next day Swift took note of this in the Journal to Stella: 'The Spectator is written by Steele, with Addison's help; 'tis often very pretty. Yesterday it was made of a noble hint I gave him long ago for his Tatlers, about an Indian supposed to write his travels into England. I repent he ever had it. I intended to have written a book on that subject'" [Ricardo Quintana, Swift: An Introduction, p. 144].

Here is a quote by Swift which acts as a clue about Travels and languages: "He calls particular attention to them when writing Pope from Ireland after depositing the manuscipt [of Travels] with his London publisher: 'You will find what a quick change I made in seven days from London to the Deanery, through many nations and languages unknown to the civilized world' (C3:158)." It is my contention that this refers to the real world, not just that of Travels.

Swift's obsessive fascination with languages helped him create the languages of Travels. "Jonathan Swift, a natural-born linguist, displayed an interest in verbal manifestations of all kinds and developed a coherent theory of language that shaped his response to the events surrounding him... Yet though in theory he supported the need for a standard, traditional language, he resented limits and boundaries; he always wanted to see how far he could go before actually 'going too far'... Much of Swift's identity depended upon the idea that he was above or beyond rules of decorum... Swift's delight in defeating expectation in evident in his predilection for mock literary forms. He took the genres of travelogue, essay, elegy, drama, pastoral, georgic, and love lyric and played off their conventions to create the greatness of Gulliver's Travels...." [Ann Cline Kelly, Swift and the English Language, pp. 7, 16]. Swift wanted to leave his unique mark on the world, and to have his identity confused with that of another damaged his sense of self. He wanted to be known as a punster of the highest caliber.

His attitudes toward language reflect the basic schism in his outlook, for despite his ostensible condemnation of it, he was as fluent in uncommon language as he was in common, traditional language. Jargon, argot, cant, and dialect all seemed to have a compelling interest for him. He would correspond in secret codes and used words in rare, old-fashioned, new or peculiar ways, and he conducted experiments in analyzing the speech of rural England. On puns, Swift said, "Punning is an art of harmonious jingling upon words, which, passing in at the ears, excites a titillary motion in those parts; and this, being conveyed by the animal spirits into the muscles of the face, raises the cockles of the heart."

As further proof of his fascination with language, Swift corresponded with Stella in a private language and with his friend Sheridan in a highly-esoteric form of Anglo-Latin. [Frederik N. Smith, Language and Reality in Swift's A TALE IN A TUB. And his "scatological" poems are legendary. He found pleasure in language games, often willfully distorting them into chaos. He created a parlor game in which both sexes were persuaded to take a pen, write down a number of letters joined together, just as it came into their heads with the women producing Italian-like gibberish, and the men, pseudo-high Dutch. This practice of "stringing" segments together is especially prominent in Madagascar and splacnuck, among others. And one must purposefully focus in on the wordplay to understand what is occurring. Yes, sometimes the subsequent puns result in apparently-disjointed ideas, but then they represent the plot found in the paragraphs.

Swift described his formulation of gibberish words thus: "Do you know that every syllable I write I hold my lips just for all the world as if I were talking in our little language to M D. Faith, [?] I am very silly; but I can't help it for my life." [Paul O. Clark, A Gulliver Dictionary, p. 3]. This is a man obsessed with wordplay. Yes, it is silly, but one must also remember that Swift wrote of having psychological problems while writing Travels (he went insane in the last three years of his life), so this may have been his way of keeping his spirits up.

As for Gulliver, he manages to tell us he was a pretty fair linguist [!], and indeed it was never long before he comprehended the inhabitants of the lands he chanced upon. [Clark, p. 2]. The construction of these languages is elaborate and extended enough to have encouraged critics to 'decypher' them, although no consensus has been reached as to their 'meaning'" [Kelly, p. 19]. it is my contention that Swift used a double meaning in the word travels, which originally meant "trouble, torment, difficulty" (Oxford English Dictionary). Gulliver's Travels represents wordplay on Gulliver's "difficulties" with the languages involved. Yes, there has been speculation on the words, but did anyone consider Sanskrit or Hindu languages?

