The handwriting on the wall — in praise of Jack Lew’s signature

January 10, 2013

Jack Lew, President Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, has by far the greatest signature of any public official. Even the president has noticed.

Here it is, in all its glory.


YES

I have bad handwriting, so I find Lew inspiring. Except what he has transcends bad handwriting. If anything, it is an absurdist protest against handwriting as an institution.

Penmanship is an antiquated art. 

The ability to write legibly by hand, like the ability to listen to people speak for several minutes at a time without whipping out your phone to see if the Internet is doing something more interesting, is an outdated skill no one has any more. You might as well shoe horses for all it will add to your daily quality of life. But people do not require you to shoe a horse in order to deposit checks. 

Yet in spite of how little we use our hands to scrawl, signatures are still curiously important. It is odd that the way to prove that it is all right to hand you money is to scratch out something you have not done in years that looks nothing like the way you did it last time. Mine looks like the scratching of a badly wounded chicken. 

Things have gone downhill since the days of John Hancock. 

That was a signature. That signature made you sit up and take notice. That was the kind of signature that signature fans clamored for at concerts. King George would definitely be able to read that without his spectacles. If John Hancock perished in the Revolution, he would still have left his mark. 

Jack Lew’s signature is such that if he had put it on the Declaration of Independence and the revolution had gone badly, he would have escaped just fine. There is no risk involved. He might have felt pangs of conscience as a stranger named “OOOOOOOO” was strung up in his place. But there is no chance of tracing it to him. 

But what does it say? That is not how you spell “Jack Lew.” Is it an alias? Is there some message in all this?

According to RealSimple.com’s handwriting analysis, if your handwriting slants to the right, you are open to new people and experiences. If it slants to the left, you keep to yourself. If it doesn’t slant at all, you are “logical… practical… and guarded with your emotions.” What Jack Lew’s handwriting says is that he is some sort of doodlemonster who was just handed a pen for the first time. Auto-pens put in more effort than this, and they are not even real humans. 

Full loops indicate an open mind and willingness to try new things. That is the only characteristic we can definitely ascribe to Mr. Lew. Apparently if your S’s are open at the bottom, you are not following your heart! If you have no discernible S’s — or, well, letters of any kind — you are probably Jack Lew. 

It’s like a Rorschach test. What you see in Jack Lew’s handwriting is who you are. Is it razor wire? Is it a group of O’s sitting around a campfire? Is it Stonehenge? Is it all of these things, yet none of these things? It’s like much modern artwork: a totally meaningless scribble that will soon be worth millions of dollars.

OOOOOOO, indeed.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | January 10, 2013