I never bothered to develop my own signature – it seemed like a narcissistic thing to practise. The result is an ever-changing, shaky scribble that looks both childish and meek.
I much prefer U.S. treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew's signature: eight ridiculous loops that bear no resemblance to his name. The sig was revealed this week, as it's the loop-dee-loop nightmare that may soon end up on every American banknote, if Lew scores the position.
The signature is so peculiar that President Obama even joked about it, suggesting he might have thought twice about nominating Lew had he known about it.
Analyzing the autograph in The Guardian, Philip Hensher remarked, "It has sometimes been said that a signature contains something of how a person wishes to be seen by the world. Does a signature that is dramatically different from a person's normal writing suggest someone who is somewhat dissatisfied by the impression they generally make? Or might a signature that is just a writing out of a name suggest someone who is lacking in imaginative life?"
The Guardian's commenters had their own takes: "I would say that Lew demonstrates self assurance with such a scribble," wrote one. "Clearly not given a Slinky as a child, compensating for disappointment," guessed another. Still another reader went deeper, pointing to Richard Nixon's devolving signature as the years wore on: "Handwriting is far more insightful than you give it credit for. Judge Richard Nixon's fascinating deterioration in the clarity of his signature over the term of his presidency, concurrent with the deterioration of his grasp on power, and tell me you think a handwriting analysis is as insightful as a bloody tarot card reading," this commenter insisted.
Without knowing what Lew's day-to-day handwriting looks like, it's safe to say penmanship is in the toilet these days thanks mostly to the keyboard, as well as other technological advances.
"Signatures are on the way out as a means of identification, replaced by pin numbers, thumbprints and other biological devices," Hensher observed. "They still possess, however, some kind of indication of the outward self, and a beautifully distinguished signature carries a mark of a distinguished person. Conversely, a poor quality or childish signature may continue to make a poor impression."
A recent British study found most respondents hadn't written by hand for 41 days, and that one in three people hadn't done it for six months. Even traditional pen and paper tasks like shopping lists and birthday cards are being replaced by the dreaded text message and e-mail. More than half of the respondents also admitted their handwriting had suffered badly; one in seven said they were now ashamed of their chicken scratch.
What does your signature say about you? Have you retained good handwriting? Does it matter any more?