The following sections form an important part of my theory and the defense of it:

First is the fact that Swift submitted the book's manuscript under the name of "Richard Sympson". In subsequent editions, Sympson is also the imaginary publisher in the book of Gulliver's accounts of his voyages. At the start of the book, "Cousin Sympson" mentions that he has omitted certain passages for various reasons. Therefore, this must be considered deliberate "sabotage/tampering" by Swift/Sympson. Surely there must be some hidden reason for this. "It may seem absurd to us that the publishing of Gulliver's Travels should have been arranged by an invented character names 'Richard Sympson'--and hailed as Jonathan Swift's the very moment it appeared: Whom did Swift pretend he was hoaxing? But such acts were not mere games to Swift, much as he loved games. He required the public, too to make its advances to him..." (Nigel Dennis, Jonathan Swift: A Short Character, p. 140]. We are part of the game.

Then, in the Letter from Capt. Gulliver (added in the 1734/5 edition), Gulliver professes surprise that during the six months that his book has been in the hands of the public it has produced not a single effect according to his intentions" [Quintana, p. 157]. This implies a hidden agenda on Swift's part. Then, Gulliver/Swift states his displeasure at "Cousin Sympson's" unauthorized removal of various passages and later complains of the printers' mistakes of their own, points to the destruction of the manuscript and his failure to have a copy of it, and then offers corrections to be inserted in following editions. But most importantly, he says he will not "stand to them" and that he will "leave that Matter to my judicious and candid Readers, to adjust [i.e., "correct differences or discrepancies; fine-tune"] it as they please". And since the word printer is synonymous with publisher (See OED.), therefore Sympson=publisher/printer=Swift, who "sabotaged" his own work in the name of hidden wordplay. This is a good interpretation of the situation since the word mistakes can mean not only "errors" but also "misinterpretations and incorrect identifications".

The 1734/5 edition is believed to be written the way that Swift wanted. Why, then, must this "perfect" version be adjusted? Why not just enter the corrections and forget about it? Because Swift wanted it that way! There are planned "errors" still in the book. And since the errors supposedly caused by the real printers just happen (coincidentally?) to contain wordplay/puns based on Sanskrit (and other languages), this brings into question whether any other real printers were, in fact, involved; instead, it is Swift who is orchestrating the whole thing. Supposedly, the real publisher was also involved in making unapproved changes in the text, but now I wonder if he, in fact, was involved. It seems strange to me that there were so many people involved in "sabotaging" Gulliver's Travels.

With regards to this matter, I sent an e-mail to Hermann J. Real of the University of Munster, Germany. Both he and the university are involved in studies about Swift. He said, "No, Richard, to the best of my knowledge, the aspects you outline [the 'adjust' factor] has/have [sic] not been explored in detail." Truth is, whenever writers quote this particular paragraph, they leave out the "adjust" part, because no one knows what to say about it.

In a preface, Faulkner, an editor of some later editions of GT, "avers that Swift consented to the issuance of the edition of 1735 upon certain conditions: 'That the Editor should attend him early every morning, or when most convenient, to read to him, that the Sounds might strike the Ear, as well as the Sense the Understanding, and had always two Men Servants present for this Purpose; and when he had any doubt, he would ask them the Meaning of what they heard; which, if they did not comprehend, he would alter and amend until they understood it perfectly well...'" [Arthur E. Case, Four Essays on Gulliver's Travels, p. 17]. There is a connection between the sounds and the hidden meanings! This vague passage is an example of Swift's love of mystification and is an instance of his style [Case, p. 20].

Continuing the ideas of errors and judicious readers, Gulliver writes at the end of the book: "I know likewise, that Writers of Travels, like Dictionary-Makers, are sunk into oblivion by the Weight and Bulk of those who come last, and therefore lie uppermost. And it is highly probable, that such Travellers who shall hereafter visit the Countries descibed in this Work of mine, may by detecting my Errors, (if there be any [!]) and adding many new Discoveries of their own, jostle me out of Vogue, and stand in my Place... But I forbear descanting further, and rather leave the judicious Reader to his own Remarks and Applications". Here, note that Swift refers to errors. Then, as an after-thought, adds "if there be any". Also note that Gulliver brings up the matter of "Dictionary-makers", not just book-makers in general, and that only Dictionary is italicized--without "makers".

