Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Eagles and L-Hooks

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 1 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot
Eagle with handler
Visitor from Eagle Heights
Sanctuary, Kent

Hello Readers, My name is Eagle. You met Crow last month, but now you need to practise plenty of the L* Hooks to straight strokes. I am glad to say that* we eagles have a good supply of hooks, but we call them beaks and talons, or you could* say claws. They give you a clue as to how we apply ourselves to the subtle skill of clasping our prey. From their point of view*, eagles are a plague and a blight, but I am completely confident* that I can tackle the job without any glitches. To me it is as easy as playing. My blinking gleaming eyes can see everything equally well, a playful mouse or glossy black beetle scuttling close by in the clumps of grass, plump ducklings* waddling and paddling through clay ponds and puddles, hares in the ploughed field and placid cattle in the distance. I survey the scene from every angle, the tangles of  bushes and the jungle of grasses. I never get complacent and I plunge on my target with deliberate and complete boldness, and a sense of glee and gladness at the pleasing conclusion of my hunt.

* L stroke on its own is written upwards

* Not phrased, so that it doesn't get misread as "you can"

* Omission phrase "point (of) view"

* You can use proximity for two con- outlines in succession, if preferred

* Derived from "duck+ling" therefore does not use K and L Hook

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 2 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Ship's badge
Ship's badge
National Maritime Museum
Our nest of cluttered twigs clings to the bleak cliffs, on ledges of brittle chalk and unstable rubble, or sometimes glossy marbled rocks. We replicate ourselves with our annual clutch of blotchy speckled eggs and provide a surplus of new eagles to claim the land. When the wind blows, I am able to glide through the clouds, straddling earth and sky. I hover over the shingle shores and glassy blue lakes for fish, leaving ripples and circles of waves as I fly away cradling my prey in my claws, which are as sharp as a sickle. My terrible talons clench tight as a buckle and stick like glue to my prize.

* glossy/glassy - inserting the first vowel is essential, as their meanings are similar

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 3 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

In spring the fields bloom and blossom with purple heather, the birds warble and the gaggles of sheep start to gambol. In summer I search the blank grasslands for the glut of scuttling voles and paddle in the gurgling river for fish. At the end of the year, I redouble my efforts, flying over the clearings and arable fields again, rectangles and triangles of glowing golden stubble. Not a single animal in this place escapes my notice, whether a bedraggled rat snuggled in a mottled bundle of hay nibbling the seeds, a lone sheep dawdling and toddling* along the bridle path across the plateau or a rabbit huddled under a nettle patch underneath the telegraph cables.

* Ensure toddle and dawdle are written clearly, as their meanings are similar

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 4 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

On the mountainside where I live, pupils from the camping club climb to the pinnacle. They settle beside their cold tents, clad in glamorous designer-label clothes with glitzy glass goggles and plastic rain cloaks with dangling toggles. Their meals are not at all frugal and they fiddle with noodles and a soup ladle in a hot kettle. They cook a cluster of apple and plum flavoured bagels mingled with flour on the portable griddle. They have a couple of bottles of clean potable water in their satchels and cuddle their soup cups close to themselves. A squiggly bolt of lightning and a clearly audible blood-curdling clap of thunder rattles their camp and sends them scuttling inside, as the rain tumbles down the rocks. Their giggles turn to complaining about the colder cloudy weather and they prattle and clatter on about blue-sky summer days and a more pleasant and less changeable climate. Their actions disclose the fact that* they have been too cosseted and coddled, and they are now in a battle when they thought it would be a doddle.

* Omission phrase "disclose the (f)act that"

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 5 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The climbers are now completely gloomy and glum, like skittles that have tumbled over. Their mettle seems to be largely lacking, and their laughable efforts end up bungled and mangled. The storm settles in and in their muddle they dismantle the tangled tent, they "turn turtle" and "pull the plug", driving home at full throttle, or clumsily throwing themselves onto the saddles of their cycles, and seeing if haply they can get home before the stormy* blasts begin. Their memorable holiday, to which they felt entitled, culminates in them telephoning for help. I am tempted to chuckle and chortle but I can only conclude that it is a complete riddle why these local people should wish to get in such a pickle, although equally I must pay them the compliment of having the pluck to make the attempt.

