Postcard language puzzle

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From reader JM:

I recently acquired these two vintage postcards from a seller in Mallorca. They are 100 years old, mailed from Mallorca in 1912-1913, and still in excellent condition. They were bought in a flea market in Mallorca and were originally advertised as being in Esperanto, which is how they came to my friend's attention (we are both Esperanto hobbyists). However, we quickly determined that they are not in fact in Esperanto, and all attempts to identify the language have thus far failed. We have ruled out many of the obvious candidates (Spanish, Mallorquín, Catalán, Basque), as well as some more exotic possibilities (Croatian, Hungarian, Hawaiian, etc. etc.)

The more we scrutinized them, the more mysterious they became, and finally I decided to buy them. At this point, we don't know if they are in a real language, or if they are some kind of cipher, or even a fake. But why would someone go to the trouble – this isn't the Voynich manuscript we're talking about here.

Here's what we have determined so far. They were both sent from Palmas, Mallorca, to a man named Juan Planas (a very common name in Mallorca). He was the second officer on a Spanish steamer named Florentina. One was mailed to the ship while it was in Cartagena, Spain (addressed in Spanish), and the other to the ship docked in London (addressed in English). They are dated in Spanish, but the rest of the message is in an unknown language. When the writer ran out of room, they turned the card upside down and finished off the message at the top. They are signed "Le."


Here's an image of the text of the London-addressed card:

And the card sent to Mr. Planas in Cartagena:

Images of the front and back of these postcards are available here.

I don't recognize the language, and a few attempts to search the web for words and short phrases from the text turned up nothing promising. My own best guess is that these postcards were written in a previously-undocumented variety of Hainish.

Update — Drago has the solution; it's Spanish disguised by a simple substitution cipher, with the vowels and consonants substituted separately so as to preserve the n-grammatical appearance of a real language.

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69 Comments »

  1. Leslie Katz said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    A job for those who cracked the Copiale Cipher!

  2. Martin said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    It wouldn't be at all difficult to devise a cipher that looked like a natural language — just permute the vowels and consonants separately. (Admittedly harder in a language like English with lots of digraphs and trigraphs.) I would assume that it's a cipher based on one of the obvious languages and go after the repeated short words. As for why would anyone bother: well, if you're going to send a postcard, you might want to hide the message from anyone else who handles it other than the recipient, surely?

  3. Andy Durdin said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    Turkish, or one of the Turkic languages?

  4. AlexB said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Perhaps it is some private conlang

  5. Avinor said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    The "ja" and some letter combinations made me think of Baltic Finnic, like Estonian, but it doesn't hold out.

    Could somebody who is actually able to read all of the handwriting please transcribe it? As shameful as it is to admit it, I'm too young for cursive…

  6. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    This is most likely not a real language. There are some words that look Mayan or Hungarian or even Esperanto but the whole text doesn't seem to match a real language.

  7. Gary said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    You might want to post this to the omniglot blog:
    http://www.omniglot.com/blog/

    The owner there likes this sort of puzzle.

  8. John Walden said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 9:56 am

    I think I see Kaliki twice. Any help?

  9. stephen said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    Is this something spies would have done, or would do?

  10. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    John – this is not Kaliki but Kaicki

  11. Nick said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    Ther's only one slight problem with the cypher theory – the fluency of the handwriting.

    I find it highly unlikely that anyone could encrypt a message on the fly without it having an effect on the handwriting.

  12. ajay said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    The date on the London one looks like "Feureno 1-8-12". That's 1 August, not 8 January, because the postmark on the London one is 6 August. The other one looks like "Meiercola 2-7-12" – postmarked the same day.

    1 August 1912 was a Thursday. 2 July 1912 was a Tuesday.

    So in this language, Thursday is "Feureno" or possibly "Teureno", and Tuesday is "Meiercola" or "Muiercola". Or "Meiercolu".

    Google is no help here, naturally. Can anyone make any more sense of those two words?

