Handwriting: Val's Shorthand Suggestions

Jonathan duncanjonathan at YAHOO.CA
Mon Dec 29 18:50:21 UTC 2008

Valerie Sutton wrote:
> 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...
    Hi Val,
       I think that it's a great idea.  I was about to volunteer to 
offer to clean up and put the scanned pages together into a PDF for you 
so that you can post it on your web site. I am still offering.   Then we 
would have the old Shorthand book for historical and inspirational 
reasons.  That's if you could scan it all and send it to me.  Even if 
you don't have time to scan it all at once, it would be ok.  Does the 
handbook have many pages?

    I am game to help with the shorthand.  1 a page or 2 a week should 
be fine.  Slow and steady wins the race !!! :-)

    For the last year, I have been drawing and signwriting most of my 
sign related notes.  But recently, I´ve caught myself glossing instead 
because it is so much faster for me.  I strongly agree withe others on 
the list that is is important to be able to write signwriting at a 
decent pace.  This would make it so much more useful than it already is.
    I mentioned the Shorthand to my wife.  She didn't know what it was 
about, then when I explained it to her, she said that would be happy 
that I learn. :-)
    I guess she finds I take a lot of time when I do my signwriting!!! :-)

    Of course, I wouldn't need true Shorthand, what Dr. Karen van Hoek 
suggested sounds like a very good idea to me.   To use Shorthand like 
writing to improve the speed of writing. 

    When do we start?


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,
>> PNG, GIF or JPEG?
>> 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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