What's in a Word | All Blogs


By Debra Dobbins

I once applied for a secretarial position that would have included working as a “steno” for the Central City Opera's board of directors.

Despite having shorthand skills acquired in high school, I didn't get the job. That was disappointing, but other professional opportunities came my way — a reminder that life's setbacks may actually lead to better experiences. At any rate, I never got to join the ranks of “stenos,” shorthand for those who know stenography.

The art of stenography seems quaint these days, given our ability to easily record voices. Being able to dictate letters into my smartphone and see words converted into writing still amazes me.

We have other “almost lost” forms of communication, as well: Morse code, the symbolism of maritime flags and phonetic alphabets immediately come to mind as examples. Of course, the Victorians' use of floriography seems defunct, too.

References to these old but still effective forms of communication, however, do crop up in our modern culture. A fun one is found in a popular song (even here in America) by Norwegian singers and brothers, Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker: “What does the fox say?”

But if you meet
a friendly horse
Will you communicate by

Photos special to the Sentinel


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