News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett Opinion

July 10, 2011

MARK BENNETT: Declaration of cursive’s death reminiscent of ’70s metric-conversion mania

When the state of Indiana announced it would no longer require schools to teach cursive handwriting, I was LOL.

Not just because it’s a short-sighted idea. Instead, I had to chuckle, wondering, “What’s next?”

(Wait, you don’t understand what “LOL” means? Seriously? C’mon, learn to text. Get with it, and get out of the 20th century. That’s how we roll now, homies.)

When the government declared cursive relevantly dead, I immediately thought of a “Saturday Night Live” bit by Dan Aykroyd. It was 1976. Americans were being told to prepare for our nation’s full-scale conversion to the metric system within the next 10 years. The old English measurements of gallons and feet would become obsolete — dead. So Aykroyd’s character, Joseph Franklin of the U.S. Council of Standards and Measures, took the situation a step further.

In an SNL public service message, he informed viewers that the United States would also adopt a new metric alphabet, the “Decibet,” which would condense the ancient 26 letters into just 10. A, B, C and D would remain as-is, because they’re so popular. Others would be combined into one character — E and F; G, H and I; L, M, N and O; and, as Aykroyd put it, “the so-called ‘trash letters’” P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z. The word “eagle” would be pronounced “efaglef,” while mucus transforms into “LMNOucus.”

Ten fingers. Ten letters. “Now, isn’t that simple?” Aykroyd asked.

Thirty-four years after that satire aired, we still buy gas and milk in gallons, and carpet in square yards.

In ’76, Aykroyd joked about a boiled-down letter called LMNO (pronounced “elemeno”). Today, acronyms like “LOL” and “LMAO” (not to be confused with LMNO) are all over Facebook. In odd ways, Indiana and the rest of the country may be fulfilling Aykroyd’s bizarre prophecy.

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