David Friedman has a blog called Sunday Magazine where he posts “the most interesting articles from the New York Times Sunday Magazine from exactly 100 years ago, with a little bit of commentary or context” (you can read about it here); while it’s great reading, it’s not normally LH material… but From 1890: The First Text Messages is. The article is headlined “FRIENDS THEY NEVER MEET: ACQUAINTANCES MADE BY THE TELEGRAPH KEY. CONFIDENCES EXCHANGED BETWEEN MEN WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN EACH OTHER — THEIR PECULIAR CONVERSATION ABBREVIATIONS,” and David writes “the abbreviations they used seem a lot like the abbreviations used in today’s text messages,” quoting the following passage:
In their conversations telegraphers use a system of abbreviations which enables them to say considerably more in a certain period of time then they otherwise could. Their morning greeting to a friend in a distant city is usually “g. m.,” and the farewell for the evening, “g. n.,” the letters of course standing for good morning and good night. The salutation may be accompanied by an inquiry by one as to the health of the other, which would be expressed thus: “Hw r u ts mng?” And the answer would be: “I’m pty wl; hw r u?” or “I’m nt flg vy wl; fraid I’ve gt t mlaria.”
By the time these courtesies have taken place some early messages have come from the receiving department or from some other wire, and the man before whom they are placed says to his friend many miles away: “Wl hrs a fu; Gol hang ts everlastin grind. I wish I ws rich.” And the other man says: “No rest fo t wickd, min pen,” the last two words indicating that he wants the sender to wait a minute while he adjusts and tests his pen. Presently he clicks out “g a,” meaning “go ahead,” and the day’s work has begun.
He says “I’m not sure what “Wl hrs a fu” is supposed to mean,” and neither am I; any guesses? (Via MetaFilter.)