Friday, April 07, 2017

EDITORIAL >> Who will bring back shorthand?

Whatever happened to shorthand?

We still have shortbread, shortstops, shortsighted and shortchanged, which would cause a shortage.

But who uses, needs or discusses shorthand anymore?

Well, we did after watching one of those late old black-and-white films where the bank president called in the secretary to take a memo and the secretary whipped out one of those small, narrow pads and started to write in shorthand.

Back in the day, it was required for most young ladies in high school to take shorthand and home economics so they could get into a good college or go into the workforce.

But shorthand wasn’t always just for secretaries or court reporters.

Before the 1870s, it was used more for writing down one’s own thoughts or discreetly noting the conversation of others. Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens used it. George Bernard wrote his plays in shorthand. Cicero’s orations, Martin Luther’s sermons and Shakespeare’s plays were all preserved by means of shorthand.

Shorthand, besides being known as stenography (close or narrow writing), is sometimes called tachygraphy (swift writing) and brachygraphy (short writing). It’s one thing for young ladies to be called stenographer, but to be tachygraphers or a brachygraphers? Potential husbands might have run in a direction opposite of the church.

So where can one find shorthand now?

In the dusty collectible section of bookstores there are Pitman and Gregg shorthand books for sale, and also in the dollar bins at Goodwill stores.

Did you know that Gregg guy was just 18 when he came up with his version of shorthand?

So what good is this skill that has gone the way of the floppy disk?

According to one shorthand website, there are constant requests for those few with the skill to help decipher an old diary written by someone’s grandmother or great aunt.

And as Shakespeare would say, without taking a shortcut, “That is the long and short of it.”