“Take a letter, Miss Jones.”

I was considering how many ways people use to record their thoughts, from long passages to quick notes.  We have longhand, shorthand (stenography), typewritten, digital and recorded voice.  Now personally, I use longhand (often illegibly!) and digital, these days.  I would use typewritten too, if I had a typewriter available.

When watching TV programmes or movies where a writer is involved, one thing is not infrequent – they have a secretary trained in the art of shorthand.  What a wonderful invention!  So much recorded with so much economy.  But alas, I never had the opportunity to learn any system of shorthand.  Or did I?

It struck me, in my pondering, that I had, in fact, learnt a crude form of shorthand quite recently, mainly thanks to my kids.  And now, there are those who raise their voices in objection to this new semi-shorthand system, predicting the demise of our language!  It is often portrayed as the enemy of good language, an evil infecting all levels of Society.  Yet, these paranoid fears were never voiced when shorthand was invented, even when it took the form of an automated system: the stenotype machine!  Why?  Is it the fact that shorthand was an utter mystery to everybody but the inventors and those who learnt to use it, while the modern semi-stenography uses recognisable letters?

What am I talking about?  Text Speak!  The rapid communication of longer words by contraction and even substitution.  Letters are left out – usually vowels – and some letter combination sounds are replaced with numbers that give a similar sound – the 4 and 8 being the most frequently used.  This quick means of creating messages has spread from not mobile ‘phones, as most assume, but from things like Telex machines, where operators used abbreviations to communicate at a more personal level when sending more official communications.  In fact, it may well date further back – to the first telegraphers!  Yes, it’s really not that new, after all.  Some of the codes and abbreviations are identical, in fact, like TTFN and C U L8R.

So you see, if I now climb down off my high horse of indignation, stupidly acquired through the mistaken belief that I would be condoning the corruption of my Mother tongue, I can safely begin using this shorthand that I have actually been able to learn!  I really don’t have to write everything out in full.  Heck, I can even adapt it to make my own abbreviated word forms – if I’m consistent enough.  Yes, I’ve accepted the modern world and will use so-called “text speak” in my personal notes!

~ Steve

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

12 thoughts on ““Take a letter, Miss Jones.”

  1. I was discussing Texting with my students just last week, and they (all future English teachers) were appalled to think that Text Speak wasn’t killing the language. Check out David Crystal on this very issue, on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Boj8VYzDAy8

    Also, John McWhorter gave a TED talk on this: http://www.ted.com/talks/john_mcwhorter_txtng_is_killing_language_jk.html

    I hope the links come through, and that you can access them! But if not, you can easily search for them.

    • Hi Lizzie. Strange how these things happen 😉 I accept that there are risks with Text Speak, but I don’t think it’s the Demon so many declare it to be 😉 Like all things in Life – it’s just a question of moderation! I’ll toddle over and take a look at the links – if I can squeeze some extra time into the day 😉

  2. I still can’t get past the physical shudders of encountering “text speak”! My fuddy-duddy glands go berserk….

    I remember once though when a boss that I despised (and it was mutual) ordered me to take minutes at a meeting (when I should have been chairing it – he was marking territory and thought he was “punishing” me). I let my mind drift and scribbled what looked like conventional shorthand the whole way through at a liesurely pace, then afterwards I wrote up minutes from memory and invented what I couldn’t remember. He was p*ssed because he then thought that I “knew shorthand”!!! Score one to me.

    • LOL! It’s probably because “Pop culture” (or is that “Yoof Cultcha”?) demands that such things are overused as much as possible 😉

      Now that I can imagine would have been fun, in some ways 😀 O could imagine so many ways of making him sweat with that LOL! I know that mosy of the characters I knew who were like that were nervous around me 😉 Because I have hearing problems, and have done for many years, I got so I was able to read lips to some degree – nothing special or particularly effective – but when others found out, the sneaks and the like used to try to hide their lips LOL!

      I put your score up on the blackboard but the rain washed it off 😦

    • Funny how we so often miss these things, eh? 😀 One thing, if you’re tapping on any electronic device – switch off predictive text or it’ll go into meltdown LOL!

  3. The problem is not text speak itself, it’s when it’s used out of context because people are too lazy or impolite to write English properly. If children had started handing in their homework written in their own variant of shorthand, there would have been an outcry about that…

    • I fully agree (as I mention in an earlier reply to a comment) 🙂 The one thing that has truly been lost is “moderation”. It’s no longer enough to have such useful devices for specific tasks – it has to be used beyond them = making it seem much worse than it really should be. As a matter of interest, I do recall an occasion when a schoolfriend did in fact hand in the wrong bit of paper = the much abbreviated notes he’d made instead of the properly written version. It didn’t go down well 😉

      • I remember once at school having an essay thrown back at me by the teacher who had written in the margin that it looked as though I had scribbled it while on the back seat of a moving bus. I couldn’t argue; I had. The only thing that puzzled me was how he knew the exact cirumstances…

      • I had that problem all the time. The words were quicker out of my head than onto the paper LOL In the end, they gave up insisting on my letters joining up – if I printed them, I had to slow down 😀 Amazing how perceptive your teacher was LOL!

  4. I have to admit that I am a bit of a language snob and I have refrained from using these abbreviations, more because I am a ridiculous perfectionist if nothing else. I still insist on typing in full, even on phones which I know is frustrating for those who have happily embraced this new language. Fair play to you for being one of them. Great post. 🙂

    • I certainly have no problem with your personal choices, Jade 🙂 All such things are a matter for each of us 😉 If I don’t use Text Speak on the ‘phone, it’s because predictive text actually negates it quite often LOL!

      Thanks 🙂

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