* Insert the last vowel, as "storm blasts" would also make sense

Roc ship's figurehead
The mythical Roc (ship's figurehead,
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 6 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I know I have been blowing my own trumpet and sounding my own bugle, and declaring my own admirable, noble and almost infallible personality. But I'm no poodle or mythical creature, and as King of the Birds I am as bold in completing my blog article as when I am at home on my cliff in the mountains. I recommend this single-mindedness and boldness as a miraculous and entirely suitable way to clear the blockages that occur when you find you are struggling and juggling with your own writing scribbles. All these resemble the quarry grasped in my claws and it is reasonable to recall my uncomplicated attitude and not allow these clogging mental intrusions to amplify themselves or strangle your performance for a single minute.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 7 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Eagle's feet and talons
My radical suggestion to clarify this situation* is to replace these niggles and keep your mind as brutally sharp as an eagle's talons and clutch your prey outlines with the pen nib as I do with my claws. Instead of sitting at the table dabbling placidly and feebly over slow vocal babblings, your endeavours in this valuable classic system will blossom and you will be able to gloat over the numerical increase, maybe even double, in your typical speed of writing, including all the technical, legal, clerical, classical and political material. Yours truly, deeply, boldly, and regally, King Eagle

* Uses Ses Circle to indicate the two words, although only one S is actually sounded.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 8 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Our friend Eagle has done quite well but he does not know all the shorthand outline variations, so here are some extras to practise. The hooked version is generally used for the verbs, so that derivatives can be written without changing the form of the outline. Mottle, mottled, mottling means a colouring of spots. Gold, silver and iron are metals, and they have a metallic sheen. A metalled road is one that is surfaced with broken stone. The science of metal-working is metallurgy. Mettle means fortitude or courage, and is actually a variant spelling of "metal" that arose in the 18th century. Meddle meddled meddling mean to interfere, and muddle muddled muddling mean to confuse or mix up. To model means to shape or mould. Compare the nouns medal, medallion, middle, and the adjectives medial, middling and modal, from mode.
Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 9 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The following do not use the L Hook. Idle means doing nothing or lazy, and the outline uses full strokes so that the diphthong can be joined. An image that is worshipped is called an idol and a popular performer may be idolised. Idyllo idyll (two pronunciations) means a charming pastoral scene and the adjective is idyllic or idyllic (also two pronunciations). Swaddle means to wrap or swathe a baby in long cloths, known as swaddling clothes, and the past tense is swaddled.

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 10 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The short form hand gives us handle, handled, handling, manhandle and mishandle. This same stroke is also used in candle, kindle, swindle, swindled, fondle, fondled (but note fondly), and similarly disgruntled. Startle, startled, startling means to surprise suddenly. Myrtle is an evergreen shrub with fragrant white flowers. Unsettle, unsettled, resettle, resettled, cannot used a hook because the first stroke has to be able to join. A bridle is the harness used to control a horse. A bride wears a bridal outfit at her wedding. A hurdle is what you jump over in order to get your shorthand from 99 words a minute to 101 words a minute!

