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Old 03-13-2008, 02:21 AM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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Telegrams in Agatha Christie stories

Were they there partly to show the wealth of the characters? I'm guessing that when she was writing they were no longer on the cutting edge of technology.

When I first read her stories, I just assumed that they were part of the plot. They seemed a little quaint. Now I'm wondering if readers at the time she wrote the stories would have made additional inferences. Especially about telegrams sent back and forth for social reasons.

And did people ever complain about the habits of telegraph writing ruining people's writing skills, the was people now complain about texting abbreviations?
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Old 03-13-2008, 02:35 AM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
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Which book? She published over a long period. Her earliest works date from the 1920s, when telegrams would still have been "modern" technology.
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Old 03-13-2008, 04:29 AM
Chez Guevara Chez Guevara is offline
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The first telegram service in the UK opened in 1845.

In 1913 a total of 82 million were sent, hence by the 1920s the medium was well established rather than "modern".

Source.
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Old 03-13-2008, 06:23 AM
Ellef Ellef is offline
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As a Brit, I'd say the telegrams are an indication of urgency rather than wealth. A telegram makes most of us think "oooooh, bad news!" rather than "cor look at moneybags".
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:05 AM
Cicero Cicero is online now
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They often were bad news in the Great War. For officers families of course. Other ranks family were notified by mail.
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Old 03-13-2008, 09:52 AM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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I'm not remembering a specific book, but I'm not remembering them being used as an emergency, or even an urgent thing. That's what got me thinking that they were maybe a sign of status. Now that I'm thinking about it, Wodehouse probably has more examples of telegrams being batted back and forth.
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:03 AM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
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Look at all the telegrams in the Bertie Wooster stories. I always laugh at Bertie's telegram style; he uses the expected clipped language but goes on and on with all kinds of filler that doesn't add any meaning. Clearly he's loaded because his telegrams use way more words than they need to, and he doesn't care.

(On preview: Damn you, Yllaria!)
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Old 03-13-2008, 10:43 AM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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Just in general, and not necessarily related to Wodehouse or Christie stories....

I get the impression that telegrams were much more common back in, say, the 1920s; mainly because long distance calling was much more expensive in comparison. I have no figures to support this, but it would seem to make sense: a brief telegram would cost less than an operator-assisted long distance phone conversation. Of course, telegrams weren't for casual conversation such as you might have on the phone, but you did use them for letting people in other places know something: that you were arriving on a certain date, or that you had changed your plans suddenly, or that somebody had just died, for example. There was also the question as to whether the receiving party even had a telephone--as I recently posted in another thread, my grandmother didn't have a telephone for many years. But the telegram delivery kids could always find her house just fine.

As far as cost goes, it may be worthwhile to consider the time of day when the telegram was sent. If I remember my grandmother correctly (and she sent and received many telegrams, even during my lifetime), rates differed depending on the time of day the message was sent. So if you wanted to send a message to someone, and it wasn't so urgent that they needed to receive it now, you sent it at night when the rates were lower. Then, the receiving party got it the next day while you paid less than you would otherwise.
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