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Author Topic: Telegram apocrypha
snopes
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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article342850.ece

quote:
One perhaps apocryphal tale tells of a post-war US editor dispatching a message to his Far East reporter demanding: "Is Japan turning Communist STOP Need 1000 wrds soonest". The reply to head office came back: "No, no 1000 times no."

Another, documented, telegram related to the US-organised coup in Guatemala in 1954 during which one resourceful woman reporter from London managed to hire a mule to carry her across the mountains to a remote rebel encampment where she obtained an exclusive interview. Shortly afterwards her colleague from a rival newspaper received the following message by telegram: "Get off ass Get on Donkey."

Probably the shortest telegram ever sent dates from the 19th century - attributed both to Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde and thereby perhaps apocryphal - and sent from Paris to a literary agent in London. The writer sought news of the sales of his latest book and the agent replied that sales were doing very well. The message was simply "?" while the reply was an equally perfunctory, but equally informative "!".


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Don Enrico
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Another maybe apocryphal telegram tale I heard:

During the American Civil war, it was vital for reporters to be the first to cable the outcome of a battle to ones newspaper. In order to do that, you had to be the first in the *only* telegram office around. During one especially important battle, one reporter occupied the telegram office by sending a very long telegram: He told the agent just to send the words of the bible, beginning from Genesis 1.1. As soon as the battle ended, he changed the message to his report on the outcome.

Did anybody else hear that?

quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
quote:
The message was simply "?" while the reply was an equally perfunctory, but equally informative "!".

I've sent a telegram once with the Deutsche Post. When I wanted to include a "!" I was told that that isn't possible - they didn't sent any interpunctuation (therefore the famous STOP instead of a full stop). Based on the assumption that telegram services work along the same rules internationally, I therefore doubt the above story.

Don "STOP" Enrico

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snopes
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quote:
During one especially important battle, one reporter occupied the telegram office by sending a very long telegram: He told the agent just to send the words of the bible, beginning from Genesis 1.1. As soon as the battle ended, he changed the message to his report on the outcome.
That sounds like it would have been prohibitively expensive, especially since charges were based on the number of characters/words transmitted.

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Don Enrico
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The possibility to be the first newspaper on the streets to carry news of the battle might have made up for the expenses, though... [Confused]

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snopes
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quote:
The possibility to be the first newspaper on the streets to carry news of the battle might have made up for the expenses, though.
Given the relatively slow pace of travel, communications, and the war itself in those days, I'm not sure people were waiting to snatch up newspapers with the latest (war) news the moment they hit the streets. I don't think one newspaper's getting a lead of an hour or two on its competitors really meant all that much back then. I'd hazard a guess that people generally chose newspapers based on their politics rather than picking up whichever one had the latest news.

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RealityChuck/Boston Charlie
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The ! and ? exchange is attributed to Victor Hugo (including in the Guiness Book). Wilde would be a ULF.

It was also an exchange of letters, not telegrams.

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Mr. Baggins
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
quote:
During one especially important battle, one reporter occupied the telegram office by sending a very long telegram: He told the agent just to send the words of the bible, beginning from Genesis 1.1. As soon as the battle ended, he changed the message to his report on the outcome.
That sounds like it would have been prohibitively expensive, especially since charges were based on the number of characters/words transmitted.

- snopes

I seem to recall that as a p.ot device in one of Jules Verne's books.... I think it was Around the World in 80 Days, but I'm not sure...

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Mr. Baggins
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Ah, there you go. It's from Chapter 17 of Michael Strogoff.

quote:

Blount, having distanced his companion, took possession of the wicket, whilst Alcide Jolivet, contrary to his usual habit, stamped with impatience.

"Ten copecks a word," said the clerk.

Blount deposited a pile of roubles on the shelf, whilst his rival looked on with a sort of stupefaction.

"Good," said the clerk. And with the greatest coolness in the world he began to telegraph the following dispatch: "Daily Telegraph, London.

"From Kolyvan, Government of Omsk, Siberia, 6th August.

"Engagement between Russian and Tartar troops."

The reading was in a distinct voice, so that Michael heard all that the English correspondent was sending to his paper.

"Russians repulsed with great loss. Tartars entered Kolyvan to-day." These words ended the dispatch.

"My turn now," cried Alcide Jolivet, anxious to send off his dispatch, addressed to his cousin.

But that was not Blount's idea, who did not intend to give up the wicket, but have it in his power to send off the news just as the events occurred. He would therefore not make way for his companion.

"But you have finished!" exclaimed Jolivet.

"I have not finished," returned Harry Blount quietly.

And he proceeded to write some sentences, which he handed in to the clerk, who read out in his calm voice: "John Gilpin was a citizen of credit and renown; a train-band captain eke was he of famous London town."

Harry Blount was telegraphing some verses learned in his childhood, in order to employ the time, and not give up his place to his rival. It would perhaps cost his paper some thousands of roubles, but it would be the first informed. France could wait.

Jolivet's fury may be imagined, though under any other circumstances he would have thought it fair warfare. He even endeavoured to force the clerk to take his dispatch in preference to that of his rival.

"It is that gentleman's right," answered the clerk coolly, pointing to Blount, and smiling in the most amiable manner. And he continued faithfully to transmit to the Daily Telegraph the well-known verses of Cowper.




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"The system would also let you send your picture and contact details to a rough trade gay contact mailing list saying you like to be surprised with power tools in a non-consensual role play scenario – but that doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.!"

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Brad from Georgia
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Couple of my favorite telegram stories, probably both apocryphal:
quote:

George Bernard Shaw, to Winston Churchill:

PLEASE ATTEND FIRST NIGHT MY NEW PLAY. WILL HOLD TWO TICKETS FOR YOU. BRING FRIEND IF YOU HAVE ONE.

Churchill's reply to Shaw:

IMPOSSIBLE ATTEND FIRST NIGHT. WILL ATTEND SECOND NIGHT IF YOU HAVE ONE.

quote:

From a journalist, to "SOMEONE WORKING ON NEW CARY GRANT FILM":

WRITING A STORY. IMPERATIVE FOR ME TO KNOW: HOW OLD CARY GRANT?--JOHN SMITH

The reply:

OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU, JOHN SMITH?--CARY GRANT



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bufungla
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Brad, do you (or anybody) know the details of the story of one of the world's shortest telegraphs? From what I recall, some famous comedian of the 50s had a new show, and a friend sent him a telegram saying,

Dear SoandSo

Stop

buf 'apologies in advance for totally butchering the story' ungla

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
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That article sounds like the author has been reading the book Telegraph, reviewed here.

Seaboe

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Brad from Georgia
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I know that Sammy Davis, Jr, who had written an autobiography entitled Yes, I Can, had a disastrously bad TV show and after the first episode, one of the Rat Pack sent him a telegram reading NO YOU CAN'T.

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Roadie
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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker:
That article sounds like the author has been reading the book Telegraph, reviewed here.

Seaboe

Hehe. I got that book for my dad for Christmas - I should have kept it. It looked interesting!

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