Post-Modern English?

When I first went through the Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified a couple of years ago it was like taking a time warp. I had posted an add in the local paper and hired a lovely retired lady to tutor me through it. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun, but I don’t think she recognised how foreign the material in that book was to me. The business memos which dominate the reading exercises seemed to use an entirely different set of vocabulary from the emails that I read and write everyday. Memorizing brief forms for words like “automobile” “remittance” “Dear Sir” and “railroad” made me wonder if Simplified was going to be efficient when I started outlining my own daily material.
I’m sure those of you studying Anniversary or 1916 have run into this even more, and while I love this unique perspective into the way people thought and wrote a generation or three before me, I also wonder if you have had to “optimise” your Gregg to adapt to the vocabulary of today’s instant-messaging, paypal driven globalized language. Do you think Gregg needs to be tweaked (within the philosopy of your Gregg system) as English usage evolves?

(by skousend for everyone)

3 comments Add yours
  1. I agree — to make shorthand useful, you need to adapt it to the times.  That was part of the reason there are so many series of Gregg, not only simplifications of the system, but also because of the evolution of the vocabulary.  With respect to modernization, I do that frequently.  How many times do you say "I shall be glad to know"?  But you may say "I will like to know".  Just replace the phrase  "a -sh – b – g – l – n – o" for "a – l – l – a – n – o".  You probably don't send things "by express", but perhaps "by express mail."  There are other examples.  It's really no biggie.

  2. Interesting, skousend. Surprisingly, I've been bothered by 1916's anachronism a little less than that of Simplified.

    First, there's its breadth. There's a "word sign" or abbreviation in the system for just about half of the language, it seems; and the analogical endings and beginnings cover alot more. "k r" (car), is there (as well as "a tm b"); so is "a tm tic" (automatic), "p l st" (plastic), "n s" (instant), "k p u" (computer), and even "e m [inverted a]" (email) and "Ya [bridging loop] h u" ("Yahoo").

    There are a few devices for phonetically non-English words—handy in a globalized language; and Gregg initials are explained—useful for our increasingly acronym crazy culture (though as the manual says, cursive longhand is sometimes easier for these).

    About 1/4 of the phrasing rules are either archane or specialized. But most, like the "of the" and "-ing" rules, are invaluable.

    There's much more prose in the Simplified manual, which I think hilights its historic context. To my ears, there's a *style* to Simplified's post-war English; 1916's pre-war English just sounds proper. That may be the commercial target of Simplified as much as anything, though.

    There's some 1916 prose that undeniably evokes time warp. I had the hardest time decyphering one letter in "Graded Readings" (copyright 1916), about going into town to look at "new lantern and slides", with "a garden in bloom", "fishermen catching a fish", and "our boys on the front", until I realised this was pre-moving picture era.

    Here's my favourite sentence from the manual: "Every girl, when she reaches womanhood, should be prepared to earn her own livelihood even though there is no likelihood of her being called upon to do so."

    One thing contemporary English definitely wins on: comma placement!

Leave a Reply