I knew I had gone too far down the Sherlockian rabbit hole the day I drove past a church, saw the phrase "Christ-centered education," and immediately thought of Jay Finley Christ. I was reminded of that moment this morning as I read Chris Redmond's guest blog on "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere."
The Jay Finley Christ abbreviations for the sixty cases of Sherlock Holmes have been a part of our world for a very long time. Even though a few contrary Sherlockians, including an editor of The Baker Street Journal, have come out against them, the four-letter abbreviations are our shorthand, our way of communicating with our fellow Sherlockians without wasting those minute bits of time needed to write the full titles of things like "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton." "CHAS" is so much simpler.
If one added up all the seconds that every Sherlockian writer or researcher saved with Christ's abbreviations over the decades since they were introduced, I'm sure the mass of time saved for other Sherlockian work would be worth considering. And not just the writing, but the reading as well.
Critics fuss about the abbreviations not being friendly to the newcomer, probably because they experienced such issues in their own early days. But, really, how hard are they to pick up on? If you know the story titles with the familiarity of anyone who has truly crossed the threshold of Sherlockiana, they're very easy to recognize. If you don't know "THOR" refers to "The Problem of Thor Bridge," you've obviously never heard of the story, and if you haven't heard of the story, then what the hell are you doing reading Sherlockian scholarship? You should finish reading Watson's original sixty stories.
Jay Finley Christ's abbreviations are, to Sherlockians, what Latin medical terms are to the medical community, what any insider language is to its field of endeavor. One can complain that they aren't open and easy for the uninitiated, but they were never meant for the uninitiated. Christ wrote them for those who love Sherlock Holmes and know the titles of the sixty stories, at least well enough to access a title with a four letter key word. I really doubt we've lost any potential Sherlockians because they ran into the Christ shorthand and gave up on Sherlock out of sheer frustration. If they did, well, I'm guessing they just weren't into Sherlock Holmes that much to begin with.
I mean, how much can you love a guy who spent a whole story deciphering what dancing men symbols meant if you can't handle four-letter abbreviations?