It’s everywhere – you’d better get used to it. It’s a language we all must learn – both to be able to understand messages sent to us and to avoid ending up paying far too much for text messages. But the interesting thing is that the language of text-speak did not originate with the mobile phone and SMSs. It’s been around for around 150 years!

This became clear the other day as I was dipping into one of my favourite occasional browses: Bombaugh’s Oddities and Curiosities (a Dover reprint of his 1890 Gleanings for the Curious). It’s full of all kinds of literary madness, weirdness and downright genius.

Here is a poem he wrote in the 1840s and it speaks for itself. Wonderful.

Essay to Miss Catharine Jay

Charles C. Bombaugh (1828-1906)

An S Anow I mean to write
To U, sweet K T J,
The girl without a ||,
The belle of U T K.

I 1 der if you got that 1
I wrote 2 U B 4
I sailed in the R K D A,
And sent by L N Moore.

My M T head will scarce contain
A calm I D A bright;
But A T miles from U I must
M︷ this chance 2 write.

And 1st, should N E N V U,
B E Z, mind it not;
Should N E friendship show, B true,
They should not be forgot.

But friends and foes alike D K,
As U may plainly C,
In every funeral R A,
Or uncle’s L E G,

And if you cannot cut a —-,
Or cause an !
I hope U ’ll put a .
2 1 ?

R U for an X ation 2,
My cous N? Heart and ☞
He off R’s in a ¶
A § 2 of land.

He says he loves U 2 X S,
U R virtuous and Y’s,
In X L N C U X L
All others in his i’s.

This S A, until U I C,
I pray U 2 X Q’s,
And do not burn in F E G
My young and wayward muse.

Now fare U well dear K T J,
I trust that U R true;
When this U C then you can say,
An S A I O U.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hugh

    More seriously, and beautifully, how about George Herbert?

    Jesu is in my heart, his sacred name
    Is deeply carved there: but th’ other week
    A great affliction broke this little frame,
    Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
    And first I found the corner, where was J,
    After, where ES, and next where U was graved.
    When I had got these parcels, instantly
    I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
    That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
    And to my whole is JESU.

    1. quaesitor

      wonderful – thanks v much for posting this!

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