Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Longest Shorthand in History!

I'M "learning shorthand" again. I'm so terrible at it, I can actually type faster than I can compose my jittery outlines in (Gregg) stenography. I've been trying to do online 60, 70 and 80 wpm dictations. I can just about do 80 words per minute, just as long as the audio is clear and the vocabulary not full of technical terms requiring obscure disjoined prefixes and suffixes, none of which I'm entirely sure of.

If you're wondering why I took up shorthand, it's because I always wanted to be a journalist and in this country reporters are expected to offer shorthand of at least 100wpm. Why would anyone actually use shorthand in this age of advanced voice recording technology? 2 reasons. 1. I originally wanted to be a techno correspondent for a music magazine and realized that trying to operate a dictaphone with a full-blown rave kicking off all around me was going to be challenging to say the least. And 2. there are certain situations where a person will only give an interview provided you do NOT record their voice. When a person wants to speak off the record, or anonymity or deniability are important, a person might well say "fine, you can take some quotes ~ just as long as you don't make any recordings of me actually saying this stuff"... know what I mean.

Also the art of shorthand is a fascination in itself. I learned Teeline years ago (from a book), but didn't think it fast enough, so I switched to Gregg's shorthand (the type they used in America). Gregg's shorthand has the advantage over Pitman's (a very fast traditional English system) in that it can be written on blank paper with an ordinary ballpoint pen. Pitman's requires either a pencil or a fountain pen with a special shorthand nib, because you need to be able to distinguish light and heavy strokes. (In Gregg you have long and short strokes instead).

People who know me know that I love doodling, so I've tried to channel this into some profitable arts. So I'm learning to draw properly, using a Chinese-style brushpen, and I'm attempting Japanese calligraphy.

The other great fascination with shorthand is, of course, the "secret code" aspect. Ever since I was a child I had secret codes that I could write off the top of my head, without reference to a crib-sheet. So I've tried to turn this fascination into a potentially profitable enterprise: hence my renewed study of shorthand.

By the way I think I have shorthand in my blood ~ literally! One of my ancestors published his own system of shorthand in 1647! You see! I wondered why the fascination with the dying art of tachygraphic penmanship!

I'm not being funny, but I find some of the American accents rather challenging to follow, especially when trying to concentrate on scrawling Martian-style scribbles across the page while simultaneously attempting to figure out an accent from halfway across the world. I found an Australian 60 wpm dictation for Teeline (see below). She's a lot easier to follow than the American lady, who sounds like a Speak and Spell machine. Remember those? The American ones always used to say "spell brrrr". I could never work out what she was saying.

OK I've got to go. I washed my clothes in Binky's washing machine and now she's freaking out about boxer shorts (which I do not wear) flying out of the tumble dryer... or something like that!

Illustrated: Short or Swift Writing by Simon West, published 1647 ~ my great great great great times about 35 uncle!  Gregg shorthand. It reads: Dear Sir: I was glad to get your letter of January 15th but am still in the dark as to the general purpose of your taking the trip to Lille at this time. Will you please let me have the details of the situation?... Teeline shorthand (currently the most popular method in the UK ~ note the cumbersome outlines); Pitman shorthand ~ I assume this is written in English but I've no idea what this says and to my eyes it might as well be written in Martian! 

Aussie speed dictation. Wow I can actually do this!...


63mago said...

Dickens made his living as a young man as stenographer in the Parliament. Later, when he was finally arrivee he liked to have friends at the table - and when the conversation and discussion became heated his hand could be seen twitching, he put down notes again, unwittingly.

Gledwood said...

I used to do that! For years (without really thinking or even recognizing the fact) I would find myself, very distantly and at the back of my mind, transliterating words into shorthand outlines when I was bored or slightly agitated ~ eg waiting ages and ages for a bus. I'm glad I'm not the only person on earth with that bizarre foible~!!