There is, of course, the question of Gulliver's factuality:
---In "The Publisher to the Reader", "Richard Sympson", as the publisher, writes about Gulliver: "The Style is very plain and simple; and the only Fault I find is, that the Author, after the Manner of Travellers, is a little too circumstantial. There is an Air of Truth apparent through the whole; and indeed the Author was so distinguised for his Veracity that it became a sort of Proverb among his Neighbors at Redriff, when any one affirmed a Thing, to say, it was as true as if Mr. Gulliver had spoke it." Regarding the word traveller, Oxford English Dictionary lists this expression: "to play the traveller, 'to tell wonderful stories, to romance'...; hence, with upon, 'to deceive, befool, impose upon: in allusion to the mendacious or incredible character ascribed to 'traveller's tales'"
---Gulliver writes: "I imposed on my self as a Maxim, never to be swerved from, that I would strictly adhere to Truth; neither indeed can I be ever under the least Temptation to vary from it....I know very well, how little Reputation is to be got by Writings which require neither Genius nor Learning, nor indeed any other Talent, except a good Memory, or an exact Journal." As an analogy to lying, Gulliver also makes a reference to Sinon, the Greek spy who feigned allegiance to the Trojans, persuaded them to take the Trojan Horse into Troy, and later opened the Horse's secret hatch to let out the Greeks hidden within. Sinon, of course, is famous as a liar, despite claims to the contrary. (Cf. [?] etymologically-unrelated Fr. SINON, "otherwise, to the contrary"). But Sinon must also be considered a hero of sorts since his job is to help Greece gain victory. On this subject, Peter Steele calls Sinon "a professional trickster" ("Terminal Days among the Houyhnhnms", in Jonathan Swift, by Harold Bloom, editor, p.113).

Regarding the actual translation of Sinon's name, I wrote to Richard Catling, assistant editor of Lexicon of Greek Person Names at Oxford University. I asked him whether Sinon was related to the ancient word sinos, "mischief, trouble". His answer was: "The derivation you suggest for the name Sinon is right and the name must have been deliberately chosen to reflect the consequence of his actions.In case you are interested, the name is only twice attested in use for historical rather than mythical figures, both in Athens." Swift is being mischieveous. There has even been speculation on the meaning of Gulliver's name. My suggestion: Eng. gull, "trick, trickster, deception, impostor", + Eng. iver, an obsolete form of ivory, "smooth" (Oxford English Dictionary).

Also consider the Eng. word COUSIN (as in Cousin Sympson), a form of COZEN, "deceive, dupe, hoax."

In analyzing this situation, one must also consider the fact that when the original manuscript of Travels was submitted, there appeared "'Splendide Mendax' on an engraved portrait inserted as frontispiece" (Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. XII, 1949, pp. 409-13). The Latin word splendide means "splendidly, magificently". Mendax basically means "untruthful, lying" but also "one who masquerades as"; it is related to mendacium, "a false impression or appearance, illusion". Again, we come to the idea that not everything is exactly as it appears.

So is Gulliver/Swift telling the truth? My opinion, after analyzing the Sanskrit puns and etymologies of Yahoo, is that he basically is telling the truth with a masquerade, with little white lies thrown in, designed to hide his wordplay. In Jonathan Swift, Preacher and Jester (pp. 7-8), Steele writes, "If Swift makes jokes it was, as they say, because he was a joker: and though he constantly applaud rationality, he is much less persuasive when he commends sobriety". Steele continues, ""Irvin Ehrenpreis has remarked that '....the whole art of works like the Argument against Abolishing Christianity and A Modest Proposal depends upon the most exquisite of Swift's acts of impersonation, the case in which he parodies himself, or rather, in which the hidden comedian mimics the official priest; and his entire career can be described as the partnership of a clown and a preacher" (Steele. p. 21).

And why is Swift so obsessive about the question of honesty and validity of the tale? After all, if Gulliver's Travels nothing more than an imaginary fantasy, why bring the subject up at all?

