Shorthand is not for Sissies

Great reading selection by an Army soldier, written in Simplified, from Today’s Secretary (February 1952).

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  1. I'm having trouble making sense of the sentence that starts on the 11th line, first column on page 290:
    "I remember that his first remark was "thank Heaven!" but I thought at the time that he was giving those because I had arrived in time to chase Mr Hitler off the map of Europe."
    Help please!
    Also, I find the writer's shorthand very pleasing to the eye.

  2. Part 1 of "Shorthand is not for Sissies"

    When I went to school, my stenography class was composed of dozens of girls and one lone male—myself. I'll confess that I was somewhat sensitive about being the only boy in the class, especially when I found that the girls called me “sissy.” I agreed with my schoolmates that there was something not quite seemly about a man's being a stenographer, but I determined to finish the course anyhow, because shorthand was one of my favorite studies.

    It wasn't until I started to work that I realized how wrong those girls were. Take it from me, being a male stenographer can be a rough business!

    1. "Until" was written with the blend in Anniversary: it was a brief form with the l omitted (in early series, the l was also written). In Simplified, outlines with un- are always written without the blend to make the outline distinct, so the brief form was removed and the outline changed to n – t – e – l.

      1. So nt-l or nt-i-l would not be confusing? I'm trying to avoid personalizing too much before I finish the entire Simplified Functional Manual, including the review chapters at the end, but writing until without the blend just feels wrong.

        1. The whole idea for not blending "un" is that since it is a negation of the main word, not blending it makes it obvious what word you are trying to negate and it will be easier to transcribe. For example, in "tame" vs. "untame", if you write the blend, you will probably read "and I am" right away (because it's more common) instead of reading it correctly. Similarly "until" could be read "and he will" at first, although you'll quickly realize that it would probably not make sense by reading the outlines that would follow it.

          You can always adapt outlines in your own writing, but I don't recommend doing that while still studying the lessons of the basic manual.

          1. So it's candidate for when I'm done the manual. I've read and written all the theory once. Now to recopy the last 6 theory chapters (3 hrs) three more times (total of 4 times, copying from my own writing rather than the text where possible), read and write the 14 review lessons (14 hours), and, as a graduation exercise, contribute something to the reading material here. I can do this.

          2. What Carlos says may be what the authors of the system were thinking, but I have to disagree that the un- in "until" is a negational prefix. "Until" is actually a compound of two synonymous words, "und" and "till". We still have "till" in the language today, meaning the same as "until". But "und" is Scandinavian in origin, and did not come into English as a separate word.

            1. Thanks for the correction, and I wasn't clear. It's not negational in "until", but it's negational in almost all words with un-, which is what I was referring to. It didn’t make sense for Leslie to create an exception for “until” because he was simplifying the system: students were having issues memorizing rules and brief forms, I can’t imagine making a distinction for one word when the rest are written in a different way. A similar thing happened with the brief form “great” in Series 90, which was dropped: again, they decided to spell it out because the word “grate” was written in full, even though they are two different words.

  3. Part 2 of "Shorthand is not for Sissies"

    The first job I secured after graduation from school seemed tame and peaceful enough when I was interviewed for it and I remember that I wondered why the organization wanted a man instead of a girl. I got the answer to that question the very first day. My office was in a small wooden shack right out where the men were working and I hadn't been on the job more than an hour or two when there came a sudden terrific blast. It seemed as though lightning must have struck the building. I picked myself up off the floor unhurt and then realized that I should have been prepared for this. After all, the outfit that hired me was building a sewer through solid rock and had to use dynamite to get through. I soon grew used to the blasting—but no girl would have wanted that particular stenographer job.

  4. Part III

    My next position wasn't going to be too rugged—or so I thought at first.  I became a Civil Service employee for the War Department and it looked as though I would just sit at a quiet desk most of the day taking dictation or transcribing my notes.  The War Department, however, soon had other ideas.  They decided that I would make a good roving court reporter so my pen, my notebook, and I traveled all over the U.S. visiting army stockades, federal prisons, and local jails.  I also served many hundreds of courts-martial.

    Then, in 1942, I received a little card telling me that my friends and neighbors had chosen me for military duty.  Although I entered the service willingly enough, I was sure that this meant the end of my stenographic career.  I pictured myself chasing Germans all over Europe and never thinking of shorthand again until I got home.  But once again I was wrong.

  5. Part IV

    After months of Infantry combat training, in which I was schooled in the use of every kind of firearm, I was shipped to Europe ready for action. However, the action I saw in the Army wasn't exactly what I had expected. At the Replacement Center, near London, where we landed, an officer looked over my classification card. I remember that his first remark was, “Thank heaven!” but I thought at the time that he was giving thanks because I had arrived in time to chase Mr. Hitler off the map of Europe. I soon found out differently. It seems that there was a shortage of stenographers over seas and anyone who knew shorthand was needed desperately. From the day of my arrival, I was put to work at a desk—and had to do menial work for it seemed that the army had saved all its paperwork especially for me. It was evident that the European forces had plenty of cooks, jeep drivers, machine gunners, parachutists, troops, and so forth, but no stenographers!

    Often at night I found myself sitting under a desk, during one of the air raids in England, taking dictation from an officer who was sitting under another desk. We both had our helmets on, but the desks offered a little extra protection. Trying to take dictation sitting on the floor with flak falling all around isn't too easy, I discovered. In spite of this, I considered myself fortunate. On every side were troops marching and training for the Normandy invasion. When I realized what they would go through once they landed in France, I was grateful for my comparatively comfortable desk job in England. I would just write Hitler a dearthy letter or two instead of going after him with a gun!


    1. Very good! Two small mistakes: (1) parachute troops (not "parachutists, troops"), and (2) dirty (not "dearthy"). Dearthy would be written with the under th.

  6. Thanks, Carlos.  I couldn't make out the outline for "dirty."  I am surprised that "had to do menial" was correct.  I couldn't really make out that pair of outlines either.  I mean, they clearly looked like a-d-oo m-e-n with the final n written faintly and no dot over the a.  I couldn't make that fit "had to do menial" but left that expression as a place holder because it did fit the context.

  7. Part V

    These plans of mine, however, didn't work out, for I too hit the Omaha beachhead on D-day, along with the combat troops, wading through those bloody waters with a portable typewriter on my back! The evening of D-day, found me dug in on the beach and typing up the specifications for an airfield to be built for evacuating the wounded. After the invasion I traveled fast—right along with the combat troops. I set up my portable in fox holes, apple orchards, barns, and elaborate French chateaus as the troops pushed on steadily, towards Germany. My pen and I wrote our way through Paris, Versailles, Nancy, and after the Battle of the Bulge, through Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Munich, and numerous other places. I flew thousands of miles all told through Europe, wherever somebody called for a stenographer and typewriter.

  8. Part VI

    I was one of the first to be sent home and discharged because I had been overseas a long time and right in the middle of most of the combat. Now if you know of anybody who thinks that being a male stenographer is too, well, effeminate, or unexciting, tell them this for me—and I know—shorthand is definitely not for “sissies.” I myself am not a stenographer anymore. I do free-lance writing instead. And I find it a much quieter and easier job!

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