My Aunt Evelyne has the neatest handwriting of anyone I know. Her written letters are all perfectly formed tiny artworks, her words a thing of beauteous curves expertly aligned, her full paragraphs the kind of thing you’d see in a museum as an exemplar of how people should strive to communicate.
She married into the family.
The rest of us have a somewhat different level of proficiency with written script, which graphologists (hand-writing experts) refer to with a technical term called "not good". And beyond any of the rest of my family members, my handwriting is even worse. My lowest marks in elementary school were always in handwriting. I presumed they called it "cursive" because it made you want to swear a lot.
Naturally, my parents joked that I’d grow up to be a doctor, in spite of no particular interest in medicine or biology. I did enjoy the one time I got to dissect a squid, but that was mainly because we got to fry it and eat it afterwards, and I like calamari. I’m pretty sure the medical board disapproves of frying and eating your patients. Unless you’re a veterinarian.
Still, in spite of my lack of medical career, my bad handwriting continued to cause me trouble throughout my school career. I’ve had teachers compare my handwriting (unfavorably) to such diverse things as chicken-scratch, hieroglyphics, and legible handwriting. In college, I once had the professor demand that I re-take an exam because she couldn’t read my handwriting. I often found studying for exams difficult because it was tricky reading my own notes; my handwriting is so bad that even I had trouble reading it; I’d go so far as to say that in certain circles, my handwriting is legendary.
This is why I am thankful that our society has largely moved to computers. As it stands now, anything I need to write, I can just type instead. Whether it’s a humor column, a grocery list, or a letter of apology for eating all the cheese at someone’s party, there’s never a reason for me to write anything by hand when I can just tap it in on the keyboard. The only reason I’d ever have to write things is to sign my autograph, and conveniently I’m not sufficiently famous that anyone really wants me to do that.
To be fair, autographs are bizarre things to begin with. You can chart how dictators have evolved from Von Bismarck to Octavius... no, wait, that’s an Otto graph. An autograph is half-car, half-lion, half-eagle... no, that’s an autogryph. Autographs are just people writing their name, and let me hasten to assure you, just because someone is a writer, it doesn’t mean that he is any good at all at writing his name.
It has occurred to me that I might do marginally better at writing other people’s names instead. I was once asked to put a signature on a form by supplying my John Hancock. I considered writing "John Hancock" on the form, but I realized it was even longer than my name, and more trouble than it was worth. I’m sure that nobody ever asks John Hancock to put his Seth Brown on a form, although in fairness, this could be at least partially due to the fact that Mr. Hancock has been dead for some period of time.
Even so, his handwriting today is still better than mine.
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse", and still resents those low handwriting grades. His work appears weekly in the North Adams Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.