On the Back of the First Curve — Why?

This one always puzzled me. It’s easier to continue with the first curve and write the circle inside the first curve, then continue to the second, but instead we change direction right away.

Did Gregg (or his team) ever explain why they put it on the back of the first rather than inside the first? I’ll trust the system regardless, but it would be nice to know if there’s a reason.


Cricket for everyone)


19 comments Add yours
  1. From The Q's and A's of Shorthand Theory (1924) — this is actually part of the first "Q."

    Mr. Gregg was then asked why he made it a rule to place the circle inside the second curve in such joinings, seeing that in the older systems the practice was to place the circle inside the first curve in such joinings. There were two reasons. The first was that it yielded a slightly more facile joining and one less liable to distortion. The second was that in rapid shorthand writing the first part of a word was generally written more clearly than the last stroke. Under pressure the tendency was to slur the last stroke—because the mind had traveled on to the next word or phrase-form. Under such conditions a curve at the end of a word sometimes looked like a straight line and vice versa In such cases the placing of the circle "on the back of the first curve" (or "inside the second curve," as you please) enabled the writer when transcribing to know whether in such joinings the final letter was a curve or a straight line.

    To take a simple example: In writing the word kill with the circle inside the first curve, if the second curve were straightened in rapid writing, the word might look like came—assuming, of course, that the distinction in size of the circle was not observed. But, in writing the word with the circle on the back of the first curve, the fact that the circle is in that place shows clearly—no matter how straight the next character may appear—that the latter must be a curve—either r or l, according to its length.

  2. Thanks Greggstudent. It looks like I'm not the only student to question it. I still find I pause between the first curve and the circle, as I change direction. Either that or the circle doesn't lie nicely along the back like it's supposed to. Does this imply we're encouraged to get careless with the last bit of a word? I guess it goes along with the abbreviation principle. The last bits aren't as important as the first. That's something I still struggle with.

    It's neat to see Gregg's reasoning. He looked at real (high speed) writers and changed his system to avoid the problems they discovered. That's very different than many systems developed around the same time which considered a pretty page and elegant theory sufficient.

    Piqueroi, I meant words like gear, like, pave — where the first curve goes one way and the next goes the other. One goes clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. In paper, ball and feral, the two consonants join to form one longer curve, and the vowel circle is just an extra loop in the same direction.


  3. You're very welcome!

    Certainly we're not encouraged to be careless with the last part of an outline. 😉 But Dr. Gregg recognized the tendency and was evidently just trying to compensate for it.

    I hadn't thought of it quite this way at first. It seemed natural to commence the circle in a way that led naturally to the next curve. But it was a good question–and like you said, it was asked by others quite long ago!

    Incidentally, I've been trying to get this Q's and A's book scanned to post here, but have had problems getting decent scans of the pages. I'm trying a new tact that seems to be working, so I'm still grinding away. 🙂

  4. Interesting that questions of this type were asked so long ago. By 1958 when I took shorthand classes in high school, the method of presentation of theory just was shown as a fait accompli, no questions asked. We had to memorize outlines as they were presented to be able to write them correctly (like the book) on almost daily pop quizzes. Of course by 1958 the Gregg system was considered THE shorthand system in most of the US. Truthfully it would never occur to me when writing words like kill or garage to place the circle vowel differently from the method I learned by rote so many years ago. LOL.

  5. Cricket is referring to the situation where there are curves going in the opposite direction with a circle vowel in the middle, such as the word "wreck."

    In addition to the Q and A, let me add to this that by placing the circle on the back of the first curve, it preserves the legibility of the second part of the word. For example, if you compare the word "kill" with "ill", you can literally say that "kill" is just "ill" with the extra k at the beginning, since the "ill" part is written identically in both words. This is the explanation given in the 1898 version of the manual.

  6. I'm very fresh in Gregg Shorthand, but I also had this problem, and I still have – hand follows the first curve's rotation. But I see, that the rule of Gregg is the brilliant idea:
    – the writer must know, what he means to write, before writing – I suppose, on more advanced level it is advantage, not handicap.
    – circle made with next curve highlights it as a curve
    Similar problem I have when go from line to left-rotated curve via circle (say, in English "near") – the basic rule is to write circles on right rotation, so again I must know, what I intend to write from the very beginning.

    But I also have another problem, how to properly write signs like "pos-", "pus-".

  7. I don't know now, why I had this problem… But in Polish there are more complicated tasks (if I may ask):
    (I write it as you are supposed to write it in English version of Gregg to have the same signs)
    goscic – to host – of course the whole group "-scic", but connected to "go-" is much more interesting.
    And also the following curves like:
    -ck- = kacka
    -sr- = asram
    -ks- = ksaki
    I try to find out the general rule – for circles there is clockwise rotation. Does for s and c counterclockwise rotation the default rule?

  8. It depends. If s is the first character, s-c is written as "right s"- k. However, if the s is following a "b", "p", "m", "n", "t" or "d", it would be a "left s".

    It would help if you would post the phonetic equivalent of the words you spelled above so that we can tell you the best way to write it.

  9. Sorry for late answer, but I took this chapter again to avoid stupid problems.

    -ck=kacka=kaćka=katsh'ka(?) – something waggling
    -sr=asram=aśram=ash'ram (sansk.) – sanskrit "community"
    -ks=ksazki=książki=ksh'ongzhkee (ą-ong is simiral to French "fi-an-cee", "Je-an") – books

    and some next:

    sc- – scerka=ścierka=sh'tsh'erkah or sh'tshyerkah (but there is soft consonant, nor yotta) – cloth, towel
    -sc- – pisci=piździ=peezh'dzh'ee=vulgar term for windy weather
    -sc – isc=iść=eesh'tsh'=to go

    According to manual, źdź, ść, sc, żdż (not szcz – shtsh, as it has it's own sign, I don't know, why the frequency is not so different) should be made of "s" and "c", as they represent in this system these phonems.

    I hope it is legible…

    Edit: I must ask about it, as such connections does not exist in this manual.

  10. I see what's happening now. The Polish manual does not explain how to join the s with the c symbols. Also since the joining of s-th (the symbol for c in Polish) is very rare in English, there are very few examples. However, these are easy to do once you know the general rule. Here are the words:

    The general rule for the "s" is that the "left s" is used before and after p, b, r, and l, and after t, d, n, m, and o. This is well illustrated in "goscic", "pisci", and "asram." The "right s" is used in all other cases (see "scierka", "isc", "ksaki").

    The general rule for the "c" (th in English, ll in Spanish) is that the "left th" is preferred (clockwise motion), unless we join to "r" or "l", in which we write the "right th" (counterclockwise motion), as in "scierka" above. A special case is the "cm" joining with no vowel in between the c and the m. In this case it is preferred to use the right th (counterclockwise) as well, since it gives a distinct outline (take a look at the word "cma", page 44 of the manual).

    Let me know if this helps.

  11. Krzysztof:

    I have to make a correction. Apparently Polish has the rule of the omission of r (Lesson 7, page 77). Hence, the "c" in "scierka" should be written with the clockwise motion:

    Take a look also on page 80 on how the word "sciern" is written:

    In that case, the counterclockwise "c" is used against the rule, because that is your indication that an "r" was omitted before the "n." This only applies for the "n" or "m" if you omit an "r" before. It is the same case as "thermometer" in English.

    I hope I'm not making this more confusing. (It's confusing enough to me when I don't know a word of Polish!).

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