At school in the 1970s I hit upon the brilliant idea of replacing the writing system, you know the one where you use the set of twenty-six letters to spell out words, with a system where you spelled out each letter in a word and grouped those spelled letters as ‘words’.
Brilliant idea? Well, when I explained it to my small inner circle of friends at school, we all agreed it was a good idea. Sounds a bit pointless? Yes, it is, and I think that’s why we thought it was a good idea.
How it works is like this, take for instance the word ‘boy’, that’s ‘bee’ plus ‘owe’ plus ‘why’ so ‘boy’ becomes ‘beeowewhy’, simple eh? ‘Black dog’ becomes ‘Beeellayeseekay deeowegee’.
There was a slight stumbling block though, it became apparent that there was not a consensus of opinion on how certain letters ought to be spelled out. The letter ‘h’ for example, is that ‘aych’, ‘aytch’ or ‘aitch’ not to mention that some people would want to pronounce it with a hard ‘h’ so that would make it ‘haitch’. The letter ‘q’ was another bone of contention, ‘cue’, ‘que’, ‘kew’ or ‘queue’? I think in the end we used ‘queue’ because it is a longer word.
By the way, I would be absolutely flabbergasted to discover that I was the only one to have thought of this, surely there must have been others who thought that this was a good idea but I’ve never seen it being done in the mainstream media and I do doubleyouoweendeeeeare doubleyouaitchwhy.
After we’d decided upon the spelling of the letters and we were happy with the process, we moved on a stage. Each letter in a word would be spelled out and then the letters in the new word would spelled out.
So ‘boy’ which became ‘beeowewhy’ would now become
The next logical stage, Captain, was to take it a step further
so ‘boy’ becomes ‘beeowewhy’
and then ‘beeeeeeeeeeeeeeowedoubleyoueedeeoweyoubeeelleewhyoweyo
I’m going to invoke e&oe here, I wrote that out three times as I lost my way twice, so that long string of letters is probably right, maybe…
We’d send each other messages using this notation, and then try to decode them, ah, such simple fun. And remember, this was all done with pen (or pencil) and paper, there were no fancy word processors about in those days.
I like the phrase ‘word processor’, it’s so very descriptive of what it does. I suppose the earliest word processor that I has was the old typewriter on which I used to bash my poems out.
Years later at work, the receptionist, a lovely lady called Valerie, had a wooden leg and a word processor. She’s lost one of her legs in a motorcycle accident when she was young, she was riding pillion and her boyfriend Mike was driving. They married, Val and Mike so I’d like to believe that it was a true love.
Val had a very fancy typewriter in reception, it had a small LCD screen built into it and a memory which meant that you could type something and then automatically type it out again at the press of the right combination of buttons.
In due course at work we were computerised, Windows 95 was my introduction to the wonderful world of modern computers. I say ‘modern computers’ because back in the 1980s I’d had a ZX Spectrum 48k and spent far too many hours programming it with games from the many computer magazines that were about at the time. They presented pages of computer code that you could write in to your ZX machine, literally programming it by hand. Oh boy, what a fun way to suddenly realise that it was half past one in the morning, and you had to go to work later…
A step on from spelling out the letters was to just write the number of that letter’s place in the alphabet, so ‘beeowewhy’ would become ‘2,5,5,15,23,5,23,8,25’. I have a book with a message from my previous girlfriend written using this notation in the back of it, every now and again, by which I mean once in a blue moon, I decode it. The book was a birthday present and it’s quite a nice message, but I can’t remember what it says. Maybe it’s time to work it out again.
Some many years later and being all computered-up at work I began to speculate that maybe the mighty Microsoft might introduce a scheme whereby they charge for word processing on a subscription basis. Hey! Look, that’s what happened in effect, you can’t buy MS Office these days (or can you? Answers on a post card please…), you subscribe to it via Microsoft 365.
But my prescient abilities aside, in a fairly random, left-field kind of way, I speculated some years ago that Microsoft would charge by the letter for word processing, therefore it would be expedient to not use too many letters in documents.
So, I started to write stuff but only using letters once in any given word, so for example, ‘exaggerate’ would be spelled ‘exagrt’. Of course punctaio would have 2 go as wel so that would make things a litle tricky but not insurmotable after al many peol using mesagin platforms & social media write al sort of nose with scant regard to punctaio so wer halfwy ther alredy
I think then its safe 2 say & withou exagrton tha this sytem is much easir 2 get 2 grips with much easir in fact than speling out al the letrs in a word & who knows when Microsft & other software providers evntualy do get around 2 chargin per leter used & lets face it they probaly wil before 2 long being able 2 write and read in this style might be very useful inded