News and Tribune


January 25, 2013

STAWAR: Loopy signatures

Last weekend, my two oldest granddaughters were discussing signatures. The younger one asked her sister if she minded if she made some letters in her signature in the same way that her older sister did. It was as if she was afraid of violating some sort of a trademark. 

I suppose a signature is your own personal logo. My wife Diane told the girls that since they were sisters, it was natural that their writing might look similar in some respects, but over time they would both develop distinctive signatures. 

The discussion reflected the territoriality that can often be seen among siblings who are only a few years apart. At one point in the past, the older sister tried to claim the color pink for her exclusive use. 

Signatures have been in the news lately, with President Obama’s nomination of Jack Lew for Secretary of the Treasury. If confirmed, Lew’s signature will be on U.S currency. His illegible autograph consist of a misshapen “J” and seven scrawled loops. New York Magazine called it “a Slinky that has lost its spring” or “one of those crazy straws you get at Six Flags.” It has also been compared it to the “squiggles” of white frosting that adorned the iconic Hostess Cupcake. 

It’s unfortunate Lew’s handwriting has garnered more attention than his qualifications. Personally, I can sympathize since my own handwriting has been the subject of persistent criticism. My third-grade teacher Mrs. Lomax, who had the unenviable job of teaching us the Palmer Method, referred to my cursive as “chicken scratching,” and on more than one occasion she said that my work looked like someone was writing with a dirty fingernail. 

It was a rare day when my homework didn’t have a couple of holes in it from overzealous erasing. 

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