Thursday, April 29, 2010




1 : writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased
2 : something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

I passed and received a lot of notes in junior high school. Writing notes was this strange phenomenon that seemed almost exclusive to this era. I mean, I'm sure there was some note passing in high school, but I have an entire shoe box full of saved notes, mostly from the seventh and eighth grade.

One had to be careful of what was revealed in these notes, of course. This risky passing of signed, documented evidence had to be meticulously executed, in case the paper ended up in the wrong hands. Notes were often vague, coded, or written in a language only the recipient could understand. It was even tougher when there was info to which the recipient could not be privy—in the case of a spurious note written on behalf of someone else attempting to gain information. Since you are sort of friends with her, I need you to write her a note and find out if she likes him. This was common, if not frequent.

One thing I was always careful about was the crossing out of words—an act that always raised suspicion. Since most notes were written with ball-point pen, mistakes were difficult to conceal. If one had to cross something out, it had to be done completely— the word could inevitably be deciphered from under a half-assed attempt. Using dark marker to cover up a word was useless—all one had to do was hold the paper up to the light, and the ink-pressed letters were clear as day. If you wrote in pencil, you were simply a fool. An erased word only rendered the note a PALIMPSEST; an attempt that made us laugh to ourselves thinking, nice try.

My method was to draw a rectangle around the questionable word or phrase and fill in the center with ink, first vertically and then crosshatching. This ensured both that the word was indecipherable and the originally pressed letters blended with the hard-pressed second layer of ink. This was really the only way.

And if the material was particularly perilous, I would begin on a new sheet of paper.


  1. Excellent note writing commentary. I remember so many notes which people used the same paper to write back and forth after awhile you couldn't tell where the new message began or ended. This is a lost art I think now that there's txting.

  2. I'm sad about this—texting does not compare.