Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Telegraphese

blusk
Not applicable
On my "365 New Words A Day" calendar (okay, I am a word geek) that I got for Christmas last year, I just found the word telegraphese, which means to communicate in a terse, brief style like a telegraph operator would.  Many of you are too young to remember telegrams, but for over 100 years they served as a predecessor of e-mail and text/IM messaging by providing almost instant written communication.  Telegraph companies like Western Union would charge by the word, so it became important to pare any communication to the barest minimum of words to keep the costs down.  Telegrams came printed in all capital letters and without punctuation.  The word "STOP" was used to signify a break in thought.  Many a parent of college students would receive a late night telegram delivered by messenger that might read, "AM BROKE STOP SEND MONEY ASAP STOP JUNIOR".  One of history's most famous telegrams was sent by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst to painter Frederic Remington and war correspondent Richard Davis in Cuba after the USS Maine blew up in Havana harbor in 1897.  "YOU FURNISH THE PICTURES AND I'LL FURNISH THE WAR" and he did just that.  Hearst would have had a field day with text-messaging because these phone messages have pared communications down even more to the absolute minimum by using abbreviations and shortcuts.  Does "lol" and "c u" ring a bell?  Hearst could have sent his famous telegram this way:  "need pic asap 4 war post." There is a place, a time, and a need for telegraphese, but adjectives and adverbs enrich our lives and our communications.  They contribute meaning, context, passion, and emotion to our written words.  In my position, I have the opportunity to read beautifully written letters (both by our Customers and our Employees) and articles for publication, along with some wonderful posts and comments for this blog.  I don't mean everyone has to go overboard like Faulkner, but the English language is a beautiful repository of wonderful words that can express just the right meaning.  It also contains tons of words with double meanings that provide a goldmine of material for punsters like me that will hopefully make a reader LMAO. I didn't mean this to be a rant about language (and I didn't even get to "business/technology speak," which drives me absolutely crazy), but maybe it will get everyone thinking about what they write.  Remember, your written word can last forever, and it reflects upon you. Hopefully you are LOL. C U later.
36 Comments