Elements of telegraphic style, 1928

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When I was a kid I read the entire Danny Dunn series. One of them, Danny Dunn & The Swamp Monster, started with Professor Bullfinch receiving a puzzling telegram. It was partly puzzling because it was written in economical telegramese which Professor Bullfinch explained.

The scientist who sent it, Dr. Fenster, was also hilariously absentminded and sent it to the wrong person. The telegram intended for Professor Bullfinch went to somebody else. I felt like Fenster was a kindred spirit and was sorry he didnā€™t show up in any other books.

Iā€™m sure this comment was relevant when I started writing it but that seems to have gotten lost along the way.


conversation is free association occasionally punctuated by shouts of off topic fullstop


Ha! I grew up within walking distance of the address in that telegram. Small world.

Telegrams! Wow that brings back memories of the old century!

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If 20th is three words, what are they?

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They charged a word each for digits and punctuation. The suffix ā€œthā€ counts an additional word.

Mr. Ross notes:




You know someone tried that! Be very interested to learn how that conversation went.

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I got curious and tried to find prices for telegrams when they were still a thing in German-speaking countries - were they word- or character-based? Unlimited compounding has some fun result, RindfleischetikettierungsĆ¼berwachungsaufgabenĆ¼bertragungsgesetz is a totally proper noun.

No luck, though. Google does not like my search terms.


I have one of the Western Union ā€˜strip printerā€™ machines that prints those long thin gummed strips, and some gummed tape also, which may or may not still be any good. And a tape gumming gizmo. From an estate sale of a Western Union repairman. Want 'em? Cheap. Shipping expensive.

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There have been books written about this subject. Businesses would invent code words to convey entire phrases, then the Western Union folks would get upset and ban code words, then some other cost-cutting trick would surfaceā€¦


I got married in 1980 and one of the best things about that day was receiving a TELEGRAM!!! Yup, friends of ours sent us a Western Union Telegramā€¦apparently WU still did that (although, Iā€™m guessing, it was no longer as a cost-saving measure). I still have it. One of my favorite relics from the marriage.

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Father and Man?

Sounds like a Cheech and Chong bit.

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