More on early txtng

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Aug 20 06:30:24 UTC 2010

On Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 1:44 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> On Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 2:31 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> At 2:20 PM -0400 8/19/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> >At 8/19/2010 02:08 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> >>Sorry, it's 1832, "To Miss Catherine Jay, of Utica"
>> >
>> >Good enough to put down the British Library, being before their 1867.
>> >
>> Yup, by a generation. Back when I posted this in 2002, I was
>> wondering if anyone else had other examples of alphanumeric
>> proto-texting of the "b4" type from the early 19th c. but nobody
>> responded.  Of course the quest is still open, and now the prize is
>> to see by how many years we can antedate those Brits!  (It wouldn't
>> surprise me if someone found other examples from the newspapers of
>> the 1820s, when the "O.K." fad was in full flower.)
> My latest Word Routes column takes this light-verse tradition back to
> 1828, but finds its origins in the UK, not the US. Our KTJ of UTK
> (Katie Jay of Uticay) is trumped by their LNG of Q (Ellen Gee of Kew)
> and MLE K of UL (Emily Kay of Ewell). Read all about it:
> Links therein:
> "Dirge, to the Memory of Miss Ellen Gee of Kew" (New Monthly Magazine, 1828)
> "Elegy to the Memory of Miss Emily Kay (Cousin to Miss Ellen Gee of
> Kew)" (New Monthly Magazine, 1828)
> Horace Smith's version of "Elegy" (The Midsummer Medley for 1830)
> "To Miss Catharine Jay of Utica" (Atkinson's Casket, 1832)
> The 1828 "Elegy" can be found several times in the Early American
> Newspapers database, so it's very likely that it helped kickstart the
> American initialism-play fad of the 1830s.

Oops -- I managed to write that whole thing forgetting that the
example Joel found ("Ingenious Conceit") was published fifteen years
earlier, in 1813. So perhaps those 1828 verses weren't so influential
after all. Sorry about that -- I've appended a note to the column.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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