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Wed Dec 23, 2015, 01:19 PM

Question about IM/Twitter short-cut spellings

The current thought about the change to a more phonetic or tortured acronym conveyance of a message - e.g.: "c u soon" or "ttyl" is that people use it as a short cut because they hate to type on their phones.

But why haven't we fallen into this before? Far fewer people before knew how to type than they do now. And with telegrams, brevity saved money.

I see how it evolved to this, but why did it need so darn long?

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Reply Question about IM/Twitter short-cut spellings (Original post)
Tab Dec 2015 OP
Igel Dec 2015 #1
Tab Dec 2015 #2
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2015 #3

Response to Tab (Original post)

Wed Dec 23, 2015, 07:03 PM

1. They didn't.

IRC produced a lot of acronyms to conserve bandwidth when it mattered. AFAIK. IIRC.

Before that I grew up in Balto., Md.

I signed notes "Tx" for "thanks" (thanx).

My girlfriend ended notes with XOXO for "hugs and kisses."

Initials weren't always just single letters. Geo. Washington. "Fr." stood for Franklin. And we often used initials instead of names when the reference was understood. However, epistolic style was important so you wouldn't mangle the language too much. It was important to spell and the idea of sucky spelling being cute or okay was anathema. (These days a lot of students and young adults rely on spell check; they honestly cannot spell and find nothing wrong with it. Some find it to show "solidarity." That's a cultural thing. How you wrote reflected on your education, and if you needed to abbreviate to save on paper, that also reflected on you.

It didn't apply to diaries where time and space were limited. There's a separate "diary style" that people knew. Sometimes reading a diary from the 1700s or 1800s is difficult. The term often is used today to signal dropping obvious pronouns, esp. "I". "Went to church today. Preacher spoke on atonement. M.S. present, didn't speak." It's a very laconic style. But diaries are passe.


Telegrams were by the word. A long word was just a word; a short word was a word. Writing telegraph style meant omitting words. If unnecessary don't include. Message received without superfluous. Say only necessary.

Telegraph style played with syntax to make telegrams contain few words, but words of any length. Function words were limited in use. Save not space, but money.

Before and during that there were also accepted "codes" for some things, esp. if communications weren't unreliable or transmissions had to be kept short. Save transmission time = save money.


When books were hand-set in lead and orthography not so rigid a printer would often choose spellings to fill out a line or reduce a line length, esp. at or near a page break. That squish saved hassle, = saving time or paper = saving money. You wouldn't want to have a correction add a few letters, causing you to have to reset 10 additional pages. Manual typesetting didn't have "flow" like a modern word processor.

In manuscripts you find a welter of abbreviations. Helped a teacher of mine transcribe a bunch of 17th-land records when I was in high school. Getting past chancellery script was one thing, but the mss. dripped abbrs.

in the middle ages and before you found a lot of abbreviations. Writing materials were in short supply, so you'd use the materials parsimoniously--and reuse them (giving rise to palimpsests).

I only know Slavic traditions, but there was a symbol, a "titul" (the Russian/Slavonic word) that you'd put over a word to let the reader know it was an abbreviation. Like that extra "." we use. Some abbreviations were standard, others made on the fly. The titul was important not because somebody might not understand that "In the b-g G- cr-d the h-ns and the earth" but to help them in dealing with "Inthebggcrdthehnsandtheearth""--this is before we had the luxury of white space to divide words.

That was when boustrophedon wasn't unheard of. Go figure.

You want an orthographic mess, look at things like the Novgorodian birchbark fragments. No standard orthography, limited material to write on, and often not great educational backgrounds.


BTW, there have been movements to revise the orthography to be more phonetic. That's a no-go zone. Which dialect would you use? The thing about English orthography is that it's archaic and while it may privilege one dialect a bit more than another, there's no clear winner. Even then, people like Mencken tried to have a minor set of revisions for newsprint, with words like "thru" instead of "through".

Of course, things like "c u" are more alphabetic rebuses than actual abbreviations.

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Response to Igel (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 23, 2015, 07:51 PM

2. Thank you for a thoughtful response

But in telegraphy, wouldn't "ttyl" (one word) (or some equivalent) trump "talk to you later" (four words)?

I guess I'm just surprised we haven't boiled this down before.

Personally I hate today's spelling habits. I grew up reading books. Granted, today's spelling problems (IMHO) is a result of not reading stuff in print. Personal hatred: Using "loose" instead of "lose". It's self perpetuating. People type what they hear, and then others type what they see the first type, and it goes to hell from there.

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Response to Igel (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 30, 2015, 05:28 PM

3. About spell check

Last edited Thu Dec 31, 2015, 02:27 PM - Edit history (2)

Theirs sum kine of errors it wont fined.

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