Naturally, there is a right way and a wrong way of wording telegrams.
February 11, 2016 8:45 AM   Subscribe

If you are alive to the need of making every minute count in this modern, high speed age, you will often have occasion to avail yourself of the facilities of the highly organized institutions which have succeeded the old time operator bent over his telegraph key in the little dingy telegraph office of a few generations ago.
So said one Nelson E. Ross in his Small Booklet entitled "How to Write Telegrams Properly" in 1928.

Ross's advice includes Messages for Persons on Trains, "Telegraphic Shopping" Service, and the Roaring Twenties version of printing out your emails, Telephoning Your Telegram.

Want to try your fist at the key? Try the Boys' Life Morse Code Machine or download Just Learn Morse Code.
posted by Etrigan (21 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
the Roaring Twenties version of printing out your emails, Telephoning Your Telegram.

I don't know why I love the fact that when you called in your telegram via telephone, it could be added to your monthly telephone bill, but I really do.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


CONSIDERING A WORDY TELEGRAM? STOP.
posted by carmicha at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


(Whoops, forgot to give credit to kottke for the link.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:01 AM on February 11, 2016


OLD CARY GRANT FINE STOP HOW YOU QUERY









PS:    ;-)>
posted by Herodios at 9:09 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love this one when doing some research.

'...Durant had invested in "U&I Broadcasting System" and boasted that its personal recordings cost only 10 cents each.'

"If you don't have 10 cents, send me a telegram and I'll send you a dime, If you talk fast enough, you can get a lot for your money."
posted by clavdivs at 9:12 AM on February 11, 2016


There was a service when I was in the USAF where you could fill out a form that had a list of stock phrases that had a number, and you could add about 10 words for free. This would be telegraphed to someone near where you lived, assembled into a letter and this person (in this case my parents) would call the receiver (in this case my parents) and read the "letter" to them.
This would be about 1979.
It was a free service offered to soldiers around the holidays.
posted by boilermonster at 9:24 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Was it MARS?
posted by Etrigan at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Imagine, for example, the absurdity of giving a street address in a telegram to the General Electric Company at Schenectady."
posted by sweetmarie at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2016


Note to amigos: “infamous” ≠ “famous”
posted by blueberry at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2016


I've seen this before and it's the "Telegraphic Shopping Service" that I love. It was Amazon, in 1928 (so, of course, was the Sears Catalog, but this was way more high tech). Unfortunately, last time I looked, I couldn't find many other references to such a service. Just how common was it really?
posted by zachlipton at 10:26 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


There was a service when I was in the USAF where you could fill out a form that had a list of stock phrases that had a number, and you could add about 10 words for free. This would be telegraphed to someone near where you lived, assembled into a letter and this person (in this case my parents) would call the receiver (in this case my parents) and read the "letter" to them.
This would be about 1979.


Probably a descendant of the mark-off postcards English soldiers used to send home from the front (and, I think, from some POW camps) in WWI. Built-in censorship.

This little book is all very well, but it's not clear to me that "We must lead our lives as we see them; but I am charmed with your courage and almost surprised at my own" would fit in, and so I reject its suggestions.
posted by praemunire at 10:53 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you do want to recognize Morse, K7QO's Code Course is pretty good.
posted by scruss at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also on the site is this wonderful little page on how to make your own telegraph, including photos sent in by science fair children with their telegraphs. Very charming.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:32 AM on February 11, 2016


Peccavi
posted by chavenet at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think we should adopt all these same conventions with twitter. Especially leaving out punctuation. That would really liven things up . . .
posted by flug at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


These words are charged for, and so accustomed is the public to telegraphic brevity, that their use often produces amusement rather than the expression of formality which the sender desired.

In other words, "Don't act like a noob." Nice.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


🗳1️⃣💷0️⃣🚼✋🏽
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2016


A long list of telegraph gags (timesuck warning: TVTropes). I've always enjoyed (from the generally forgettable Crazy For You):
Bobby: "Dear Fat-head. Stop." Yep. It’s Mom. "Stop this nonsense. Stop. This is your final notice. Stop." Sounds like an electric bill. "Get back here on next train. Stop. Don’t stop. Stop. Will stop allowance if you stop. Stop. Your loving mother. Stop. P.S. Your uncle stopped by."
I wish she’d write letters.

Later this exchange occurs:

Polly: Would ya stop this?
Zangler: Stop?
Polly: Stop.
Bobby: You sound like my mother.
posted by zachlipton at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Imagine, for example, the absurdity of giving a street address in a telegram to the General Electric Company at Schenectady."

FWIW, the zip code for the General Electric Company in Schenectady is 12345.

Santos L. Halper
12345

Would get the thing delivered, too.
posted by mikelieman at 10:43 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Robert Benchley knew how to send a telegram. When The New Yorker sent him to Venice for a story, he wired back: “Streets flooded. Please advise.”
posted by bryon at 11:22 PM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Was it MARS?

That sounds about right.
posted by boilermonster at 11:29 PM on February 12, 2016


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