In 1879 in Baden, Germany, Father Johann Martin Schleyer created a universal language at the behest of God, speaking to Schleyer in a dream. He called this new language Volapük or “World Speak.” Volapük was a simple language meant to give Catholic readers from different linguistic backgrounds an easier time reading aloud from the Bible.
Within ten years nearly one million people were conversing in the language. Volapük-specific publications were widely available, textbooks about the language were published in twenty-five languages, and Volapük societies proliferated across Europe. Yet Volapük’s popularity as a universal language was eclipsed by the rise of Esperanto in the early twentieth century. Esperanto expressions began mocking Volapük; in Esperanto “that sounds like Greek to me” became “that sounds like Volapük to me,” and “Volapukaĵo” became a synonym for nonsense.