Can I have your John Hancock?

Can I have your John HancockThis weekend, I was having a discussion with the family over breakfast regarding handwriting, specifically signatures, and I thought the topic would be very appropriate for the readers of this blog.

The conversation started when my wife, who is a school teacher, mentioned that the modern-day curriculum included less and less cursive writing instruction for younger children. I chime in to say that the kids are getting in front of the computer earlier and learning to type efficiently is actually more important in the modern-day workplace, and will become even more significant in the future. My wife and Mom champion for the importance of learning sound handwriting technique. "You still have to sign legal or business documents," my Mother reasoned.

"People sometimes write an X or an undulating line for all they care," I argued. My Mother works at a doctors office, so she has seen her share of illegible signatures. My Father, the token skeptic, blurts out that the doctors purposely have poor handwriting to prevent against possible forgery of prescription orders. Then, we get to the subject of John Hancock.

Possibly the most recognized signature of all-time, a "Hancock" stands for boldness, artful expression and individuality.

This leads me to imagine the broad spectrum of signatures that are out there, and about the people who create them. I broke the signature spectrum into several parts:

The Symbol - an "X", wavy line or a simple check-mark. You wonder if the person invented the font "Wingdings."

The Squiggle - Maybe one letter is recognizable, but the rest looks like an erratic EKG readout or like the person was trying to get the ink flowing out of their ballpoint pen again. Example (Louis XIV's signature):Can I have your John HancockThe Somewhat Legible - Sloppy, but the overall shape of their handwriting gives you a clue as to the author's real identity. It's like a 3-d Magic Eye poster; some people get it right away while others are staring aimlessly. Example (guess who):
Can I have your John HancockThe Somewhat Good - Most letters are well-defined and legible. Many signatures fall in this range, especially if you have good handwriting but are in a rush. Example (Gerald Ford) :Can I have your John Hancock
The Exquisite (a.k.a. the John Hancock) - This type of signature wears its flair proudly. You feel the need to crop everything else out of the document and present this person's signature to an art gallery. Maybe they are a part-time calligrapher? Or maybe they had their knuckles rapped with Sister Mary's ruler every time they didn't do their cursive lowercase "z" correctly (The "Phil Rirruto" part from Billy Madison comes to mind).

I would love to hear from our readers on this topic. Talk about your own handwriting and how your signature has developed into its current state. Which of the above signature types do you fall into? At what age did you develop your "signature" style? Have you noticed its change over time? Does your signature vary depending on what you're signing? Do you hate electronic signature pads because they ALWAYS distort your signature? Do you think we should be spending more time practicing our cursive and our signatures?

Feel free to send pics of your signature, but be aware that anyone can be on this blog watching, so upload with caution.

Signature graphics are courtesy of Anna Koren's Graphology Center website.
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