The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 10, 2013

Lousy handwriting signed, sealed and delivered

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — “A signature always reveals a man’s character — and sometimes even his name.” — Evan Esar, humorist.

President Obama’s nomination of White House chief of staff Jack Lew to become the next secretary of the Treasury is drawing fire from those on both sides of the political spectrum.

Much of the flak stems not from Lew’s qualifications to succeed Timothy Geithner as the nation’s chief money man.

Lew has been helping shape economic policy in Washington for three decades.

He served as budget director for both Obama and Bill Clinton, and in the 1980s, offered economic insight as an aide to then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Some say he’s too hard-headed and too detail-oriented. That will all be hashed out in his Senate confirmation hearings.

Many people are unhappy about Lew’s nomination for a completely different reason — his lousy signature. Lew’s signature looks like a young child’s scrawl, or perhaps the doodle of a bored bureaucrat or of someone trying to decide if their pen has run out of ink.

It is a loopy squiggle that has been compared to a Slinky. It looks, for all the world, as if the man’s name is OOOOOO.

Why is that important? If Lew is eventually confirmed, his scrabbled, scribbled signature will be preserved for posterity.

Every U.S. Federal Reserve Note printed bears the secretary of the Treasury’s signature, and that autograph remains in circulation for as long as those bills do —  ranging from an average of 16 months for a $5 bill to 89 months for a $100 bill.

Thus, if Lew becomes secretary of the Treasury, his loopy, lazy John Hancock will be with us for years.

Obama joked about Lew’s signature Thursday when formally announcing his nomination, saying “When this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.”

Obama went on to assure the American public Lew would work to make at least one letter of his signature legible, lest he “deface our currency.”

NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell said Lew’s scribble, “Might be the world’s worst signature.”

She has obviously never seen mine.

I freely admit to having the world’s poorest handwriting.

I took penmanship courses in grade school and became reasonably proficient at expressing my thoughts in cursive.

Then I went to college and became a journalist, and my handwriting skills went straight to heck.

My bride, who has beautiful handwriting, sits down and hand writes more than 100 Christmas letters every year.

I used to write my Christmas notes by hand, until I was informed by a cousin that I was wasting my time, since it was nearly impossible to decipher my scribbles.

Back in the day, when I was a sports writer and my bride was a teacher, we often did not see each other during the work week, at least not while both of us were awake.

We would thus communicate via notes. It’s a wonder our marriage survived.

There’s no telling what terrible names she thought I called her in my notes.

When I sign my name, you can clearly make out the “J,” but everything that follows is open to interpretation.

My signature is loopy and the letters slant sharply to the right. It looks for all the world as if my name is Jiffy Mll, with a squiggle in between where my middle initial should be.’s handwriting analysis says if your letters slant to the right, you are open to new people and experiences.

According to atozhand, a consistently illegible signature implies that “You really ought to know who I am, and if you don’t, it is your loss,” and indicates a certain arrogance and self-importance.

 Or else it indicates you simply have really lousy handwriting, whether or not you are open to new people and experiences.

I once was playing in a media golf tournament, sharing a cart with a TV sports guy from Oklahoma City.

At one point, a boy approached the cart and asked said sports guy for an autograph.

He complied, then handed the kid’s notebook and pen to me.

Dutifully I signed, then watched as the kid walked away scratching his head, trying his best to suss out of my scribbles just who the heck I was.

If the kid was smart, he was able to sell my signature to some other kid by convincing him it came from somebody famous. Who could tell otherwise?

When I have to sign important papers, my bride always scolds me about my illegible signature.

The next time she does that, I will quote Mae West, who once said, “A man’s kiss is his signature.”

Then, I’ll duck.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at