  13. AlexB said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:34 am

    I read the second date as a standard Spanish miercoles, with a flourish at the capital M and a reduced s at the end.

  14. ajay said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:34 am

    It's annoying because something like Meiercola sounds as though it should mean Wednesday.

  15. ajay said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    AlexB: so he got the day of the week wrong. Great.

    What about the first one? Doesn't look like any of the days of the week in Spanish or English…

  16. AlexB said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    But it is probably a place. I read the last word of the line (almost obscured by the stamp) as Jueves.

  17. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    I'm with AlexB: the second date seems to be a relatively florid, standard Spanish "miércoles". The 2nd July 1913 (not 1912) was a Wednesday.

    And that's about as far as I can get!

  18. ajay said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:57 am

    Aha! Thanks.

    Doesn't help though, since the rest of the postcards obviously aren't in Spanish.
    But! it might mean that, if it's a cipher, the plaintext will be in Spanish.

    And since the same words seem to turn up more than once (Kaicki, as noted above, but also ji and xer) it probably isn't a very complicated cipher.

    My cursive is fairly rotten, but if someone can transcribe it that would make breaking the code fairly easy. And it probably is a code: why else write the day of the week in Spanish and not the rest of the message?

    It could be a telegraphic code. That would explain why it seems to be mostly pronounceable.

  19. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    Again with AlexB: Spanish "jueves" is the last word of the line on the first card, obscured by the stamp and cropped in this image.

  20. Nathan said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    It's El Terreno, a neighborhood in Palma.

  21. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    Would it not be possible to have pictures of the whole cards? Of course it is the text shown that is intriguing but perhaps seeing recognizable words would help to read this handwriting?

  22. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:07 am

    Just seen the full postcards on the flickr album linked to. :-)

  23. xyzzyva said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    Given that I see three instances of ñ in the text, a cipher of Spanish seems likely.

  24. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    This would seem to be the vessel: http://www.trasmeships.es/165.html

  25. Pete said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:13 am

    Have you considered that the script may be German Sütterlin?

  26. Gene said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Could it be an invented language between friends? Kids often do that, and it does make sense on some level that one friend would send a postcard to the other in their common secret language.

  27. Megan said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:16 am

    The second postcard was actually written (and postmarked) on 2 July 1913, not 1912, which was a Wednesday. Looks like the author didn't write the wrong day after all; the day/date on each card is written in Spanish (as stated in the blog post).

  28. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    Despues de … sabado la salida

  29. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    Kaicki = vuelve

    CIPHER:PLAINTEXT vowels

    O A
    E O
    U I
    A U
    I E

  30. George said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:53 am

    ajay—Looking at the second date, I would say that it is 1913 rather than 1912 (the postmark also seems to be [19]13). In that year (1913), 2/7/13 (July 2, 1913) would actually be a Wednesday. This means that as expected "meiercoles" (similar to the Spanish miércoles) would be Wednesday, which it is in Spanish. This also implies that the day name comes last. This implies that jueves in the first postcard would be Thursday (once again Spanish jueves). As well, it seems that "meiercoles" could be an archaic or dialectical spelling of the standard Spanish form. An online search of "meiercoles" does turn up some articles.

    Also, I think that there are many abbreviations (underlined characters in the postcards).

  31. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:53 am

    IDPAIDJZO
    ENCUENTRA

    PERE KAICKI
    COMO VUELVE

    OPOMO
    ACABA

  32. Alex said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    It seems Drago has it. Spot-checking on one of the words I could read more easily on the first card, ockufin, we get alvides, which looks like a reasonable error for olvides 'that thou forget' with the "o" accidentally left clear.

