What's In A Signature?

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OPEN UNIVERSITY MARCH 6, 2007

What's In A Signature?

by Christine Stansell
I bet you haven't thought about handwriting since you've been, maybe, in sixth
grade and read a book about graphology. Graphology would be: handwriting as the
key to a person's personality. Why that dumb girl's bubble writing showed that, in
fact, she really was a bubble head. How the tidy writing of the class brain showed
that she was really well-organized but oh so uptight.

Well, now it turns out that the high science of graphology can illuminate the deeper
workings of at least one of presidential candidates. And the results appear not in an
Onion article, but in a front-page piece in our paper of record on the
buildup to next year's New Hampshire Democratic primary. I wake up to the
morning edition of The New York Times and its you-are-there account of Hillary Clinton signing an
autograph (she "signs autographs meticulously, drawing out each line and curve").
After the jump inside the paper, the piece carries a photograph of Hillary Clinton signing autographs. As
if this weren't enough, we get a blow-up photograph of this very same signature, a
very neat and clear "Hillary Rodham Clinton." And, though its not a suspenseful bit of
detection, we now know beyond a scintilla of doubt that Senator Clinton really does
write like the smartest girl in the class or, worse still, like your fourth grade teacher
who taught you cursive in the first place.

You would think they would have learned their lesson at the Times, with
their dismal record of jeering at various permutations of nerdiness and uptightness
in credible Democratic candidates only to cozy up to a real guy who could get down
on the election trail, kick back and help a lonely reporter have fun. That guy was
George W. Bush (even if, come election time, the paper dutifully endorsed the
Democrats). But apparently not. Faced with the long vistas of New Hampshire back
roads and town halls, what's a writer to do but come up with some clever angle to
interrupt the endless middle-of-the-road electioneering that liberal candidates
necessarily resort to in a conservative state.

I'm sure that people's intense reactions to Hillary Clinton, for and against, are
extremely complicated. It can't be just because she's a woman that she's mocked for
being too prim and too steely, too uptight, and too ingratiating. Maybe its all in the
handwriting--graphology is destiny.

But why, I wonder, did it take so long for reporters to discover this fundamental tool?
Has there been a purportedly serious article on a candidate's handwriting on the front
page of a major newspaper in recent memory? Ever? Because up till now, of course,
all the candidates were men.

Maybe it's because guys write so badly, no one has bothered to look.

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