Eagles & L-Hooks - Part 11 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Truman's Eagle Brand Beers old pub sign
The following have distinguishing outlines. Gentle means kindly or easy, and Gentile means a non-Jew. Gentleman, gentlemanly and gentlemen are short forms. Vital, fatal, futile - vital means essential for life or success, fatal means causing death, destruction or complete failure. Futile means an ineffective or useless action and comes from a Latin word meaning easily poured out or melted - just how you feel when the speaking was too fast for your present level of shorthand skill. The nouns are vitality, fatality and futility. It is vital to practise regularly, avoiding the fatal error of hesitation, and remembering that it is quite futile to resist the urge to pick up your pen and write everything you hear in shorthand. (1413 words)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Crows, Ravens and R-Hooks

Crows, Ravens & R-Hooks - Part 1 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

CrowHello readers, I'm Crow. I have been asked to give a brief description of our daily life so that you can practise your R-Hooks. I am glad that she didn't bother to ask the ravens or rooks to contribute, as they are not as smart as me, and I am sure you prefer to hear about us clever crows. I have been given a word list that needs to be practised, which I propose to follow perfectly, and if you are even a quarter* as clever as a crow, you will soon be producing your cursive curly scribbles at a hundred birds a minute. At least I think that is what she said. In any case, after lots of persistent and eager practising, you will be flying along towards your grand goal as fast as we do - as the crow flies, in fact.

* "quarter" can also be written with just a doubled Kway stroke above the line (optional contraction)

Crows, Ravens & R-Hooks - Part 2 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Crows eating breadI live in the park* surrounding Danson Lake in Bexleyheath in Kent, UK. The trees grow tall and straight, and there are acres of green grass full of dinners in the form of* grubs and worms. We crows spend our leisure time in the upper branches of the trees, where it is bright and breezy, and we have a particularly good view of all the free dinner opportunities. We are quite dapper in our black plumage but occasionally you may see one of us dressed with a few drab grey feathers, or maybe a silver streak on the wings. Sometimes we sit and preen, or sleep and dream, and sometimes we prepare to play pranks on the visitors as soon as an opportunity presents itself. When they bring out their bread and crisps, we cry out with a loud "caw" to let our friends know dinner is probably on offer. We like to prove how brave we are, so we press ahead towards them, and eagerly grab any morsels that the eaters drop. We can be quite bold and brash, as we approach in order to try and get the prize*, but the price* of shrinking back is going without supper.

* "park" on its own has full strokes P-Ray-K

* Omission phrase "in (the) f(orm of)"

* "prize/price" have the same outline

Crows, Ravens & R-Hooks - Part 3 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Crow with some white wing feathers
My friend White Wing
It's a pretty easy life and a brilliant way to clear up the great quantity of crumbs. We especially enjoy the crispy* dry batter from their fish and chip dinners which they often throw in our direction. If we need to break up a piece of bread, we fly up into one of the larger tree branches with our treasure and trim it to size, being careful* not to drop any of it. Sometimes groups of visitors traipse and trudge over the grass and we follow in case they drop or throw more food. Occasionally we congregate on the ground near the stream and bridge where the ducks and drakes get fed, and we draw or drag out fragments that fall near the muddy edges. We don't mind them dripping with water, as it makes the hard bread crusts easier to eat.

* Insert the last vowel, as "crisp" would also make sense

* Optional contraction

Crows, Ravens & R-Hooks - Part 4 of 4 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Two crows sitting on roofYou might* like to find out the difference between crows, ravens (bigger size) and rooks (with white face) in the video from the British Trust for Ornithology. However, I am quite sure that everyone is in agreement that crows are the very best of the three, especially as we are the only ones whose name is written with a true and proper R-Hook. We may be smaller and not so strong, but I can truthfully brag that we are super brainy, with bright sharp minds, and a most impressive capacity for problem solving. It is intelligence and bravery, as well as regular training and practising a rapid response, that improves our personal performance and enables our efforts to get better as time progresses. I hope you agree with my remarks and remember me and my friends next time you write one of those hooks. My final remark is - the crow who dares wins! Yours truly, Crow. (644 words)

* Always write "might" separately, as in a phrase it could be misread as "may". It is more reliable to write it separately so that it occupies its correct position, and would not be misread even without any vowel sign.