  33. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    I guess someone can finish it from here (unaccounted for consonants = FGHJKQWX)

    TINLAIN TI IVOTO SU … ZIPUMU ORIY JA JY KUIDTE WI NANLIJ?
    DESPUES DE E ADA MI RECIBI AME TU T VIENDO E SUSPET

    KINJIN IC NOMOTE CO NOCUTO JOHOnEDO LEZ CE .., JI
    VESTES EL SABADO LA SALIDA TA A ONA POR LO TE

    INJO PONU MUID LAIN ORIY NI
    ESTA CASI BIEN PUES AME SE

    YOZOIC XER NI KAICKI XO WIFOG WI DE NI IDPAIDJZO MUID LIZE NI ISLIGE ID NOCUZ KIZISEN PERE KAICKI …
    ARAEL YO SE VUELVE YA E EZ E NO SE ENCUENTRA BIEN PERO SE EMPEZO EN SALIR VEREMOS COMO VUELVE

    PAODTE OPOMOZISEN … ID INJO PONO … LOZO WI OWI JESED … KIZISEN JI OZEZO …
    CUANDO ACABAREMOS EN ESTA CASA PARA E A E TOMON VEREMOS TE ARORA

  34. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Sorry,
    KINJIN=VESTES should beTINJIN=DESTES
    and JOHOnEDO translates as TARRAGONA ("RR" considered a single letter in Spanish)

  35. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    W=QU
    V=LL

  36. marie-lucie said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Wednesday: The written word is indeed Miercoles, not Meiercoles: what looks like an "e" after M is actually the flourish at the end of the M. Such flourishes were common in cursive capitals.

  37. Vertebrat said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

    The vowels appear to be Sütterlinschrift – at least a, e, o, u (which looks like ñ) and various umlauts. I'm not sure about the consonants; many of them look more like ordinary Latin cursive than Sütterlin. I don't recognize any German words (and it looks too vowel-heavy to be German), but can a German speaker check this?

    Was Sütterlin or another variant cursive ever used to write Romance languages?

  38. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

    upside down line:

    LZEDJE JA?O OMZOlODTEJE
    PRONTO TUYA ABRAZANDOTE

    (… soon. Yours. Hugging you.)

    V=ch (single letter in Spanish)

  39. Philip (flip) Kromer said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    A widget to do the substitution: https://gist.github.com/4136802 — run with `ruby postcard.rb`.

  40. Philip (flip) Kromer said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    Need help from here mapping almost-words to Spanish.

    Plain Cipher

    despues de echada mi brr recibi tinlain ti ivoto su m~ zipumu
    ame_ tu t_ viendo que suspen oriy ja jy kuidte wi nanlid
    destes el sabado la salida do tinjin ic nomote co nocuto te
    tagarrona por lo que tireo aun te chesdara joho~edo lez ce wi juzie oad ji vintozo
    esta ee petiodicos que yom tenrro injo ii lijuetupen wi xer jid~e
    petoporcion de man_arte. mi lijelezpued ti sodfozji. su
    iedo esta casi bien pues ame_ uite injo ponu muid lain oriy
    se tebente el rrramnito p_ si solo ni jimidji ic ~zorduje ly nu nece
    te yom apenas de molemte _ _arael ji xer olidon ti secirji – yozoic
    yo se vuelve ya que_az que no se xe ni kaicki xo wifog wi de ni
    encuentra bien pero se empezo en idpaidjzo muid lize ni islige id
    salir veremos como vuelve (cuando nocuz kizisen pere kaicki (paodte
    acabaremos de maoes en esta opomozisen ti soein id injo
    casa). estela nos chiiete man_at las pono). injico den vuuiji sodfoj con
    nirai para que aque tomon lus ban duzou lozo wi owi jesed can mod
    tos na noi talta otra cosa enrin ?a jen do deu jocjo ejzo peno idzud ?o
    veremos te arora muchisimo te eipata. kizisen ji ozezo savunuse ji iulojo.
    pronto. tuya. abrazandote! lzedje. jaxo. omzo/odteji!

