Handwriting: Val's Shorthand Suggestions

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Mon Dec 22 22:18:02 UTC 2008

SignWriting List
December 22, 2008

Hello Sandy!
Thank you for this email...my answers are in-between your paragraphs  
below ;-)

Sandy Fleming wrote:
> I've tried writing with these "shorthand" suggestions and I too, love
> it! This seems to bring the feel of SignWriting much closer to the  
> feel
> of writing rather than drawing to me. The signs are written more  
> simply
> so that once I've written one a few times it becomes much easier to
> write it again without having to think about how it's made.

Wonderful! I am glad to hear this Sandy!

In the 1970s and 1980s we had real success with the Shorthand, not  
only for SignWriting but for DanceWriting too. As you know, I taught  
DanceWriting at the Boston Conservatory of Music Dance Department from  
1976-1981, and it was a requirement of all Freshmen to learn  
DanceWriting. I had 25 to 50 students in one classroom at a time, and  
I would ask all of them to sit on the floor with rolls of paper and to  
write "what they saw", looking at a dancer, without looking down at  
their hands...I taught them a very specific system that was written in  
two textbooks of mine...Dance Writing Shorthand for Classical Ballet  
and DanceWriting Shorthand for Modern and Jazz Dance, and people  
really learned a systematic way of writing dance by hand...this was  
then applied to writing SignWriting Shorthand, and that book was  
written in 1981 I believe...we did hundreds of signs in a dictionary  
written in the shorthand in that textbook, and it is from that book  
that Dr. Karen van Hoek started to use the Shorthand as a handwriting  
and insisted back around year 2000 that we officially make the  
shorthand, the SW cursive handwriting...and it is really my fault that  
we did not do it immediately...as we have recently discussed here, I  
felt like other things took priority, and also the old Shorthand book  
only has the symbols related to how we wrote in the 1980s, so the book  
would need to be expanded to fit with the writing in 2009...but if you  
are interested, here on the SW List, to help me, I could  scan in one  
page at a time of the old Shorthand book and we could all read it  
together and then adapt it together to fit our modern times? If you  
are game, I am...we could do two pages a week or something like that...

Sandy wrote....(see Val's comments below)...
> I've attached an attempt at writing a brief anecdote that runs in my
> family. Since it's not "phonetic" as SignWriting usually is and it's  
> in
> BSL, you may have some difficulty with it, so I'll go through it here.
> The larger sign on the left says "elephant", which is my title for the
> story.
> Sign-for-sign, it then goes like this:
> aLongTimeAgo Scotland h-a-w-i-c-k | cousin me | andUncle me | street
> justWalkingAlong || circus carnivalComingTowardsThem
> bothWatchingItGoingBy finish || uncle askChild elephant didYouSee? ||
> cousinLooksUpAtHim elephant what? ||
> Or in English:
> A long time ago in Hawick in Scotland my cousin and uncle were walking
> along the street when a circus carnival came by. They watched it  
> passing
> and when it was gone my uncle asked my cousin, "Did you see the
> elephant?" He said, "What elephant?"
> Some notes on the writing:
> elephant: the handshape here is a full "C" without the palm drawn. I
> hope this is clear enough for someone who's used to it.
> h-a-w-i-c-k: When signing with someone at a bar I noticed how she was
> holding her drink in one hand and doing two-handed fingerspelling with
> her free hand only. It occurred to me that you often see this and it
> might be a good way of writing two-handed fingerspelling in a simpler
> way that still makes sense to native BSLers. Combining this with Val's
> suggestion of not writing the palms, this is the result. I've  
> sometimes
> written both hands when that emphasises the connection with the Latin
> letter, as for "K" in this word.
> andUncle: the single head nod which sometimes means "and" I've written
> without the arrowhead. I've been doing this for a long time for head
> nods and shakes.
> street: I perhaps wrote this sign too quickly as it's a bit out of
> shape! it's two "American-H" hands written with the palms because the
> orientation is unusual so I felt it had to be indicated.
> justWalkingAlong: I've missed out the arrowheads again, this time for
> the "relaxed pout" on the mouth indicating that the walk is "as  
> normal".
> The half-arrowhead is horizontal, but if I'd been more careful it  
> would
> have been diagonal!
> circus: I hope this is clear, it's supposed to be twisting three  
> curved
> fingers (thumb, index and middle) about the nose like a clown nose.
> carnivalComingTowardsUs: again, I wrote the palms because I felt the
> orientation was unusual.
> bothWatchingItGoingBy: for a while now I've just repeated arrowheads  
> to
> indicate repeated movements, so this arrow is swept through three  
> times,
> in BSL indicating an activity that went on for some time.
> finish: the two little lines are thumbs; the arrows are supposed to be
> moving upwards but I didn't draw them doubled; I didn't worry so much
> about clarity because this sign is used very frequently and couldn't  
> be
> mistaken for anything else.
> what: again, I've missed the arrowheads as this shaking from side to
> side movement should be clear enough to BSLers.
> Will everybody be able to see this? What's best to submit graphics in,
> Sandy Fleming


Val finishes:

WOW! This is amazingly close to what the sw shorthand looks like back  
in the 1980s...you just made my heart sing!

I have to go out for an appointment right now, but when I come back, I  
will try to give you some feedback on the symbols in the Shorthand and  
you will see that your writing and our Shorthand are very close...

I only wish I could find Karen van Hoek...Karen - if you are out  
there, please write to us...you have so much skill with using  
Shorthand as a daily writing system...

I have been searching for Karen for some time ..... so if anyone knows  
how to contact Karen please tell me!

We miss you Karen - Lucinda O'Grady Batch asked me about you the other  
day and sends her love to you...

So later I will write again, Sandy, to show you how similar signs  
would be written in the Shorthand and you will see it is  
close...congratulations on picking this up so quickly and thank you  
too, for taking the time...I really appreciate it ;-))

Val ;-)

Sandy's diagram attached:

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