Flock of crows in trees

Friday, 22 August 2014


Books - Part 1 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

On my first day at primary school at the age of four, I was introduced to the necessity of reading in the very first hour. A low table contained rows of name cards, rectangles with large neat black words and a long loop of cord attached to each end. We had to find our own name, with some help, wear it round our neck for a while, and then place it back on the table later on in the morning. They were various colours, so this made things slightly easier. They were not to teach reading, but enabled the teacher to learn our names, and so keep order, but it was an introduction to the fact that* we would have to learn to identify different marks and that not all marks meant* the same thing. I was quite pleased to see my name written down and it just asked to be admired, looked after and found correctly each day. I would be learning other words, but none would compare to that important one!

* Omission phrase "to the (f)act that"

* Keep the halved M small, as "mean" would make also make sense here

Books - Part 2 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Shorthand booksMy reading performance in school did not get off to a particularly good start. The classroom environment was a hurdle in itself, sometimes stern and quiet, and at other times boisterous, very different from life at home, and it could easily overshadow a child's ability to learn and answer questions. These distractions had an adverse effect on my reading and writing skills progress. One day my Mum told me that the headmistress Mrs Goldby* had asked if I would like to do a little bit of extra reading with her in her office. I agreed to this and was delighted to find that I could* actually read quite well when away from all the noise and bustle of the classroom. In the quiet of her room I could give it my full attention and go at my own pace. I just needed an extra boost to overcome the distractions and I was soon reading as well as the others. Mrs Goldby always had a very cheerful, jolly and friendly manner, full of smiles and encouragement. She must have helped countless children get started on reading and I was certain that she deserved her wonderful golden surname.

* Personal names do not use short forms, as context cannot help, hence the vocalised G stroke here.

* "could" is generally not phrased, while "can" is phrased, so that they are not misread for each other. The exception is "could not" which is different from "cannot"

Books - Part 3 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Book spine in a curve
Once I had realised that words on the page were someone talking to me, the prospect of getting stories and information from books, without anyone else's help, provided all the incentive necessary to continue. The illustrations told much of the story, but the words told me what the characters were saying, thinking and planning. A teacher talking to a child in a class can sometimes intimidate because of the expectation of an instant answer, but a book page talking to me was silent, calm, orderly, pleasant and helpful. I held all the power and I was mistress of all I surveyed - on the page, that is.

Books - Part 4 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Long before school days, I had played at reading. I would hold up a big newspaper, bury my face in it and look left and right, as if following the lines, and announce "Look, I'm reading!" I thought that was all that it involved. I played at writing on piles of lined paper, producing page after page of loops, and gained huge enjoyment watching them emerge from the end of the pencil. Now I could read and write for real, and it was quite a revelation that these activities involved the transmission* of information between paper and mind, rather than just empty physical movements.

* The N is omitted in "tra(n)smission"and many other "trans-" outlines

Books - Part 5 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Book falling apart
Loved to bits
Once your shorthand has become familiar, it begins to convey information instantly, instead of having to be slowly picked at, puzzled over and deciphered. This is a slow and frustrating process at first, but I can assure you that it speeds up quite quickly, as long as you read, write and use it regularly, and do not neglect it for long periods. Longhand never needs deciphering, it just jumps off the page with its meaning instantly clear, and shorthand can do the same if given the same amount of time and effort. Unlike longhand, you have to purposely practise shorthand, as you are not surrounded by it everywhere. Once it has become comfortable, rather than hard work, you will be more inclined to use it for writing your own notes, diary or book. It is very satisfying to be able to capture thoughts at the same speed as they arrive.

Books - Part 6 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Knitting booksMy bookshelves contain all I need for inspiration and information on all my interests including many shorthand books, from its beginnings all the way through to the present time. Although I like to have the rows of books, I try not to keep ones that are no longer being read or consulted - firstly to leave room for new ones, and secondly because I resent dusting wads of sewn and glued paper that never move from their places from year to year! They will be someone else's treasure, just as they were to me when I first bought them, and I am always grateful when someone releases a book to be enjoyed by another new owner. I hope you enjoy the book quotes below, written by people who appreciate this most civilised and peaceable way of sharing and gaining information, inspiration and enjoyment.

