Letters and numbers and quirks

Post Comment

Handwriting is influenced by a number of different factors: age, patience, personality, where and how you learned to write… And although it’s a bit trivial, I love thinking about how handwriting habits evolve. I learned to write in the US, for example, but my father’s family is German, and I remember, at some point, deciding that I liked the way he wrote his K’s — something like a lopsided V with a stick angled off to one side, rather than the perpendicular line with sideways V we were taught in school. I’d now be pretty hard-pressed to write them any other way.

In junior high, I saw how my friend Elsie wrote her F’s starting from the base of the letter rather than the upper curve. After a bit of experimentation, I got used to writing them that way, too, and still do to this day. Ditto for the number 9, which I start and the base and curve, like my Russian friend Katya. I got used to using European 1’s back when I lived there, but I don’t do that anymore so as, first of all, to avoid confusion with American 7’s, but also because I suspect it might be a little pretentious. (I have, however, happily written my 7’s with a little slash through them since I was a child.)

In that sense, handwriting is like many other seemingly straightforward, insignificant habits: poke around for a bit and you can learn a lot about a person’s aspirations and affectations and patterns of thought.

I remember admiring the way an Austrian friend wrote her R’s back when I lived in Vienna, but by then it was too late to change.

5 thoughts on “Letters and numbers and quirks

  1. I’m so curious to see your perfect G, Dirck! But it’s a good point that such things are flexible.

    David, I used to have an book on graphology from the 1950s, and it was good fun to flip through. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but I should try to dig it back up…

  2. “I remember admiring the way an Austrian friend wrote her R’s back when I lived in Vienna, but by then it was too late to change”

    It’s never too late to change. A couple of years ago, I saw a signature on the back of a bottle of scotch with the best cursive capital G ever– clearly from the same family as the one I was taught over thirty years previously, but not an amorphous egg-plant shape. A recognizable G, with panache. I undertook to emulate it, put in a few hours of conscious practice, and now it’s my standard. We are plastic in our habits.

  3. I quite enjoyed reading a book on graphology a while back (its title escapes me), even though the `science’ behind it is complete rubbish – Sort of like the fountain-pen version of horoscopes. I’d thoroughly recommend people who spend much of their time writing read such a text, as it offers an interesting perspective on things.

  4. My handwriting was also shaped by schooling and imitation. My Palmer-method cursive degenerated over the years as I started writing my capital F and T in a (far simpler) stroke, and many of the loops and whorls of the lowercase letters have been eliminated so tthat my handwriting is a hodgepodge of cursive and block lettering.

    Higher-level math courses ruined it, though. My lowercase t has a serif, to distinguish it from an addition sign. My seven is barred like yours to make it not look like a messy greater-than symbol, and all my “common algebra variables” have a curl or serif, because I wrote equation after equation that way. a,b,c,i,j,k,x,y,z: you’re all hopeless now. The capital letters that make up my initials will never again connect to any other letter thanks to muscle-memory from years of signing rent checks.

    I’m always surprised, too, at how even and consistent my handwriting feels as I’m doing it, only to discover that once hte ink dries, it looks like a ransom note written by a highly-caffeinated chicken.

    I type a lot these days.

  5. I write my number 7 the same way, with a slash through the upright. I picked this up from my 8th-grade social studies teacher, whose name escapes me but he was a European-schooled Italian man. I don’t remember why I adopted this habit but it remains with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.