    Plain Cipher

    _ecibida tus monisimas postales Tipumuto jan sedunuson lenjocin
    turbien _e albun p_et__oso ___ jazmuid Si ocmad lyijUIene ROU
    recumerdos para todos rrracias ziparizten lozo jeten ~zopuon
    en nomsure do todos que mate lus id desnazi te jeten wi roji can
    datai eros potmi parte un ap_eton tojou izen lejsu lozji ad olyijed
    rueztisimo con __ brappos al zaigjunuse ped WU mzollen oc
    rededot de tu cue_o cuado estes zititej ti ja paibe paote injin
    en umbetei te escribire por id asmijiu ji inpzumuzi lez
    que a_i ie mas serruto. du te wi obu ui son ni~aje. ta ji
    alvdes del dia _ que yace _azo ocktin tic tuo C wi xopi Roge
    de mama si piedes ir ya miba me sus ti soso nu luitin uz xo sumo si nan
    taria si no reppale al jozuo nu de zilloci oc
    menos alrro _ el __ ei santa rilo siden oc~e – ic RR iu nodjo zuce
    mena man_a una sido sodfo ado
    postal tuura siempre lenjoc jaazo nuislzi

  41. Philip (flip) Kromer said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

    Oh hell. The preview widget promised me PRE tags.

    Cipher:

    tinlain ti ivoto su m~ zipumu
    oriy ja jy kuidte wi nanlid
    tinjin ic nomote co nocuto te
    joho~edo lez ce wi juzie oad ji vintozo
    injo ii lijuetupen wi xer jid~e
    lijelezpued ti sodfozji. su
    uite injo ponu muid lain oriy
    ni jimidji ic ~zorduje ly nu nece
    ji xer olidon ti secirji – yozoic
    xe ni kaicki xo wifog wi de ni
    idpaidjzo muid lize ni islige id
    nocuz kizisen pere kaicki (paodte
    opomozisen ti soein id injo
    pono). injico den vuuiji sodfoj con
    duzou lozo wi owi jesed can mod
    jen do deu jocjo ejzo peno idzud ?o
    kizisen ji ozezo savunuse ji iulojo.
    lzedje. jaxo. omzo/odteji!

    ——-
    Spanish:

    despues de echada mi brr recibi
    ame_ tu t_ viendo que suspen
    destes el sabado la salida do
    tagarrona por lo que tireo aun te chesdara
    esta ee petiodicos que yom tenrro
    petoporcion de man_arte. mi
    iedo esta casi bien pues ame_
    se tebente el rrramnito p_ si solo
    te yom apenas de molemte _ _arael
    yo se vuelve ya que_az que no se
    encuentra bien pero se empezo en
    salir veremos como vuelve (cuando
    acabaremos de maoes en esta
    casa). estela nos chiiete man_at las
    nirai para que aque tomon lus ban
    tos na noi talta otra cosa enrin ?a
    veremos te arora muchisimo te eipata.
    pronto. tuya. abrazandote!

    ——-

    Cipher:

    Tipumuto jan sedunuson lenjocin
    jazmuid Si ocmad lyijUIene ROU
    ziparizten lozo jeten ~zopuon
    id desnazi te jeten wi roji can
    tojou izen lejsu lozji ad olyijed
    zaigjunuse ped WU mzollen oc
    zititej ti ja paibe paote injin
    id asmijiu ji inpzumuzi lez
    wi obu ui son ni~aje. ta ji
    ocktin tic tuo C wi xopi Roge
    ti soso nu luitin uz xo sumo si nan
    jozuo nu de zilloci oc
    siden oc~e – ic RR iu nodjo zuce
    sido sodfo ado
    lenjoc jaazo nuislzi

    ——-
    Translated:

    _ecibida tus monisimas postales
    turbien _e albun p_et__oso ___
    recumerdos para todos rrracias
    en nomsure do todos que mate lus
    datai eros potmi parte un ap_eton
    rueztisimo con __ brappos al
    rededot de tu cue_o cuado estes
    en umbetei te escribire por
    que a_i ie mas serruto. du te
    alvdes del dia _ que yace _azo
    de mama si piedes ir ya miba me sus
    taria si no reppale al
    menos alrro _ el __ ei santa rilo
    mena man_a una
    postal tuura siempre