Books - Part 7 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Egyptian stone tablet
Still speaking after many
thousands of years
(Egyptian Stone tablet
Horniman Museum London)
At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book - that string of confused, alien ciphers - shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. - Alberto Manguel

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for a thousand years. To read is to voyage through time. - Carl Sagan

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are. - Mason Cooley

The love of learning, the sequestered* nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

* "sequester" uses Ster Loop

Books - Part 8 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Pocket shorthand dictionaries
A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. - Henry Miller

Books - the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity. - George Steiner

My grandma always said that God made libraries so that people didn't have any excuse to be stupid. - Joan Bauer

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers. - Charles William Eliot

If there's* a book that you want to read, but it hasn't* been written yet, then you must write it. - Toni Morrison

* "there's" and "hasn't" Apostrophied abbreviations like these are written either as vocalised outlines, or, where not possible, with wavy line underneath, so that they are not misread for the full versions.

Books - Part 9 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Museum old books
Bible from 1486 and
 Pliny's Natural History from 1513
(Museum of London)
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. - Marcus Tullius Cicero

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read. - G.K. Chesterton*

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. - Austin Phelps

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. - Anne Herbert

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? - Henry Ward Beecher

Use shorthand strokes or lower case longhand for initials, whichever is quicker and clearer, but be aware that many strokes are similar and would need a vowel inserted e.g. S C, J G, K Q

* "Chester" on its own uses Ster Loop

Books - Part 10 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. - C.S.* Lewis

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. - Ray Bradbury

Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world! - Neil Gaiman

But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short. - Jane Austen

I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in. - Robert* Louis Stevenson

* See note above on writing initials

* Written thus to distinguish it from "Albert" (L plus halved Br), see also "Alberto" in the first quote

Books - Part 11 of 11 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Side view thick book
The ideal dictionary - covers
as far apart as possible
It's a rare book that wins the battle against drooping eyelids. - Tracy Chevalier

My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water. - Mark Twain

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it. - Moses* Hadas

I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a book mark and flew across the room. - Steven Wright

The covers of this book are too far* apart. - Ambrose Bierce (1382 words)

* Written with full strokes, likewise "Jesus" has Circle S and stroke Ess.

* "far" on its own uses full strokes F and Ar

Friday, 15 August 2014


Papyrus - Part 1 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Papyrus plants in greenhouseI have just returned from a pleasant morning walking through the gardens at Hall Place. The large greenhouse* contains a variety of tropical plants, all densely planted around a long fishpond. As with the rest of the open gardens, everything is educational, with all the plants clearly labelled - cotton, tea, coffee, sugar cane, sweet potato and various tropical fruits such as banana, lemon and orange trees, none of which will grow outside in Britain.

In several places beside the fish pond are some papyrus plants, growing tall and thick, with a spray of little stems and flowers at the top, in an umbrella shape. I instantly recognised these as larger versions of one that is growing at the shallow end of my pond at home, called Cyperus Papyrus or Egyptian Paper Reed. It is shapely and decorative but unfortunately it seeds profusely, just like any other* grass, and so I do my best to remove it whenever it appears, or at least snap off the flowering head to prevent it spreading. I love* paper but I don't love papyrus seedlings everywhere!

* Dot Hay and stroke S for "house" enable a join to be made

* Omission phrase "any oth(er)"

* "I love" not phrased, as this would look the same as "I will have". In normal writing, you would probably not need to vocalise "love". If you had already phrased it, then you would need to go back and insert the vowel for clarity e.g. "I love to do the housework/I will have to do the housework."

Papyrus - Part 2 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Papyrus plant beside pondIn another part of the* park, there were some bamboo clumps and on the grass a few wing feathers from crows and geese. It occurred to me that here was almost everything necessary to get writing, and all that was missing was some charcoal and maybe some grease to mix it with to make ink.

