Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Stenographer is a Covert Steganographer

In my last blog, I mentioned the term stenographer, referring in context to a legal stenographer, someone who records court proceedings in shorthand. Jim wrote to me with one of his favorite words, steganographer, which is not the same thing, but which is a cousin.

Stenographer has two components. First, there is steno-, from the Greek στενοσ, meaning narrow. Besides narrow, it also has the force of contracted or limited in range, and often refers to a medical condition that involves deficiency. The second component is –grapher, from the Greek γραφειν, to write.

A steganographer is a cryptographer. The stegano- element (Greek στεγανοσ) means covered or secret. So while both professions involve writing, the stenographer’s duty is to record a precise and decipherable record of the testimony given, while the steganographer must labor to hide meaning from outside eyes at all costs.

I remember reading ads on Chicago streetcars directing readers to a mail-order stenography school. Memory tells me that their principal device was to remove vowels: “If U kn rd ths, U r rdy to nrll.” When people insist that IM shortcuts are ruining English, this memory prevents me from agreeing. Sixty years later, elegance and expediency still co-exist in our language.

SIDEBAR: Hiding Data Within Data

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Arbutus Press
or at

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.

Visit the Senior Corner at

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints