The Lord's Prayer in 500 LanguagesGeorge E. Hay, editor, 1905

When we came across The LORD'S PRAYER In Five Hundred Languages Comprising The Leading Languages And Their Principal Dialects Throughout The World With The Places Where Spoken New And Enlarged Edition published in 1905, we were curious to see what it contained for Latvia. While the frontpiece does not list an editor, the publisher's note concludes with thanks to "Mr. George E. Hay, whose rare linguistic attainments have been devoted to the task of editing, collating, and translating during the past six years."

We were curious. "Enlarged" from what? What did it include for Latvia, whose indigenous languages included both Latvian, Latgalian dialect, and Liv? Who was George E. Hay? Who were the cohorts of linguists he worked with to compile this collection?

About the Editor—George E. Hay

Further investigation confirmed what seemed to us an impossibility. There was no army of linguists. There was, indeed, but one man, George E. Hay. We found additional background in an Australian newspaper, the Morning Bulletin of Rockhampton, Queensland, Thursday, 25 July 1935, page 5.[1]

KNOWS 500 LANGUAGES

A working knowledge of some 500 languages is possessed by Mr George E. Hay, of Olive road, Cricklewood London, N.W.. who has recently retired at the age of 81 years, after having been for 66 years a reader in the painting and publishing trade. Latterly he was on the staff of W. Clowes and Sons Ltd. which undertakes printing in all languages, and here he dealt chiefly with Sanskrit, Sindhi, Pushtu, Janjabi[2], Gujarati, Marathi, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Oriya, Telugu, Kanarese, Malayalam, Sinhalese, Burmese, Siamese, Laos, Tibetan, Arabic, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Ancient Egyptian. One of Mr Hay's most notable accomplishments (says the "Daily Mail") was the editing and correcting of "The Lord's Prayer in Three Hundred Languages" (published by Messrs Gilbert and Rivington). Besides revising this work, he added a further 200 languages, thus necessitating the amending of the title from "Three Hundred" to "Five Hundred." His greatest asset is a wonderful memory. As a boy he had only an elementary education. Attendance at night classes and individual study made him familiar with Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac, and later Egyptian and Assyrian cuneiform. Later be worked on a Turkish dictionary, and was employed by a firm of publishers to the India Office in producing grammars and dictionaries in Indian languages. Of all languages, he found Chinese the most formidable. The study of languages is the driving force of his existence. He has never visited a theatre, played cards, danced, or taken part in any sport. He never smokes, and he has to be continually reminded about meal times.

We would take the reminding of meal times as a heartening indicator that in his 80's, Hays continued to be intellectually curious and driven. Feed the mind, not the body.

The Lord's Prayer In Five Hundred Languages is available at archive.org.


[1]At trove.nla.gov.au
[2]Our best guess is that Janjabi is meant to be Punjabi.

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