    ————————–

    Googlenglish:

    my brr pitch after received your t_ seeing ame_ destes on Saturday suspended output tagarrona do so even you chesdara Tireo this ee petiodicos that yom tenrro petoporcion of man_arte. my iedo is almost good as the rrramnito ame_ tebente p_ is if you just yom __ Arael molemte just turns me que_az and that is not good but it started to come out we will see again (when MAOES end up in this house). wake us man_at chiiete the Aque Tomon Nirai to ban cough lus na noi talta ENRIN else? arora lot to see you eipata you. soon. yours. holding you!

    _ecibida your postal monisimas turbien albun p_et__oso _e ___ recumerdos for all rrracias in nomsure do all that matte lus datai eros potmi part a rueztisimo with __ ap_eton rededot brappos to your cue_o priate umbetei're in that a_i'll write more Serruto ie. the day you alvdes du _ _azo breast lying if I piedes miba go as their Taria if alrro reppale at least __ i _ the holy rilo mena always Tuura man_a a postcard.

  42. Drago said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    You need to change

    1. some words

    savunuse to savunnuse
    jaazo to jaxo
    ziparizten to zipaizten
    desnazi to desmzi

    several "j"s to "z"s, e.g. lijuetupen to lizuetupen

    2. uppercase:

    T should be R (just like t is r) – same for all uppercase letters

    3. the mapping:

    H is RR and ~ is G (you have swapped the two)

  43. Philip (flip) Kromer said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    Thanks Drago — updated https://gist.github.com/4136802#file_output.txt shows the texts in parallel. Doing a J ⇒ Z scan now.

  44. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    I'm working on it with pen and paper: that widget confused me even more!

    I'm on the 1913 postcard and things kind of seem to make sense.

    Can't work out the abbreviation used in line 1 yet, but it would appear these two abbreviated whatever it was they sent each other.

    line 1:

    Tinlain ti ivoto su Mn (?) zipu-

    Después de ellada mi Bs (?) reci-

    line 2:

    mu oriz ja Jy Kuidte wi nanlid

    bí ayer tu Tr viendo que suspen

    line 3:

    tinjin ic nomote co nocuto ti

    destes el sábado la salida de

    line 4:

    johoñedo ler ce wi pzie oad ji viño-

    Tarragona por lo que creo aún te lleg

    line 5:

    zo injo u lizuetupen wi xer jid

    rá esta i periódicos que hoy ten

    line 6:

    ñe lzelezpued ti sodtozji – Su

    go proporción de mandarte – Mi

    So the first six lines of text actually account for only one sentence:

    "Después de ellada (=echada?) mi B*(?) recibí ayer tu Tr viendo que suspendestes el sábado la salida de Tarragona por lo que creo aún te llegará esta i (=y?) periódicos que hoy tengo proporción de mandarte."

    "After sending my * I received your * yesterday, seeing that you had cancelled your departure from Tarragona so I believe you will still get this one and newspapers I am today able to send you."

    My translation is rather rough but should give the gist. The author might mistake letters, as in "ellada"/"echada", and uses what today would be ungrammatical forms ("suspendestes" for today's "suspendiste"). The style is that of a hundred years ago, so a word like "proporción" which looks very odd in this context in the Spanish of today might actually have seemed normal then with the meaning "capacity, ability", though I am no expert in early 20th century vocab!

    The following sentence seems promising as the author appears to have burst a pustule, but I'm afraid it'll have to wait!

  45. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    Second sentence, lines 6-9

    …Su
    cute injo ponu muid lain oriz
    ni zimidje ic ñzoduje lez nu nece
    u xer olidon si secinjo -

    … Mi
    lado está casi bien pues ayer
    se rebentó el granito por sí solo
    i hoy apenas me molesta -

    … My
    side is almost well for yesterday
    the pustule burst by itself
    and today it hardly bothers me.

