(These questions apply to Anniversary, the one I’m learning)

Are ‘also’ and ‘was’ written the same? And is that supposed to be an ‘s’ in both?

If there is a difference, it is subtle.

The difference between x and s is described as “slightly modified in slant”. I peered at a few examples and tried to come to a conclusion about whether the curve was more open or further to the left, whether the shift was opposite for left and right cases … though I remain baffled, I do think I am somehow picking up a feel for the difference.

I can see two ways to conceptualise it. Either one is dealing with identical forms (I believe “what” and “of it” is one case); or the difference is slight enough to become blurred in practice, but context is still enough to decode the form – and perhaps it helps to imagine you can see the difference.

On the other hand, another form I confuse with ‘also’ is ‘of all’. In both cases, the proximity of the other element prevents ‘all’ lying on its side. But this one is clearly different, and I can see in time I will forget I ever confused them.

Full disclosure: I wear glasses, and perhaps I need a stronger pair!

I’m still having great fun with it, and making slow but steadier progress.

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  1. No, they're not the same. "Also" is o hook – left s – o hook and "was" is o hook – left s.

    About the slant of the x, sometimes you have to exaggerate it to really see it. For example, in the words "first" (f – e – right s) and "fix" (f – e – x), the slant on the x can be done easily. Same with "it has" (t – a – left s) and "tax" (t – a – x). Fortunately, words that end in x are not that frequent. I suggest you to just study those in the examples in the manual and in the 5000 Most Used Shorthand Forms book, which are the most frequent.

    Lastly, the hook does not need to lay on its side for the prefix "al-" (you already saw this with the word "also"). The brief form for "all" is the one that has the hook on its side (think of it as removing the l from the outline, so the o is facing to the right). This makes it distinct from the word "of." The o-hook for "al-" follows the hook rules of joining.

  2. The Gregg Shorthand principle of writing "x" as an "s" slightly modified in slant actually violated a basic principle of Gregg Shorthand–write what you hear!  Thus, shorthand writers are actually writing what "x" represents, rather than its sound.  The sound of "x" is actually a "k" sound.  In the mid-1970s, South-Western Publishing Co. came out with its own shorthand system called Century 21 Shorthand.  Many of the characters and abbreviating principles of Gregg Shorthand were used in this modified system; however, the "x" was eliminated.  Thus, in words like "tax" and "tacks," a "k" was used, unlike the Gregg system where an "x" was used. With the demise of shorthand in the business education curriculum of both secondary and post-secondary schools in the following decade, Century 21 Shorthand was short lived. Having taught both Gregg and Century 21 during this time period, though, I must say that the learning/teaching materials for Century 21 were far superior to the Gregg materials.

    1. I agree that the x in Gregg violates the "write what you hear" principle, and that Century 21 handles the k-s combo more logically.

      For those who are unfamiliar with Century 21: It was designed specifically to avoid some of the difficulties of Gregg. For instance, the last syllable of words such as "picture" and "nature" were written "ch-e-r" instead of "t-r", following a common pronunciation. Also, clockwise curves were eliminated; all curves were counterclockwise. This eliminated the need to know which way to write an s or a vowel circle in different outlines. It also eliminated the confusion some students had in distinguishing how to turn different letters, such as Gregg k and r. The authors of the system were quite explicit about what they were trying to accomplish and how they went about it.

      1. One fascinating thing about Century 21 is that it's clearly based on Gregg, but the authors, all of whom I believe were Gregg writers and teachers, give absolutely no acknowledgment or credit to the source of their "new" shorthand.  I'm surprised McGraw-Hill didn't take them to court and prevail.  

        If you look in the Century 21 dictionary, it's easy to find hundreds of outlines that are identical to Gregg outlines, in spite of the system changes the Century 21 authors made.  

        South-Western Publishing Company had a long history of publishing supplementary Gregg materials (like "Shorthand Dictation Studies", and "Shorthand Transcription Studies" in Anniversary, Simplified, and DJS editions) but they all acknowledged either Gregg or McGraw-Hill.  

        1. The plates of the Century 21 books were written by Grace Bowman, who also wrote the plates for the third edition of Shorthand Dictation Studies and Shorthand Transcription Studies.

          1. The sheer arrogance of creating this system, and then giving no acknowledgment to Gregg as the source and inspiration, is really astounding to me.  

            I suppose at that point in time, with shorthand already starting to wane, McGraw-Hill must have decided the costs of a legal battle just weren't worth it.  

            They may also have had the thought that any new interest in shorthand instruction was a good thing for the publishers of all shorthand systems.  

            It would be fascinating to have a look in the minds of the South-Western authors to see what they were thinking and strategizing to pull the whole thing off.  

            1. They make a small acknowledgment in the preface of the Theory and Practice book though:

              "The authors are indebted to the pioneers in the Era of Modern Shorthand (1588-1900) who left a rich heritage on which to build. The shorthand symbols we use today were developed by inventors in past centuries. Only a few of the hundreds of contributors can be mentioned here … Gregg (1888) further developed the light-line strokes and a predominantly cursive style."

              Not sufficient enough, in my opinion.

  3. Thanks Carlos, I do think I can see it now. The way the left-s joins with the o-hook is a bit like what happens with p/b – r/l blends; the one at the end of 'also' is a bit bigger and somehow more dynamic. I don't have my "Gregg Speed Studies" with me here, but I suspect it will have something helpful on this.

