Saturday, 20 November 2010

Txt spk 4u from 1777

Don’t worry I’ve not gone crazy, well no more than usual. I have started work on transcribing the Kelso Dispensary records which we told you about a few months ago. They are very neat but full of abbreviations and it struck me that despite the slightly highbrow opinion that shortening words to squeeze more into a text message is a terrible thing to do, the same kind of thing was done two centuries ago, and ultimately for the same reason.

Stop and think for a moment, you are running an institution back in 1777, paper is expensive, you need to record certain information; how will you organize your page? The later records, post industrialisation, have one page dedicated to each patient. Back in 1777, however paper was much more expensive, and these records cram about 24 people to each page with almost the same amount of information included. They have managed to do this by not wasting space on the pages just as their modern counterparts don’t waste text messages.

There is less blank space but also many abbreviations: for example: Tho – Thomas, Recovd – recovered and Apr  – April. So next time you receive a message from a text abbreviation user don’t be so quick to complain but remind yourselves that they are following in the footsteps of your frugal ancestors.

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