On this Day:
In 1837, Isaac Pitman introduces his shorthand system of writing. But take a note – this was certainly not the first use of shorthand writing.
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos (narrow) and graphein (to write). It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short), and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys (swift, speedy), depending on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.
Many forms of shorthand exist. A typical shorthand system provides symbols or abbreviations for words and common phrases, which can allow someone well-trained in the system to write as quickly as people speak. Abbreviation methods are alphabet-based and use different abbreviating approaches. Many journalists use shorthand writing to quickly take notes at press conferences or other similar scenarios. In the computerized world, several autocomplete programs, standalone or integrated in text editors, based on word lists, also include a shorthand function for frequently used phrases.
Shorthand was used more widely in the past, before the invention of recording and dictation machines. Shorthand was considered an essential part of secretarial training and police work and was useful for journalists. Although the primary use of shorthand has been to record oral dictation or discourse, some systems are used for compact expression. For example, healthcare professionals might use shorthand notes in medical charts and correspondence. Shorthand notes were typically temporary, intended either for immediate use or for later typing, data entry, or (mainly historically) transcription to longhand. Longer-term uses do exist, such as encipherment: diaries (like that of Samuel Pepys) are a common example.
The earliest known indication of shorthand systems is from the Parthenon in Ancient Greece, where a mid-4th century BCE inscribed marble slab was found. This shows a writing system primarily based on vowels, using certain modifications to indicate consonants. Hellenistic tachygraphy is reported from the 2nd century BCE onwards, though there are indications that it might be older. The oldest datable reference is a contract from Middle Egypt, stating that Oxyrhynchos gives the “semeiographer” Apollonios for two years to be taught shorthand writing. Hellenistic tachygraphy consisted of word stem signs and word ending signs. Over time, many syllabic signs were developed.
In Ancient Rome, Marcus Tullius Tiro (103–4 BCE), a slave and later a freedman of Cicero, developed the Tironian notes so that he could write down Cicero’s speeches. Plutarch (c. 46 – c. 120 CE) in his “Life of Cato the Younger” (95–46 BCE) records that Cicero, during a trial of some insurrectionists in the senate, employed several expert rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous words in a few short strokes, to preserve Cato’s speech on this occasion. The Tironian notes consisted of Latin word stem abbreviations (notae) and of word ending abbreviations (titulae). The original Tironian notes consisted of about 4000 signs, but new signs were introduced, so that their number might increase to as many as 13,000. In order to have a less complex writing system, a syllabic shorthand script was sometimes used. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Tironian notes were no longer used to transcribe speeches, though they were still known and taught, particularly during the Carolingian Renaissance. After the 11th century, however, they were mostly forgotten.
When many monastery libraries were secularized in the course of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, long-forgotten manuscripts of Tironian notes were rediscovered (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
“Could you learn to love me?” ask the young man.
“Well,” sighed the young lady. “I did learn shorthand in just three months.”
Second, a Song:
Martin and Lewis were an American comedy duo, comprising singer Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis. They met in 1945 and debuted at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 25, 1946; the team lasted ten years to the day. Before they teamed up, Martin was a nightclub singer, while Lewis performed a comedy act lip-synching to records.
They performed in nightclubs, and, starting in 1949, on radio. Later they branched out into television and films. In their early radio days they performed as Martin and Lewis but later became hugely popular as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. These full names helped them launch successful solo careers after parting.
Martin and Lewis were the hottest act in America during the early ’50s, as well as the highest paid act in show business according to a 1951 Life magazine article the duo was featured in while on their most successful movie tour promoting That’s My Boy. The tour was so successful, audience members would not leave their seats, so Martin and Lewis began doing “free shows” afterwards on fire escapes or out their dressing room windows, jamming the streets with adoring fans hoping to catch a prize – a hat, a shoe, maybe an autograph. However, the pace and the pressure soon took their toll. Martin usually had the thankless job of the straight man, and his singing had yet to develop into his unique style of his later years. The critics praised Lewis, and while they admitted that Martin was the best partner he could have, most of them claimed that Lewis was the real talent of the team and could succeed with anyone. Lewis praised Martin in his book Dean & Me, where he called Martin one of the great comic geniuses of all time (per Wikipedia).
Here is Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis performing “That Certain Party”. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a video of their performing the song. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” – Leo Tolstoy
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky