An initial 4A?

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Jun 28 17:54:13 UTC 2002

In a message dated 6/28/02 12:24:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:

> In reading Allen Walker Read's wonderful round-up on the OK corral

That was "gunfight at the OK corral", which considering the polemics I have
occasionallly seen on the subject, also seems to fit.

Seriously, you are overlooking a major source of condensed spelling, and that
is telegraphese.  Morse code requires a certain amount of time to send the
dihs and dahs for a letter, so if the telegrapher is in a hurry any
abbreviating is beneficial.

In fact telegraphers in the US (and maybe other English-speaking countries)
had the "Phillips code", which was a system of reducing words to a minimal
set of consonants (or something like that.)   "PLS" or "PLZ" for "please" is
an obvious example.

The only telegraphers I have ever seen in action have been a few ham radio
operators.  They have their own standard condensations (not always
A few:
    73    good-bye
    88    love and kisses
    DX    distance
    YL    young lady
    YF    wife (phonetic) also called XYL for "ex-YL"
    DE    from (this one is odd because it is Spanish)

Web Page is
a copy of a 1902 article on telegraphy.  Just one quote:

<Begin quote>
    Expressed in print a laugh is a bald "ha ha!" that requires other words
to describe its quality.  In wire talk the same form is used, but the manner
of rendering it imparts quality to the laughter. In dot-and-dash converse, as
in speech, "ha! ha!" may give an impression of mirthlessness, of mild
amusement, or of convulsion.  The double "i," again, in wire parlance, has a
wide range of meaning according to its rendition.  A few double "i's" are
used as a prelude to a conversation, as well as to break the abruptness in
ending it.  They are also made to express doubt or acquiescence; and in any
hesitation for a word or phrase are used to preserve the continuity of a
divided sentence.  When an order is given in Morse over the wire, the
operator's acknowledgment is a ringing "ii!" which has the same significance
as a sailor's "aye, aye, sir!"
<end quote>

The above sounds like a crude ancestor of today's emoticons.

I did a Google search on "telegraphese".  After asking if I meant
"telegraphs", Google gave me 311 hits, most of which did not deal with Morse
code.  Among the Web pages were ones on aphasia, children learning to speak
Mayan, comparing English and Yinglish, and someone's criticism of Robert A.
Heinlein's writing style.

You might want to check out some of these potential threads.

One other source of "telegraphese" is newspaper headlines.  The headline
writer (generally the copy editor who handles the story) has a limited amount
of space in which s/he has to fill with large type and still produce an
accurate precis of the story.  Many collections exist of unintentionally
humorous headlines, e.g. "DRUNK GETS TWO WEEKS IN VIOLIN CASE".  Or the
Washington Post on the day Soviet Premier Andropov's death was announced,

         - Jim Landau

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