My new column, with a title that somehow makes sense. From now on until I stop I will be examining a paragraph in whatever detail I choose. This is also a good time for guests to pop in and do their own paragraph.
Today I’ve picked up a copy of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from May 1961. It has stories by Erle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Avram Davidson and Dashiel Hammett among others whose names have not stood the test of time with my memory.
I’m picking my paragraph from a story by Sinclair Lewis. Not a name I’m terribly familiar with but the first paragraph took me back to school.
From the drawer of his table Jasper Holt took a pane of window glass. He laid a sheet of paper on the glass and wrote, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the their party.”
If you’re of my vintage and you learned to type at school you’ll have spotted it already. I would have to do some research which I’m not going to do but I do wonder what is the difference between ‘window glass’ and regular ‘glass’.
The bit you may not have noticed if you’re not a touch typist is the last bit in quotation marks. It’s one of those sentences that we all learned while typing. It’s a little like ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’ but not quite. The ‘quick brown fox’ has all the letters of the alphabet while ‘all good men’ doesn’t. But it is one of those sentences that has stood the test of the time. If I’m buying a new laptop or a new keyboard I use this sentence to test out the keyboard. Now it’s just habit as the keyboards are all really good for typing, but back when I first got a laptop they weren’t. Some of them were more responsive than others and I made sure to open up a programme and type this sentence.
I don’t know why we learned ‘all good men’ rather than the ‘quick brown fox’. I do feel it makes some kind of sense to learn a sentence with all the letters of the alphabet to test out all the alphabet keys. I suspect it’s just individual teacher variation.
I had one of those old-school teachers. She would cover up our fingers on the keys and insist we look at the book only. Sometimes she’d also put on music with a good rhythm and we’d have to type to the rhythm. What that means is that I don’t have to look at the keyboard or the screen while typing. I can type with my eyes closed or while I’m looking at someone else. It’s great for taking Minutes. There are times when I find I’m making more mistakes because my fingers are tripping over themselves. At times like this I go back to my lessons and both slow down as well as getting back to the rhythm of some music. What I find is that my typing actually speeds up rather than slowing down. I don’t understand how that works but it works.
Back to my old school teacher. She had white hair. Some days she’d turn up with a blue rinse, other times it was purple. I look back on this with nostalgia. As I use my typing every single day of my life I wish I could thank her for instilling some really useful skills into my repertoire. More’s the pity that I can’t as I’m sure this was one of the more thankless classes taken by some of us. She also taught me shorthand. A skill I was never terribly good at and I’ve now lost the bulk of it.