Thursday, January 20, 2011

A B C D goldfish? L M N O goldfish! O S A R...C M?

The end of the world is upon us.

This surprising story made the news yesterday on television stations hereabouts.

I am appalled. One teacher of English to Middle School students (ages 11 to 13) was actually heard to say that “students prefer to use printed block letters rather than the broad strokes that characterize cursive.”

Well, that settles it, then. Let’s give the little dears what they want. Let’s not even consider giving the little dears things they might need to function in society.

If they wanted to cavort in the nude at recess, would we let them? If they wanted to carry rifles and bayonets to school, would we let them? If they wanted to eat candy until their teeth rotted out, would we let them? If they wanted to set their school on fire, would we let them?

Unfortunately, some people exist who would probably answer every one of those questions in the affirmative.

That chart up there shows how cursive writing is taught in the U.S. these days. The style is called D’Nelian Script.

Back in my day, during the Dark Ages, we were taught the Palmer Method. Here is a demonstration, complete with Gregorian chant.

In the nineteenth century, people were taught to write in a style with more flourishes, toots, bells, and whistles called Spencerian Script. Sorry, no Gregorian chant this time.

And even earlier, people could write so as to be noticed. Here’s a famous autograph of one of those people:

The same students who are being told today that handwriting is unnecessary may be asking tomorrow, “Who was John Hancock and why should we care?”

This just in: The end of the world may not be upon us, but you can see it from here.

O S A B I C M 2....!!!


  1. Sad!

    My father, who was born in 1886, learned the Spencerian method of writing. As a child, I loved to watch him as he wrote, and loved to look at what he had written. I had readable, but not beautiful, cursive handwriting as a child, but was never allowed to just print my letters. I'm happy to say that my style has improved over the years, but it will never approach that of the person (shall I say artist?) who demonstrated the Spencerian method in the video.

    One of my father's favorite 'alphabet' jokes was:

    OK. MNX.

  2. MNX with buttered toast and hot coffee...heaven!

  3. I'll have to come back to follow the links and read this post again. But first I'm going to muck out the stables.
    Will be back though.

    Oh, and that photo of you and Mrs. RWP is lovely.

  4. Hello again, I've watched the videos and read your post again. I still haven't a clue what the goldfish and 'O S A B I C M 2....!!!' have to do with it.

    I've been taught to write cursive. The style we were taught differs slightly from the styles in your post and the videos.

    Perhaps young people do not have the ability to concentrate and the patience needed to learn how to write neatly.

    And although I know how to write cursive, as soon as I left school I've adopted my own style of writing. The only people I know who still write cursive as they were taught are my parents.

    Isn't it important though that kids learn how to spell correctly, whether in cursive or in block letters?

    You can hardly compare allowing them to carry rifles to allowing them to write in block letters. Well, you can, because you did, but it doesn't make sense.

  5. the barlowineeennnn method of writing adopted just at the beginning of the 1950's will never approach the spendderian method in the vidio beacausdse they are entireely going the opposite direction><<><.one clearly is to educate the other to desecrate<>><<>ooooopppppps

  6. p,ps, i knew mr. palmer>>>the guy that you speak of with the odd handwriting method that you learned from>>he was caught writing on our school yard backstop just ater his indictment

  7. Carolina, I threw the alphabet soup in as a little game since my post involved the letters of the alphabet, that's all. ("Abie, see the goldfish?" "Hell, them ain't no goldfish!" "Oh, yes, they are...see them?" -- and Pat in Arkansas's addition: "Have you any ham?" "Yes." "Have you any eggs?" "Yes" "Okay, ham and eggs.") Do you have similar games with the alphabet in Dutch? I know that "Zee" means "sea" in English, so you probably do have similar alphabet games, though not the same ones we have in English. Do let me know. After you've mucked out the stables, of course.

    Putz, I sincerely hope the barlowineeennnn method does not catch on. Furthermore, that must have been some other Mr. Palmer you knew because this particular Mr. Palmer lived from 1860 to 1927.

    Here is everything you could ever want to know about the Mr. Palmer who invented the Palmer method of cursive writing.

  8. P.S. to Carolina: So then O S A B I C M 2 translates to "Oh, yes, Abie, I see them too!"

    Please note that I said p.s. and not p,ps which must be how they do it in Utah.

  9. Ah! Thanks for explaining. Can't think of any Dutch alphabet games. You are right about zee being sea. But zee rhymes with say.

    I'll have to come back to you on the Dutch alphabet games. Will have to investigate...

  10. It's pretty scary because we depend on new technology so much books will disappear and if they do once the satellite goes so does intelligence.
    Once calculators and robots disappear so does society.
    People have to go through the old to get to the new and it all pays to learn regardless even if as a hobby. Suppose you had no electricity, how would you iron? Or suppose you had no stores, where would you get soap and candles or basics to live.It all pays to learn.

  11. "If they wanted to carry rifles and bayonets to school, would we let them?"

    I would say yes to all of these things, but to offer just one example of how easy your examples are to refute, take the above, for example. I would have you remember that rifles and bayonets don't kill children; children kill children. And if they die nude, well, that would be sad, for sure, but at least the clothes they didn't wear to school that day could be sent to India where all those children who are too poor to afford clothes, or rifles, or bayonets, would at least have something to wear.

  12. Snowbrush, you make some excellent points! I don't know why I didn't see it this way before!

  13. Lady's Life, I think people ironed before there was electricity. Didn't they have big heavy iron thingies that you (well, not YOU) poured boiling hot water into and then ironed like crazy while the water was still steaming hot and if it cooled off you (ditto my previous parenthetical expression) would have to heat up even more water to put into the iron, dumping out the cooled water first, of course.

    Electricity was a great invention or discovery or whatever it was.

  14. P.S. to Lady's Life: Mrs. RWP has just informed me that old-time ironing involved hot coals from the fireplace, and the irons were solid, not hollow, and, well, I got it completely wrong. A thousand pardons.

  15. Rhymes, you surely have solid irons in every antique shop in Georgia.

  16. Snowbrush, now that you mention it, I believe we do have solid irons in every antique store in Georgia, but on those rare occasions when I have actually entered one of those establishments it has not been solid antique irons I was looking for, and so the knowledge of their whereabouts, over time, fell completely off my radar. The irons I mean, not the establishments. I now end this comment with a cryptic, quasi-Buddhist thought, "When the farmer rakes the field with his harrow, the toad in the field is much more aware of the farmer than the farmer is of the toad" and trust you make the connection.

  17. What this has to do with cursive writing is anybody's guess.

  18. Why, yes, I do make the connection. You're calling me a toad!

  19. Snowbrush! I would never call you a toad! Well, perhaps there are scenarios in which I might call you a toad, but I haven't experienced any yet, nor do I expect to in the future. In my quasi-Buddhist parable, I was the farmer, the field was Georgia's antique shops, and solid irons were the toad....

    The ox moves slowly, but the earth is patient.