  46. LDavidH said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

    I just want to say how impressed I am with this spontaneous communal cipher-solving! Well done, everybody who was involved – most exciting post I've seen for a long time!

  47. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

    Sentence 3, lines 9-14

    – yoZoic
    xer ni kaicki xo wifoz wi de ni
    idpaidjzo muid lize ni islige id
    nocuz kizisen pese kaicki (paod-
    te opomozisen ti socin id injo
    pono).

    - Rafael
    hoy se vuelve ha quejar que no se
    encuentra bien pero se empeñó en
    salir, veremos cómo vuelve (cuán-
    do acabaremos de males en esta
    casa).

    - Rafael
    today has complained again that he
    does not feel well but he insisted on
    going out, we'll see how he returns (when
    will this house see the end of ill fortune).

  48. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

    Sentence 4, lines 14-16, remains hard for me to crack: perhaps someone could lend a hand?

    … Injico den wuizi sodtoz con
    dugon lozo wi owi jesed con mod-
    zin.

    … Estela nos qiere mandar las
    niñas para que aque tomon las ban-
    ras

    Maybe:

    … Estela nos quiere mandar las
    niñas para que aquí tomen las ???

    I can't figure out this last word.

    … Estela wants to send us the
    girls so they can here take the ???

  49. AaV said,

    November 23, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

    And the ending, lines 16 on.

    … de den Zocjo ejzo peno id Zud ro
    kizisen ji ogezo savunuse u inlizo

    (continues at top)

    lzedje pozjo jaro omzollodteje, Le.

    … no nos falta otra cosa. En fin, ya
    veremos. Te añora muchísimo i espera
    pronto carta tuya abrazándote Le (Po?).

    … that's all we needed. Well,
    we'll see. Missing you very much and awaiting
    a letter from you soon, hugging you, Le.

    The last sentence is written in the third person, so it would read more naturally as:

    Le. misses you very much and awaits a letter from you soon, hugging you.

    Not quite Bond stuff, although maybe Rafael, Estela, the pustule and the house are all standing in for other things! That is way out of my reach though. :-P

  50. Freddy Hill said,

    November 24, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    @AaA: It's probably nothing more than it appears. Postcards were cheaper to mail than sealed letters, but lacked privacy. Estela might not have wanted the postmaster to know about her pustules. Palma was a small town then.

  51. marie-lucie said,

    November 24, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    Capitals with flourishes: In the complete pictures, you can see the full addresses, which are written more carefully than the text. They include the capitals L and M, both written with a flourish as was the custom at the time.

    The sender is not "Le" but simply "L". What appears to be an "e" is a flourish as with the capital "M" looking like "Me" in "Miercoles". Compare "Londres" looking like "Leondres", and similarly "Murcia" looking like "Meurcia".

    Another note: "abrazandote" 'hugging you' sounds like a conventional end-of-letter phrase, like "hugs and kisses".

  52. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 24, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    Yes, I'd take that as a complimentary close. AaV's first translation was more idiomatic than his or her second, more literal one. Changing it slightly just to show another possibility, it could be

    "Well, we'll see.

    "Missing you very much and hoping for a letter from you soon, hugging you,

    "L."

    I too am very impressed!

    I wonder whether "banras" could be "banderas". Also whether "ellada" could be a ciphero for "allada", a misspelling of "hallada" complementary to "ha quejar" for "a quejar". But I don't know enough Spanish to understand what a past participle is doing there.

    The complete plaintext could be posted to some forum such as the ones at wordreference.com to see whether anyone can produce a corrected version.

  53. Rodger C said,

    November 24, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    Banras = baños?

  54. Victor Mair said,

    November 25, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

    From a German friend whose father was a high-ranking officer in the navy during WWII:

    This suddenly reminded me of a message we once received from Dad during the war when he wrote "Oskar soll langsam ordnen"( O. should sort slowly) My Mother and I puzzled for the longest time, as noone in our family or among our acquaintances was named Oskar and why should someone do their job slowly? Eventually it came to us – Dad was in Oslo – something soldiers weren't supposed to reveal.

