Vivek Haldar

Englsh Wtht Vwls

Could you read that title? How well can you read the following somewhat garbled text?

Evr snc the hbt of wrtng frst tk hld of me as a tngr, I knw prcsly why I did it, and why I did it so cmplsvly: to hdg agnst the trrr of hvng a trrbl mmry. Thgh stll yng engh to expct no sympthy, I cnstntly fl the brdn of ths hndcp. Cnfrmtn of it, and tht wrtng is its cr, I dscvr evry tm I pck up smthng I wrt yrs, or evn mnths ag. Rdng ths thngs pts me in an uncnny stt, lk a pst-lf rgrssn. Mnwhl, unrcrdd imprssns, syngs, old frnds, and gd bks vnsh wtht wrnng or trc. Sm rd and wrt to win etrnl lf; I wld be hppy engh jst to kp a hld of ths on.

The original text (taken from Nathan Schneider’s In Defense of the Memory Theatre.) reads as follows:

Ever since the habit of writing first took hold of me as a teenager, I knew precisely why I did it, and why I did it so compulsively: to hedge against the terror of having a terrible memory. Though still young enough to expect no sympathy, I constantly feel the burden of this handicap. Confirmation of it, and that writing is its cure, I discover every time I pick up something I wrote years, or even months ago. Reading those things puts me in an uncanny state, like a past-life regression. Meanwhile, unrecorded impressions, sayings, old friends, and good books vanish without warning or trace. Some read and write to win eternal life; I would be happy enough just to keep a hold of this one.

The abbreviated form was derived from the original by dropping all vowels, except those that begin a word, or in words three letters or shorter.

You might have struggled with some of the abbreviations, but don’t you think overall you could understand most of the passage? While you wouldn’t want to read an entire essay like this, its pretty good for short messages. Turns out vowels are surprisingly redundant.

You can try it out with your own text here.

(This wasn’t my idea. The characters in Michael Crichton’s book “Congo” used vowel-less abbreviated English for sending messages over an expensive satellite link.)