Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Borrowing written shortcuts from other languages

If you are familiar with a foreign language, you may find a word or abbreviation therein that takes less time to write than its equivalent in your native language. It may be expedient to use that foreign word or abbreviation in notes to yourself, or perhaps even in notes to others if exposure to that foreign word or abbreviation is widespread.

Many years ago I received an incorrectly routed e-mail message which was for someone else. The short message was in French, and contained an abbreviation (pb) which I had not seen previously. I asked a native French speaker what that was, and after looking at it for a short time he realized it was an abbreviation for problème (problem).

Okay, the typical English abbreviation of problem is "prob", which is a mere two letters longer, but I've probably been using "pb" in English notes to myself for more than a couple of decades.

In Taiwan, I once noticed my Taiwanese cousin had used the Japanese character の in place of the Chinese character 的 (Pinyin: de; of) in a note whose other characters were all Chinese. I am quite confident that given Taiwan's proximity/exposure to Japan, a typical Taiwanese would neither be surprised nor confused to see such usage of the の character, which can be written in a single stroke, unlike 的.

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