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Seeking Kenneth Searight

From:Evan Prodromou <evanprodromou@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 20, 2004, 4:17
(Long rambling off-topic message follows.)

I recently stumbled across the intriguing
conlang/auxlang called Sona
on Rick Harrison's language lab:

(Mr. Harrison isn't returning email -- I'm not sure
why. His former
site,, is off the air right
now... I'm hoping
Mr. Harrison is healthy and happy, and just not doing
much conlang
stuff anymore.)

Anyways, I like the language, but I'm intrigued by the
author, Kenneth
Searight. There is practically no information on the
man on Google --
some basketball player at Notre Dame with the same
name -- but not a
lot else. Most references point back to the Web

Maybe I'm a little bit too suspicious of conlangers,
but I was
completely ready to believe that the whole book was a
construct, and that the language was made up by a
contemporary person
or group. Reading conlang Web sites makes one somewhat
inured to
backstory about Republics of Flurbistan and mythical

But, I was wrong -- I think. I was able to determine
that the book
referenced, "Sona: an auxiliary neutral language",
(London, K. Paul,
Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1935) actually was
published in 1935 -- I
checked the Library of Congress Online and it has an
LC catalog
number, 35016722. Rick Harrison, at least, is off the
hook. B-)

I was also able to locate a birth record for an Arthur
Searight, born December 1883 in Kensington, on FreeBMD
( The LOC references
Searight as
"Searight, Kenneth 1883-", so there's probably a good
chance this is
the same guy. He'd be 52 when the Sona book was
published, which is
entirely reasonable (not 8 or 107).

Interestingly, the name "Kenneth Searight" shows up in
one more place
on Google -- in an essay about freedom of speech and

It's in a footnote about English colonial pornography,
and references
Searight as follows:

    "Take, for example, this extract from the 137 page
     autobiography of Kenneth Searight, a 'dashing
young officer' and
     defender of the Raj [...]"

What follows is a fascinating and explicit tidbit
about pederasty
between English officers and locals in India.

At this point, I've got a pretty good shadow-shape for
who Kenneth
Searight was or could have been -- an eccentric
English colonial
officer who traveled the world and returned to England
to write an
autobiography and put his language skills to use in
the service of
world peace, dot dot dot. A man born in 1883 would
have had plenty of
time to serve abroad. Also, the Sona book makes a
number of references
to Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Arabic (although not a
lot of Hindi...
hmm), which would suggest at least a bit of
familiarity with these
languages and places.

I haven't been able to find any other references to
Searight's "verse
autobiography", though. It's not showing up in British
Library or LOC
searches, under either Arthur or Kenneth Searight.

Here's when I decided to enlist the help of my
brilliant girlfriend,
who happens to be a library science student at McGill.
She did some
digging, and came up with an alternative theory: there
was no Kenneth

She noted that the Sona book was published on C.K.
Ogden's Psyche
miniatures press. Ogden gives an intro to the book,
and Searight used
the 850-word Basic English lexicon as a basis for his
short dictionary
of Sona. (Whether he was the first conlanger to do
this, I'm not sure.
Interesting, though.) Ogden was also well-known for
using punning
pseudonyms, like "Adelyne Moore" (add a line more).
It's hard to read
"Kenneth Searight" and not hear "cannot see right".

What Ogden's motivation for publishing an a priori
language under a
pseudonym would be is beyond me. But it's a tempting
possibility. My
girlfriend suggests that cataloguers may have come
across the same
birth records or other data for AKS and made the same
assumptions I
did -- that the pseudonym and AKS were the same

Right now I'm trying to find a bibliography for the
book referenced in
the censorship article (Ronald Hyams "Empire and
Sexuality: The
British Experience", Manchester University Press,
1990), and try to
follow that thread. I'd like to see if the Searight
mentioned there is
at least the same one who was born in Kensington in
1883, if not the
author of the Sona language.

Why am I bothering you all with this? Well, I figured
there might be
someone who knew more about Sona, Searight, or even
Ogden than I did.
Anybody? Any suggestions for this admittedly pointless


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