Thursday, May 17, 2007

Whatever Happened to Shorthand?

You know how you are sitting around after dinner talking about one thing and the conversation wobbles off into something else. It started with reminiscences about how the education system used to be about several decades ago, and I recalled that girls who were not in the academic stream learned shorthand. Those who proved adept at it then went on to become secretaries, rather than humble typists.
Shorthand was gradually eroded away as a result of technological change. The first was the invention of the dictaphone machine, with execrable sound quality, but which allowed letters to be typed without the intervention of a shorthand transcription. The takeover of the workplace by the personal computer meant that the boss sometimes even typed his own letters, without the intervention of a secretary. Likewise, at meetings and seminars there is likely to be a mini-disk machine on the table rather than a person taking minutes. It seems like technological improvement, but the ability to edit and interpret the material being recorded is removed. Silly jokes, embarrassing remarks and offensive asides are all preserved for posterity along with the official record.
Shorthand was employed in the days of the Romans, in a form known as Tironian notes, which appears in manuscripts up to around the 10th century. During the later medieval period university students, legal recorders and others who had to write quickly from the spoken word employed very simplified scripts with numerous abbreviations. Shorthand has not, of course, entirely disappeared. It is making a big comeback in the new guise of SMS speak. Strangely enough, I do not recall anyone in my youth suggesting that the demise of language and literacy was at hand as a result of people using shorthand, which was simply regarded as a practical means to an end.
Does anyone out there still use shorthand?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good evening

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