When I got home, I toyed with the idea of rescuing my papyrus plant and letting it grow in isolation in a pot somewhere, so that I could* see if it was possible to make a papyrus sheet of my own. Having read up on all the time needed in cutting, soaking, splicing, gluing, hammering and polishing it, I quickly abandoned that idea.

* Omission phrase "part (of) the". Writing "of" as a hook is avoided, as it would look too much like "number of".

* "I could" is not phrased, to prevent misreading as "I can". "Could not" can be phrased safely, as "cannot" is written differently.

Papyrus - Part 3 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

I did once buy a piece of "papyrus" with Egyptian hieroglyphs* on it - human* figures, birds, beetles, obelisks and other shapes, in vertical rows, and a drawing or two of colourful seated personages. It was a very cheap seaside souvenir, and I think it was made of bits of flattened English straw woven into something that looked like a small place mat, with the picture printed on and a thin coating of glue to hold it all together*. It was not long before it fell apart, and this made it look even more like a fragment of antiquity, as the shreds came away. I think it may have had a small label stuck on the back - souvenir of Margate. King Rameses would have loved it and would most certainly have immediately put it on his bedside table to remind him of his day out to the seaside.

* "hieroglyph" is the noun, "hieroglyphic" is the adjective.

* Special outline, above the line to accord with 2nd vowel, to differentiate it from "humane" which is on the line.

* This is not the same as the word "altogether" which has its own short form.

Papyrus - Part 4 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Bamboo sticks
Home grown bamboo pens
As a shorthand writer*, it is easy to feel an instant affinity with the Egyptian scribes, who used a cursive form of hieroglyphic writing known as hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) for their ink writings. As well as papyrus, they wrote notes on plaster tablets*, which were like wax tablets, but instead with a thin coating of plaster on the wood that could be washed clean for reuse. They must have occasionally had stenographic ordeals like our own, as they attempted to get all of a speech or message down with no gaps.

Did they prefer to keep a large supply of papyrus rolls and spare tablets to hand, or did some of the less conscientious ones get down to the end of the roll, only to be requested to take more notes with space rapidly running out? Did they keep on hand a supply of good quality ink cakes and reeds, or did some of them think they could get by with lumpy ink blocks and a blunt reed pen? And did the novice scribes ever have one of those days when the words required did not seem to match the symbols that they had learned, and they were wishing that they had paid more attention in their classes. I think that, just like us, it only took one of these glitches to jolt them into being better prepared for future tasks.

* Omission phrase "short(hand) writer"

* Insert the second vowel sign so that it cannot be misread as "tables"

Papyrus - Part 5 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

With shorthand being less well known nowadays, people like to muse on its secrecy value for those who can write it, hoping that it will be as obscure as a monument or scroll full of hieroglyphs. The Egyptian scribe could definitely count on this, as literacy and schooling was only for officers in the upper ranks of society, with the general population* being illiterate and needing only to know their own trade or craft. However, maybe present-day diarists should not think they can rely on any traditional shorthand system to hide their writings, as it is very easy to present any discovered scribbles (with or without the owner's permission) on the internet and request a translation. So please do not write your computer passwords or credit card pin number in Pitman's, Gregg or Teeline!

* Ensure the shun hook is well formed and open, so that this does not begin to look like "populace" which has the same meaning.

Bamboo stick and shorthand pen

Papyrus - Part 6 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Painting of Roman girl with wax tablet
Roman girl with
booklet of wax tablets
The Egyptian scribes of past millennia were no doubt perfectly happy with their papyrus and wooden writing palettes, just as we are with our writing materials, but I would not want anyone to think that laptops and tablets were merely a modern invention. Have a look at the Wikipedia page for Wax Tablet and in the third photo from the top, you can see a scribe with his laptop tablet on his knees, about to use a stylus and looking remarkably modern. He has obviously had quite enough of typing with two fingers, and cannot be bothered to learn to touch type. Maybe we should ask him what app he is using to write directly* on the screen, although it does actually look like the "Bamboo" graphics tablet with stylus that I have in front of me.

