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Kicking It from the Ten Commandments to texting

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

According to ancient lore, Moses trudged up Mount Sinai and returned with the Lord’s word chiseled in stone. Recognized the world over, the Ten Commandments is the first recorded letter and it came from God.

Egyptian ruler Ptolemy V had his message chiseled into stone around 196 BC. Although that slab of hieroglyphics wasn’t unearthed until 1799, when troops were building a fort in Rashid (Rosetta) during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. Known as the Rosetta Stone, it is possibly the second letter known to man.

Not having an alphabet, cave dwellers drew their letters on rock walls. While across the pond, natives in the Congo were pounding out their letters on hollow logs. Pharaohs had scribes to write theirs on papyrus, while Roman generals used pigeons to send their mail. Further north, cloistered monks were inscribing their Latin letters on velum around 800 AD, creating the exquisite Book of Kells.

After Guttenberg introduced the printing press in Germany, the pony express started carrying letters across the West as Native Americans sent their letters via smoke signals announcing the coming of the telegraph.

And the next thing ya know, Bell introduces the telephone knocking out a few letters, but it wasn’t until the home computer actually spoke these words, “You’ve Got Mail” that mankind embraced email in lieu of the post.

Or so we thought.

Here we are today and, more than any other invention of my recollection, this one-intended-speaking device known as a cell phone has become in fact a mobile typewriter. It appears texting has replaced most other forms of communication. Sadly, it has knocked out the thank you note, the letter of congratulations, the birthday card, birth announcements and all of the various forms of holiday greetings which now come with an emoji. So far, only the wedding announcement remains.

My dad was the last person to write me a letter. It was our primary way to communicate. He was of an era that believed a long-distance telephone call was too expensive. At the time, it just made sense to write a letter for 32 cents, however, over the course of my life, postage has risen from three cents to 60 cents.

My first letter was remanded by my freshman English teacher. She insisted we include all seven parts: the heading, the date, the recipient’s address, the salutation, the body, the close, and then the signature. Lastly, under the signature, ‘Enc.’ (enclosures) if there was one.

The hardest part about letter writing is knowing where to start. What to say? Which is why texting has become so popular. From the mundane HRU? to RUOK? I admit to being guilty. Mostly because unlike a ringing cell phone, it doesn’t intrude. I text a lot. It’s especially convenient when crossing time zones.

In my world, I get texts from my husband from the grocery store, girlfriends checking in, or family members attaching recent photos to their cell messages.

Still, one wonders if modern-day cryptograms is this generation’s hieroglyphics? Can folks even spell today let alone write in cursive? *JTLYK

As it stands now, the only way I’m gonna get a letter from God or anybody else is to “sit right down and write myself…” *Lol & *MTFBWY.

(*Just to let you know. *Laugh out loud. *May the force be with you.)

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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