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THOUGH every day brings short-hand writing more into use, yet the notions held concerning it, both by the general public and by men in college, are still very erroneous. For the latter these mistaken ideas are particularly unfortunate, since short-hand can hardly be of greater benefit to any one than to those studying for a profession and constantly requiring notes of important lectures, in which each sentence contains a fact or suggestion not to be lost without injury. The life of professional men, too, presents many opportunities when the employment of a mode of writing four or five times quicker than any other will afford the much-needed hour or half-hour for rest and enjoyment. The lawyer in his cases, the minister in his sermons, the business man in his records and copies, the author in his daily jottings and quotations from books too rare or expensive to be within his purchasing power, - all these may find a most valuable help from this "ready writing." Indeed, everybody seems to be so busy nowadays that one cannot but be reluctant to bring forward any pursuit or study that is not itself saving of time; but this is just what shorthand is, and a year's uninterrupted practice of an hour a day is almost certain to furnish the ability to write upwards of a hundred words a minute, or thrice as fast as long-hand writing. So important is the system considered abroad, that stenography is taught in all the private schools of Germany, and attempts have been made to introduce it in this country.
Many people, however, are ready to find fault with short-hand as being stupid and uninteresting. This arises, I think, from simple misapprehension of phonography, or the system of short-hand now in vogue, which has supplanted the many systems that arose after the time of Queen Elizabeth, when short-hand was brought to light again after its long depression since the time of its founder, Tiro, Cicero's freedman.* This phonography was invented by Mr. Isaac Pitman, of Bath, England, and, as its name denotes, is a writing of the sounds heard in speaking. It has, on this account, a great gain over the old systems in additional speed, in simplicity, and in the means it supplies of expressing every language in the same characters, though its value in this respect seems as yet unappreciated by philologians.
Phonography consists of signs for the consonants of the greatest possible mathematical simplicity, and for the vowels of small dots and dashes attached to the consonant signs. The advantage of these signs is that, by their combination, a clear form of the word is presented and taken in at once by the eye, without being separated into its different parts, any more than the ticks of the telegraphic-sounder in expressing a word are separated by a practised ear. The signs are combined according to easily understood principles, and abbreviations, such as small circles and hooks, are added in so methodical a way that the mind is not burdened by their remembrance, but accepts them readily as developments of a general plan. The only arbitrary marks are the "word-signs," which stand for about a hundred of our commonest words, since it is a fact not widely known that one half of all the English spoken and written consists of repetitions of these hundred words.
This, then, in very few words, is the present system of phonography; and if any have been at all interested by this description, I assure them they will be much more so by looking over the works of either Munson or Graham. But I must not close without a warning against the seductive gentlemen who appear now and then in our rooms and offer to teach the whole system in six easy lessons. There are no short cuts in phonography; it is safer to keep on the high-road.
*It is said by some that Father Ennius invented shorthand, but Tiro probably originated the notoe by which his master's speeches were taken down.
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