* You can also write this above the line, if you pronounce it "dye-rectly"

Papyrus - Part 7 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

The Seated Scribe, Louvre, Paris
I think Pitman's is faster,
but The Seated Scribe has
had 4,500 years to practise
(see link below)
The ancient Egyptian scribes occupied a high position in their society, as they were administrators as well as writers, in control of government and historical records, and indeed all written information. They were exempt from heavy manual labour, military service and paying taxes, because of their valuable skills. Their sons went through long apprenticeships and inherited their fathers' jobs, so maintaining a high level of skill throughout the generations. They were part of the upper classes or even the royal court, although there were many more lesser scribes lower down the scale, for the more mundane tasks of keeping accounts and business transactions. Their five-year apprenticeships would have covered the formal symbols and the faster day-to-day* cursive writing, as well as training in all the other administrative* duties of the profession.

* Inserting the dash marks is textbook correct for this, the rule being "A dash in the longhand is always shown in the shorthand where the outlines cannot be joined" but in actual use it is perfectly readable without them.

* Omits the R "administ(r)ative", similarly derivatives and similar words - administration, ministry, demonstrate etc.

Papyrus - Part 8 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

Sphinxes on bench ends, Embankment, London
Sphinx seats, London Embankment
Papyrus Lansing, kept in the British Museum, is a school book containing an exhortation to become a scribe, with dire warnings to avoid the toil, pain and misery of other manual trades, and encouragement to attain the position, wealth and "good life" that could be enjoyed by the successful scribe. It was a practice text to be copied out by the students, who were obviously being given no opportunity to forget what might befall them if they neglected* their studies:

"By day write with your fingers; recite by night. Befriend the scroll, the palette. It pleases more than wine. Writing for him who knows it is better than all other professions. It pleases more than bread and beer, more than clothing and ointment."

And later on: "You are dressed in fine clothes; you own horses. Your boat is on the river; you are supplied with attendants. You stride about inspecting. A mansion is built in your town. You have a powerful office, given you by the king . . . Put the writings in your heart, and you will be protected from all kinds of toil. You will become a worthy official."

* Short line struck through the last stroke of a contraction is an advanced method to show past tense, where the context could mean either.

Papyrus - Part 9 of 9 - Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! Blogspot

We already know how to read and write, so our shorthand is much quicker to learn, needing less than* a year, maybe six months, to get to a good speed, and we have better and more abundant paper, and instant ink in fountain pens that do not need dipping or sharpening. I think we can also be grateful for soft adjustable seats and ergonomically designed desks, and that we do not have to sit for hours cross-legged on the floor using the standard Egyptian linen kilt stretched across our knees as a table, on which to balance a writing board and paper. I hope that your shorthand studies are proceeding as swiftly as the scribe's pen, and that the only hard manual labour involved is that of practising until you can produce your streamlined hieroglyphs at a hundred words a minute and beyond. (1419 words)

* Downward L is used, to enable this phrase to be made, "less" on its own has upward L

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hieroglyphs/Y Item Y3 shows the hieroglyphic sign for "scribe" showing 2-hole palette for black and red ink cakes, water bottle and reed pen holder.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_tablet  One of the illustrations shows a scribe with his laptop tablet on his knees, looking remarkably modern.

www.brooklynmuseum.org/community/blogosphere/2010/09/22/pigments-and-inks-typically-used-on-papyrus Interesting closeups of inks and pigments on the surface of the papyrus.

http://musee.louvre.fr/oal/scribe/indexEN.html Photos, text and narration describing in detail the 4,500-year-old statue of The Seated Scribe in The Louvre, Paris. His intense expression is the same as countless shorthand writers over the centuries, as they fasten their attention on the speaker, ready to start writing immediately.

www.u.arizona.edu/~afutrell/w%20civ%2002/paplansing.html Full text of Papyrus Lansing "Beginning of the instruction in letter writing", with many details of life at that time.