Last week I wrote about an article in the Economist on artificial languages. In this week’s issue three of the nine letters to the Editor printed refer to this story so it is obviously a topic people feel strongly about. In the first letter Brian Barker of the Esperanto Association of Britain (who also kindly commented on my original post) points out that it is unfair to compare Esperanto with say Klingon given that the former has some 150,000 entries in Wikipedia while the latter scores about 189. A second letter from Neil Jacobs gives more detail on the revival of Hebrew while a final letter, on a lighter note, points out that the original article failed to mention what may be the most famous invented languages of all, those of J. R. R. Tolkien in the world of Middle-earth.
Continuing the theme of history I had time to read quite a bit of biography this summer mainly from the last three or four centuries. I was reminded of how much writing, diaries, letters, pamphlets, notes etc, that people produced, very often writing back and forth to a person in the same day … and all this before internet and email! What I hadn’t noticed before, but what surprised me, were the number of quotes from notes and letters which included abbreviations (wd for would etc.) Even a gifted author such as Winston Churchill wasn’t afraid to use brevity in the interests of speed. Would he have enjoyed blogging and mobile phones? Would he have been an expert at the abbreviations used in an SMS? Sometimes technology isn’t as new as it seems or maybe that is an indication of technology having assumed its role in society.