Shorthand completely unknown

I did an interesting experiment the other day . . . I work in a variety of settings, and I was in a place where the majority of the employees were young (under 25).  Just out of interest I wrote a few lines of Gregg shorthand on a legal pad and left it on the desk that staff use.
A while later one of the young women found the pad, and was completely mystified.  “OK,” she said, “Whoever wrote this, I want you to know that it’s not OK to write things in languages we can’t understand!”  She then proceeded to go around and ask people if they had written it, and if they knew what it was.  NO ONE could identify it as shorthand . . . one person thought it was Arabic, and they wanted to wait until another employee arrived who had worked in Saudi Arabia to see if he could unravel the mystery. 
I never confessed, and left the mystery unsolved for them . . .
I guess this whole generation has grown up in the era after shorthand stopped being taught in schools, and after secretaries were widely used for dictation. 

(by alex for everyone)

35 comments Add yours
  1. It is funny. My thought, Why did this "young woman" care so much about what was written in another "lanuage"?  I guess if she wanted to find the owner of this, but why was it any of her business what it said if it did not have her name on it?

  2. I think the shorthand looked so mysterious to her that it drove her crazy to see it on a page and not know what it was . . . I don't think she cared so much what it said; it was more like a "What is this?!" kind of reaction.    And yes, it is a little disturbing that people didn't know it wasn't Arabic–since Gregg and Arabic don't look anything alike–but this is a relatively rural area of the U.S. midwest, so exposure is pretty low.   Alex

  3. Cool story 🙂

    Actually, I got a similar response when I first started my new job a few months back. Had some stuff written down in SH and someone so it when I went out the room. He actually then went round to everyone over about 40 and asked if they new what it was. Didn't think of asking me because I'm only 22 🙂 Someome suggested that it might be Pitmans (how dare they).

    Though, if he closed it he would have seen my name on the frount cover.

    Took me ages to figure out how took that book!

  4. yeah, this ignorence suprised me as well, and up until 9 months ago I was one of the ignorent. I hadn't the foggiest what shorthand was let alone Gregg. It's kind of scary when you think about it. It only takes one generation to become completly unaware of something.

  5. How will they respond to your what?  Clearly you must be MUCH older than I am . . . (just kidding).   It's kind of interesting to think about things that were common when I was a kid–rotary phones, shorthand, fountain pens, manual typewriters, wringer washing machines, etc.  And it is true that one generation separates common knowledge of something from total unawareness of that same thing.    Alex

  6. You are right that the young generation has no idea what shorthand is.  I have had this conversation many times:   "Dude!  What kind of wrizziting is tHaT?!!~! LOL" "Why, it's shorthand." [blank stare] "…A fast way of writing."   I love it when they just walk away without saying anything, not sure if I am joking or not.   Concerning typewriters: just yesterday I was at the Wheelwriter1500 redoing all my file labels on all-white, non-color coded file labels (I hate the colored ones), and a girl yelled out of the adjacent office: "what the heck is that strange noise?!!"  Her friend added, "I had never seen a typewriter before coming here."  …wow, and I'm not that old myself—only 27.  The sad thing is that a coworker who is … mature … asked if I wanted to borrow some computer printable labels.  "No, I'm old fashioned," I said, "I love the moonlight." _____________________________ Shorthand: isn't it about time?

  7. I've got one for you.  According to my son's 3rd grade teacher (who will be teaching my son cursive this year), a majority of high school students today cannot even read ordinary cursive handwriting!  She says that it's a joke among the high school teachers that if they want to send a private note home to the parents, all they need to do is write it in cursive and the kids won't be able to read it.  How pathetic is that?  She believes that cursive is a dying art form (sound familiar?).  The reason kids can't read cursive, she says, is that they get no practice reading it or writing it.  All the reading material they get is printed matter — text books, typed documents, Powerpoint slides, etc.  The only real exposure they get to cursive is the little, infrequent notes the teacher may write at the top of their papers (which the students typed on a word processor, by the way — no handwritten term papers for these kids!)  What little actual handwriting they do perform is almost universally printed/manuscript writing, even for longer material such as essays.

  8. As someone who holds a certificate in handwriting instruction from Zaner Bloser, I am once again marked as the member of a previous generation.  Fountain pens, shorthand, manual typewriters, carbon paper, Gestetner mimeo machines . . . where will it all end?   The weird thing is I'm still not "old", exactly–under 55.  That just shows how rapidly all this has changed in our technological world.    Alex

  9. That's an interesting point there, Kim. I think that another reason students don't read or know cursive is that schools don't force students to write in cursive. When I was growing up, penmanship was part of my language arts class, and even more, writing print was looked down upon since it meant that one was illiterate. Hence, a degree of shame was associated with it. Nowadays, it's a big no no to put some "beneficial" shame in the students, and as a result, the standards have lowered. I can argue that students in the past used to read even more print than today, because there were no computers and no TV. Print material has existed since the invention of the printing press, so laziness from the part of the students and laxness from the part of the schools are in part responsible for the present situation.

  10. Yes, basic education taught things like cursive writing when I was young (I'm 18 now, so I mean when I was about 10 years old ;-)). They still do but kids prefer to do things by computer to there is a lack of training of cursive writing outside the classroom. Kids can read cursive writing well but their own cursive writing may be crappy but readable.

  11. After I read these conversations I asked some of the elementary teachers (I work at a K-12 laboratory school) if they taught cursive writing.  I was told that the third and fourth grades tried to "fit it in" but if they were busy with other subjects it wasn't in the "have to teach" catagory.  The third grade teacher said she just taught the basics and didn't grade on penmanship.  She repeated what you said that with computers, text messaging, etc. actual writing is something she tries to get the kids to do – so if they print she's happy, if they learn cursive it's a bonus but not required.  I started noticing that even the notes to me from the teachers are mostly printed so it does look like cursive writing will soon become an oddity like writing shorthand.  Oh, I was practicing shorthand at lunch and the same third grade teacher asked what I was doing.  When I told her she asked "What is shorthand" so I showed her my notebook and wrote out a few things for her and she actually got indignant.  She thought it was very rude to write things down that no one else could read and in her opinion it was a waste of time since it "didn't do anybody any good".  How's that for a response from a teacher?

  12. Huh, rude to write things for yourself other can't read? Hm, think she is at the same level as her students… Oh well, I had my last internship at a K-12 school and kids could write cursive fine, but it was real crappy compared to my writing (and then you have to realize I'm a IT student ;-)).

  13. Do you think the third grade teacher thinks that no one should learn another language? If you were writing in Esperanto, or Russian or Hindi, would that have been equally offensive?   I'm quite lucky — everyone is impressed that I write shorthand at my job. There are only two of us, one Pitman writer and me (I?), a Gregg DJS writer.

  14. i am in high school right now. cursive isdead, it is so useless, there is NO point to it. But all the people i know can read and some what write cursive. cursive makes the writing of the kids, like me, who have bad handwriting illegable, it's unfair to make people write in cursive. those are just my 2 cents (or 5 bucks depending on how i count) 😛

  15. i just want to point out some people just have bad handwriting, like me. my first grade teature was biased against that fact and would make me (and a few others) spend alot of time writing and writing and writing… It did crap, my mind is not made for writing, it is made for more intellectual and just plain useful things.

    but i do have to agree with you as far as the drop in the reading/math level it's pathetic, i am in geomery (should be in alg 2 but the system is messed up) it is by far my easiest class, but i have kids in my class that wine and who are just plain idiots. i have no idea why they are in my class (it is honors level, the hardest geometry class at my school…)

    hope this makes any sence: Computer_tom

  16. Cursive is not dead!

    I am devoted to the A. N. Palmer Method of cursive writing. I also belong to the A group dedicated to preserving penmanship, calligraphy, and Spencerian forms of writing. It was my fascination with penmanship and writing systems that sparked my interest in shorthand. American cursive writing is alive and well. Okay, I will get off my soap box.

    Vic/San Jose CA

  17. ___Computer Tom-Com___
    i am in high school right now. cursive isdead, it is so useless, there is NO point to it.

    Actually, there IS a point to it. Cursive writing is about speed and legibility, not to mention about personality, image and class.

    Your remarks remind me of the gentleman in my college lit class who wondered out loud what possible point or good there was for an MBA candidate such as himself to waste his valuable time reading Dante or Shakespeare.

    LOL. Perhaps you’d be interested in the professor’s forceful response?

    ___Computer Tom-Com___
    But all the people i know can read and some what write cursive.

    I should certainly hope so. I would also hope that they had more than rudimentary reading and math skills, but small chance of that, given the current state of public education!

    ___Computer Tom-Com___
    cursive makes the writing of the kids, like me, who have bad handwriting illegable [sic], it's unfair to make people write in cursive.

    Actually, spending a reasonable amount of time with penmanship will improve your bad handwriting, and increase your writing speed. And, writing Gregg Shorthand can have a positive effect on your penmanship, as well… and also tends to increase your writing speed!

    As for what’s “fair” or “unfair,” that’s really subjective. Frankly, I think it is unfair to subject folks to an illegible scrawl (bad handwriting), and expect them to read it, or have a favorable opinion of the one who wrote it. But that’s just the opinion of a middle-aged man who values taking the time to develop a personal life skill over taking a similar amount of time to play, say, World of Warcraft. Each of our choices has an opportunity cost, and I’d suggest that fine penmanship and the art of the personal note is a skill worth one’s time to develop.

    Hmm. Again, good penmanship [and spelling] is an extension of one’s personality. Maybe in some professions no one cares about a person’s handwriting, but in my experience, good penmanship (i.e., NOT “block writing”) is an indispensable business tool.
    I work at a computer company, but I’m here to tell you that the day of the personal, handwritten business note or private invitation/thank-you/congratulations is far, far, far from dead. The well-placed note can leave an impression of good character on a recipient. This can positively contribute to decisions to promote, hire, and so forth. Not to overstate the case, but with little more than a fine pen and some well-selected paper, one can create a kind of social check that purchases all kinds of good will.

    For goodness’ sake: if you are going to go to all the effort to *write* something, why wouldn’t you invest a little time, and practice writing well?

    And if I sound like an old ranting coot, I suppose I am… just ask my own high-school-aged kids, who have listened to me blather on about their scratchy and largely illegible handwriting. LOL. I guess your remarks pressed a button, Tom-Com!


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