    Words like 'accede' are written with a k-s … in general, it would be difficult I think to devise any writing system that was purely phonetic, not least because pronunciation and accent vary, within our countries as well as across the pond.

    t-r is a good example of this. Children learning to write often spell the blend ch-r, but literate adults can have a hard time hearing that is what they themselves are saying. Some Scottish accents are an exception. Variation among vowels is far greater than with consonants, and it's unsurprising that both in alphabetic writing and shorthand, there should tend to be a greater degree of convention. Overall, I still find Gregg pretty intuitive.

    Another example: for me, as well as lacking an 'r' at the end, 'mayor' has two syllables. But do I just think that because of the spelling? I'm as happy with the Gregg form as with the written one.

  4. For me, mayor has an r at the end and is two syllables. Mare has an r and is one syllable. As a person with rhotic pronunciation, I'm happy that most Gregg spellings show the post-vocalic r.

    In regard to Lee's comments about Century 21 and its authors' failure to acknowledge Gregg properly: This is not the only shorthand that is based on Gregg but fails to acknowledge it. It's probably the best known of such systems, though. I wonder exactly what the copyright of a shorthand system covers. I also wonder whether Gregg's copyright on the alphabet had expired by the time Century 21 was developed. I'll bet it had, and that all that was left was copyright on newer material. (Century 21 came out in 1974, when copyright lasted a maximum of 56 years in the United States. So anything published before 1918 was in the public domain.)

    As for the obvious similarity to Gregg, I noticed that immediately when I first saw the textbook. It was a strange experience, sort of like a Spaniard hearing Italian, I think. A lot of outlines were instantly recognizable, many were murky, and a bunch of others were totally incomprehensible.

    1. My pronunciation of "mayor" and "mare" is the same as yours:  two syllables, one syllable.  

      I think the Gregg system tries to hit a mid-point between true pronunciation (which may vary by individual speaker), and functional speed writing.  If you look at the printed Gregg materials, there's clearly no agenda to be "phonetically correct".  The agenda was always to "write as fast and as accurately as possible."  

      Our current shorthand systems all really date to the end of the 19th century (Pitman a bit earlier).  And that's exactly the period when phonetics was emerging, and the IPA was starting to be created.  

      If the timing had been a bit different, the resulting shorthand systems might well have been a bit different as well.  I'm not convinced that Dr. Gregg understood that "x" is really "ks" phonetically, for example.  

      On the other hand, a purely phonetic system isn't really generally understandable for everyone.  I'm from the US Midwest, and it's not unusual for people from my region to say the state name "Iowa" as "Ah-wah".  Writing that phonetically isn't useful.  

      1. I'm originally from the east coast (the mid-Atlantic, rhotic part), but have been living in the midwest for many years. So I understand your comment about Iowa. Maybe you're right that Dr. Gregg didn't fully understand that x is actually ks (or sometimes gz). His knowledge about vowels, too, may have been naïve, apparently having come from the school textbooks his sister used. But I'd argue that his presumed naïveté about pronunciation turned out to be a strength.

        First of all, phonetics was not fully developed in the nineteenth century; there was not a clear understanding, except maybe among a small number of linguists, of the difference between phonetic and phonemic differences. Pitman agonized over how certain vowels should be pronounced and notated, for instance.

        Second, the traditional grade-school categorization of vowels may superficially seem sloppy and linguistically ignorant, but it says something important about the English language. It relates the vowels in "bath" and "bathe", for instance, and papers over many differences in regional pronunciation. Gregg's use of the system gives his shorthand a certain universality that a phontically "correct" one like Pitman's lacks.

        I think it was something of a work of genius that Gregg reduced the vowel system to four main vowel letters, relegating long "i" to a separate letter and reclassifying short "i" with long and short "e". It was also a work of genius to develop the vowels based on frequency of use and ease in writing. In particular, it must have been difficult for him to buck the longstanding idea that a small circle should stand for "s".

  5. Above, I referred to Gregg's presumed naïveté about the pronunciation of vowels. Let me retract that here. He used grade school textbooks as some of his sources, but also knew something of other shorthand systems. I think he understood regional pronunciation of vowels just as he did of the "th" sound (see the thread "confrontational, eyebrows, clothes"). And he definitely thought deeply and creatively about how to invent a shorthand system that overcame the weaknesses of some of the existing ones.

    1. I think your comments are exactly on target.  

      Gregg wasn't striving to be a phonetician.  He was striving to create a functional shorthand system.  He seems to have had strong intuition about the important distinctions for shorthand, and the not so important.  

      I think he also understood that some kind of "ideally perfect system" was a vain hope.  He created a system that matched up in many ways with normal longhand handwriting of the time, and that also accommodated lots of different personal and regional pronunciations while providing "standard" outlines that sometimes differ from what a particular speaker might say.  

      One thing that's fascinating to me is the continuity of the basic elements of the system, through various versions (pre-Anniversary, Anniversary, Simplified, Diamond Jubilee, Series 90, Centennial).  Nothing ever really changed about the basic system itself.  The changes were all related to brief forms, abbreviating principles, phrasing, etc.  Only a tiny number of things, like the reversed r and the past tense, were really "changed".  

      1. I agree that the continuity of Gregg's system is fascinating. It also is a sign of Gregg's instinct for practicality right from the start, as a very young man. This strikes me as a strength of his system.

        Pitman, with his interest in phonetics and rational spelling, kept tinkering with his system. After publishing it in 1838 or thereabouts, he produced a completely new alphabet in 1840. Then in 1857 he thoroughly revised the vowel system. Throughout, he experimented with various ways of writing sounds and combinations like whng and mp. Though Pitman's is clearly a solid system, I see this constant tinkering as unhelpful. Combined with the failure of the United States to rccognize British copyright, it led to the "Pitmanics" such as Benn Pitman, Graham Munson, etc.

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