  55. Marcos said,

    November 25, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

    Here is what I have so far, maybe AaV can add some ideas or e-mail me if you'd like to collaborate:

    Zipumuto jan sedunuson lenjocin
    Recibida tus monísimas postales
    I've received your lovely postcards

    josmuid ic ocmad lzipuene ROU
    también el álbun precioso Y o I
    As well as the gorgeous album Y o I (?)

    zipaizten lozo jeten ñzopuon
    recuerdos para todos gracias
    Memories for all thanks

    id desmzi ti jeten wi ro ji cou
    en nombre de todos que ya te lai
    In the name of all who already ??? you

    tozon ugin lez su lozji ad olzijed
    darás (a) iñes por mi parte un apretón (the first two words are iffy)
    You'll give Iñez a squeeze from me

    zaizjunuse ped sun mzollen oc
    fuertísimo con mis brazos al
    Strong with my arms around

    zititej ti ja paibe paote injin
    rededor de tu cuello cuando estés
    your neck when you are

    id osmizin ji inpzumuzi lez
    en anberes escribiré por
    in antwerp i will write be-

    wi obu in son niñaje. te ji
    que ahí es más seguro. no te
    cause it's safer there. don't

    ockutin tic tuo C wi xopi Roge
    olvides del dia L que yace _azo
    forget the L day (Monday – Lunes?) when ???

    ti soso nu laitin uz xo suno si nan
    de mama si puedes ir ya misa me sus
    of mom if you can go to mass ??? his

    jozuo nu de zilloci oc
    tarea si no revale al
    duties if not ??? at

    siden ocñe – ic RR in nodjo zuce
    menos algo – el RR es santa filo-
    least something – the RR is santa philo-mena

    sido sodfo ado
    mena manda una
    - send a

    lenjoc jaro nuislzi
    postal tuya siempre
    post card yours forever

    L
    P (?)

  56. Marcos said,

    November 25, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

    mod-zin – ban-ras – could be mod-gen – banños. The sentence would make some sense – "Estela nos quiere mandar las niñas para que aquí tomen los baños" – Estela wants to send us the girls so that they'll take their baths here.

  57. marie-lucie said,

    November 26, 2012 @ 1:32 am

    An online Spanish-English dictionary gives "tomar los ban~os" as 'take mineral baths' rather than 'take one's bath'. The texts refer to a painful skin condition that the writer suffered from and which has improved, possibly through mineral baths. Such therapeutic baths are only available where there are sources of mineral-rich waters, used by the specialized establishments called spas. "The girls" must have a need of this type of baths, not just of the ordinary hygienic routine available in their home.

  58. Marcos said,

    November 26, 2012 @ 3:05 am

    marie-lucie: that makes more sense. i thought they were referring to regular bathing, but it would be an odd way of expressing that. a specialized use makes more sense, though i confess i have not heard that usage previously.

  59. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 26, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

    Toward the end I think she's telling him that Monday (?) is her mother's name day (St. Philomena's day) and if he can't go to mass he should give ("regale") something.

  60. Agnes said,

    November 26, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

    August 11 is Santa Filomena's day.

  61. Marcos said,

    November 27, 2012 @ 2:15 am

    Since the postcards were sent in February and March and St. Philomena's day isn't until August, I don't know if that would work as an explanation.

  62. Marcos said,

    November 27, 2012 @ 2:17 am

    …although perhaps you are close, I think the key lies in figuring out "xopi Roge" ("yace _azo"). What is mom's "Roge"?

  63. marie-lucie said,

    November 27, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    A few comments:

    - Throughout the texts it seems that the few capital letters are meant to represent different sounds from the regular letters. This means that capital "R" is probably not equivalent to plain "r", which corresponds to y. The occurrence of "RR", which cannot be a word, suggests that it corresponds to a set of initials, perhaps a common combination in Spanish? Similaly, "ROU" may be initials. "_OU" would probably be _AI.

