If you know just one thing about President Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary, Jack Lew, there's a good chance it's this: He has a loopy signature. "The stylish scribble starts off with large loops, narrows at the middle and then grows back to large circles at the end, none of them seemingly related to the alphabet," explains Agence France-Presse. Lew's signature has already been fodder for the late-night talk shows, where Stephen Colbert compared it to "pubic hair masquerading as an autograph." Jimmy Kimmel quipped, "Before he was chief of staff at the White House, Mr. Lew worked at Hostess as a cupcake-icer."
Even Obama got in on the act. "I had never noticed Jack's signature, and when this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him," he said while formally nominating Lew for the Treasury post on Thursday. "Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency should he be confirmed." But as Obama notes, Lew's signature does matter: It will appear on every U.S. banknote issued while he heads up the Treasury Department. And naturally, given the importance of the job and the notoriety of Lew's loopy John Hancock, amateur and professional graphologists — people who analyze handwriting for clues to personality traits — have been roped into service. Here's a sampling of their conclusions:
Cuddly: Professional graphologist Kathi McKnight tells The Washington Post that the roundness of Lew's signature suggests he has a pronounced soft side. "Princess Di had very loopy writing," she adds. McKnight elaborates on her website: "When you find big circles in one's signature it means the writer has a philosophy of 'Hugs not Drugs.' They are going to have a softer approach to problem solving."
Secretive but creative: "The overall loopiness generally signals hyper-secrecy," say the analysts at Graphology Consulting Group. Lew "will carry secrets to his grave." But it's not all secretiveness. "His imagination is probably as relatively large as the loops, and much of his energy is expended in the realms of abstract thinking, perhaps even religion," Graphology Consulting says. (Lew is an Orthodox Jew.)
Protective: "The fact that it's illegible means on a deeper level, he's someone who doesn't want to show his true self," graphologist Elaine Charal tells Canada's CBC News. "It looks like money bags on the run," Charal says. "It's probably a trademark but it's protective.... He's protecting himself."
Brand-savvy: Lew's signature "belongs to the world of someone who, like many financial authorities in the past, has had to sign his name on documents so many times that an illegible hieroglyphic has emerged for practical purposes," says Philip Hensher at Britain's The Guardian. Like many celebrities, "Lew has devised a signature more closely resembling an abstract logo than a name."
Enigmatic: "I have bad handwriting, so I find Lew inspiring," says Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post. "Except what he has transcends bad handwriting. If anything, it is an absurdist protest against handwriting as an institution."
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....
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.... 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. [Washington Post]
If you're wondering how your name would look if Lew signed on your behalf — and who isn't? — Yahoo News has a "Jack Lew Signature Generator." Try it out.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- Why you probably don't have Ebola — even if you shook hands with America's 'patient zero'
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- You're reheating pizza wrong
- Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October
Subscribe to the Week