Swift once wrote that he created the book to vex, not amuse, us. This demonstrates a deliberate, hidden agenda on the part of Swift. I found a mention by a researcher who wondered whether the book itself was full of puzzles, and, if so, what are they and what are the answers?

And that is where the game is.

There is a concerted effort by Swift and his gang to make it seem as if Travels is real, as part of the group's love of sport [Quintana, p. 148]: Arbuthnot, a close acquaintance of Swift wrote: "Lord Scarborough, who is not an inventor of stories, told me that he fell in company with a master of a ship, who told him, that he was well acquainted with Gulliver, but that the printer had mistaken, that he lived in Wapping, and not in Rotherhithe. I lent the book to an old gentleman, who went immediately to his map to search for Lilliput". [Stephen Gwynn, The Life and friendships of Dean Swift, p. 293].

Playful deception seems to be typical of the Swift crowd. To add to the fact that the manuscript was sent anonymously, there is the following example of trickery: "Swift on his part wrote to Alexander Pope [a friend]--'A Bishop here said that the book was full of improbable lies and for his part he hardly believed a word of it'. All these stories have been repeated indefinitely as authentic (I cannot except myself); and Lord Scarborough may have been as literal as Arbuthnot made him out to be. Yet I have doubts; for certainly these two masters of humor contrived to convey in parables the perfect commendation of Gulliver's amazing gift for making the strangest tale appear simple nature; and Swift surely had a design at the back of his mind to convey what he thought about the intellect of bishops..." [IBID]. Letters to various people, along with maps in the book, press the suggestion of verisimilitude [A.L. Rouse, Jonathan Swift]

I am sure it has been suggested that my theory must surely be wrong simply because I am not learned in Sanskrit. While it is true I know almost nothing about it (except what I see in A Sanskrit-English Dictionary), knowledge about conjugating verbs and declining nouns is totally unnecessary. It is just a matter of basic root words found in the dictionary. Anybody could do it, if they had the desire and tenacity to stick with it.

I suppose, also, that someone will suggest that the fertile phonetic make-up of Sanskrit will allow any Sanskritic pun-scenario to be created out of an English word. This simple-minded approach is nonsense, made by someone unfamiliar with Sanskrit and who obviously has not spent time researching the creation of Sanskrit puns/wordplay the way I did. Look at it this way: Sanskrit has a limited "pool" from which to form puns; this would require taking 2 or 3 words from the pool, thus diluting/reducing the possible combinations of words/definitions used to complete the puns. Add to this the fact that some words/definitions would not go together well, and that the 2 or 3 word-elements must work together to form a viable pun. All these factors together would reduce the pool even more. It is therefore impossible to adapt Sanskrit to just any pun-scenario.
False intelligentia: academia nuts.

Here are some examples:

--In the case of Yahoo, only one word was involved: yahu. Anyone who considers the similarities between the two words to be coincidence should note that the relevant definitions/descriptions associated with them appeared together in pairs more than once. Mamma and Papa had appropriate definitions which were located in the immediate area of those italicized words. And they were virtually identical to the Sanskrit. No coincidence
--Nard-ac was formed with only a minimal number of Sanskrit root-words from which to choose for purpose of 'stringing' these segments together. And it worked out perfectly. See paragraph 1-5-3.
--Is Sanskrit so phonetically-flexible as to create any pun-scenario? Not at all. In the case of Splacnuck, I ran into a stone wall--that is, until I spelled it backwards, and the results yielded a long, unique series of several words which made up the segments of Splacnuck and which clearly depicted the actions found in the paragraph. This is a clear indication of Swift's handiwork and his devious tendencies in wordplay. Besides, at the start of the book, Gulliver mentions that the printers of the book made various errors.
--The pun on Shropshire was so easy that I finished it in quick time because there were hardly any possible words to choose from. And I had two co-ordinate the two segments necessary, yet I still succeeded. It works, regardless of how you try to disprove everything. The puns exist.
--In the two different occurrences of the word Rats, Swift used almost all of the Sanskrit base-words starting with rat-; all the words chosen by him played instrumental roles in making the basic plot of the paragraphs.
--As further proof of a pattern, consider the case of numerous puns on English. The most common one involves the following Skt. root words serving as segments of the pun: ENAA-GLAI-ISH/IISH. GLAI means several things: "feel aversion/dislike, be reluctant or disinclined to do something; be tired, fade away, faint; be hard on someone; injure, cause to perish; make/become despondent". It is signicant that one of these definitions appears in a paragraph where English appears, while second, then third, then fourth different definitions of GLAI appear in other English paragraphs. Similarly, the multiple definitions of ish/iish are interchangeably used by Swift. There are five different ish/iish words. On one occasion, Swift used four of them in one pun. We are being glai'ed and ish'ed to death, not to mention glesh'ed and lish'ed, etc. All these segments and their meanings all appear repeatedly in areas of English--well in excess of pure, random chance.
--Without any 'engineering', I easily determined the two-word solution to European (uro-piyana) was found side-by-side: "breast-swell". (section 3-7-8) The book contains other, identical occurrences. Relplum Scalcath, especially the latter word, was so easy to solve because of very limited choices available.
--In Part 1, there is Skyresh Bolgolam, the sworn enemy of Gulliver. Although I was unable to complete this pun for unknown reasons, there seem to be words implying violence incorporated into the word. Syresh was also later written Skyris. Cf. Skt. resha, "injury, hurt" < root rish. An alternate way of spelling this Skt. word is ris.
--Yes, Madagascar offered many possible segments to choose from, but, then, it also supplied "fuel" for the plot in two paragraphs, along with two other possible paragraphs, but I tired of researching it.

As mentioned earlier, the printers made some "errors". This is just wordplay installed by Swift to complicate matters. However, the letters/errors chosen are not just any random letters; they are logical substitutes. For example, c and k are interchangeable because of similar phonetic sounds as in marc and mark. F can be eliminated because it does not exist in Sanskrit.

Swift utilizes other tricks in making his puns. Segments of puns which, for example, are defined as "praise" (or an appropriate synonym) may appear in the paragraphs; however, at other times, the equivalent of "praise" will appear in a long-winded, laudatory section, e.g., "King who scrapes the sky, ruler of the Universe", etc. Swift will also substitute vinegar for its equivalent, food

In the final analysis regarding the actual existence of Sanskritic wordplay, one will not find the "100%-official" answer from Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, et al, since they are all long gone. But they left behind the suggestion of lies and truth. It is left for us to adjust things. And it is significant that there has been extensive research into and various interpretations of the letter from Gulliver to Sympson, in particular the corrections/errors, but everyone has avoided the matter of our adjusting the manuscript. And that is the crux of the matter....

So, in short, the question is whether you are prepared to accept it. The proof is in the pudding, right in front of you. There is no way I could have co-ordinated/contrived Sanskrit to coincide with the story. Swift did that.

As further proof, go to Sanskrit Wordplay in Beggar's Opera

I suppose someone will wonder how someone unknowledgeable in Sanskrit like my self came to creat the theory. Simple: I tripped over it. Circa mid-1999, I was doing research in A SANSKRIT-ENGLISH DICTIONARY by Monier-Williams (I forget actually what), and I ran across the word yahu, whereupon I noted the similarity to Eng. Yahoo but did nothing else. Then, in December, 1999, I decided to research it. I compared the definition of yahu, strong", with that of Eng. Yahoo, "brutish person" (cf. brute strength) and eventually found the appropriate applicable passages in GT. Then I found nardac and theorized the existence of Sanskrit in the book. I noticed the existence of so many italicized words, which made me suspicious, so I started phonetically converting Englishmen (part 3) into Sanskrit. I was extremely succesful in doing so and continued on. The theory is the result.

About four months of research, I wondered if:
**1) Swift ever left any mention of Sanskrit wordplay (or anything, for that matter).
**2) Was Swift into puns?
Well, he did (the sections by Gulliver and "Cousin Sympson"), and he was! I could see all this in advance just by doing the research on the puns alone, without knowing anything about him at the time.

The partially-italicized words? Ex.: St. Albans.