    - "g" is not z but ñ, as in "ugin" for Iñes, "dugon" for niñas. The correspondence is reversed in words where Spanish does not have ñ, as in "ocñe" for algo. So "Roge" is probably _año.

    - "zilloci" cannot be either revale or regale: "ll" is z, so the word is rezale which refers to praying for someone. It is likely that this means praying for a deceased relative, and the feast of Santa Filomena may be the anniversary of the death. Perhaps the letter writer wishes that the sailor will be home for the occasion, and if not he should say a prayer.

  64. Richard Goss said,

    November 28, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    A bit confused about what "we have discovered" for several reasons.

    I live in Mallorca and there is no such place as "Palmas", though the capital of the island and the region is "Palma" as indicated on the postmark. There are other places in Spain named "Palmas" but not only on Mallorca, but not in the Baleares region. There is a strange grammar problem that would be picked up by anyone who knows Catalá or lived in this area in that "palma" in the plural becomes "palmes", The popular Mallorquí name is not "Juan Planas" but "Joan Planes". even the surame is not that common to Mallorca but more to Valencia or Catalunya where it is a toponomic.

  65. Richard Goss said,

    November 28, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

    Have just taken a second look at the text and question the Esperanto conclusion for two reasons.
    1. no reasons for Esperanto are given.
    2. suspect that this is probably Occitan. My reasons for this are a bit more complicated. So to explain. I speak Mallorquí, a dialect of Catalá. Mallorca and the area of the illustration of this post card, its French spelling of Chocolate and Lombard, and the castle, all point to the Rousilló region of what is now France today where Occitá is currently a living language. The connection is the Crown of Aragó, which included most of the European coast of the western Med. Even today the in areas formerly under the rule of Aragó (Sicily, Southern Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Provenç, Rousilló, Catalunya,Valencia, Baleares), the natives can understand each other better then they can those from their capitals of Rome, Paris, and Madrid.

    What led me to this conclusion is the high number of cognates and exact words that we use in Mallorca, and the use of the letter "y" which is more typical to these languages then it is to Esperanto.

  66. marie-lucie said,

    November 28, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

    Richard Goss, have you read the comments? Esperanto is out of the question. And Occitan is much closer to Catalan than to Spanish, the language which explains the cipher quite satisfactorily. Most of the few doubtful places could be due to spelling errors, something not implausible when someone is writing in a cipher and getting some of the equivalences mixed up. As for the number of examples of "y", this letter is rare in the ciphered text, and not more frequent than one would expect in the Spanish text. If the letter was ciphered from a Catalan original, one would expect (among other things) to recover many more instances of the letter "e", and if from an Occitan original (given the time of the writing) many more instances of the letter "o" at the end of words.

    That one of the postcards appears to originate from France (though not sent from there) is not too surprising in the family of a man whose career is spent on boats and who has the opportunity of visiting different countries. The mention "Chocolat Lombart Paris" shows that the postcard must be an advertising gimmick from a French chocolate manufacturer named Lombart: it could have been included in a box of chocolates brought back home from France, though not necessarily from Paris.

  67. Marcos said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 11:40 am

    Could "Roge" be cumpleaño then? I don't know what the "R" could conceivably stand for. "no te olvides del día L que yace cumpleaño de mamá" – "don't forget about Monday which is mom's birthday"

  68. marie-lucie said,

    November 29, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    In that case, "R" would represent quite a few letters! Also, how long would a postcard have taken to go from Palma de Mallorca to London, and for an answer to come from London to Palma? Surely longer than from a Wednesday or Thursday to the following Monday (assuming that "el día L" means Monday).
    Also, there is the problem of "RR" which would not fit.

  69. Marcos said,

    December 1, 2012 @ 3:45 am

    Indeed – perhaps the "L" in "el día L" stands for a number or something similar.

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