Jack Lew: What the Treasury Nominee’s Signature Really Tells Us

NewsFeed asks a graphologist to analyze the Treasury Secretary nominee's signature. Intrigue!

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Many Americans may only know one thing about Jack Lew: that his signature has got more loops than Toucan Sam. So while TIME’s political team provided more objective assessments of Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee, NewsFeed tried to suss out more unorthodox insights that Lew’s unique autograph might yield.

Welcome to graphology, a certain branch of handwriting analysis. Graphologists’ basic theory is that handwriting–with all its slants, ornamentation and, of course, loops–can reveal truths about one’s personality. But like many tests of personality, the results are inconclusive. Graphology has been lumped in with crafts like astrology and phrenology–or as a CIA officer once put it, “systems for reading character from physical characteristics such as length of fingers or color of hair.” But that doesn’t make the practice any less fun.

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Eileen Page is a graphologist living in Scituate, Mass. She says she’s been practicing graphology for about 20 years and teaches a class on handwriting for a program associated with Framingham State University. When Page examined Lew’s letter-less scrawl, she did not see the “childish loop-de-loop” that many amateurs have. “When you look at people who have high position jobs, their signature takes on a logo factor,” she says. “Once you see that, you’re always going to know it’s his.” And that much is certainly true: it’s the Dali mustache of signatures.

Instead of being “alarmed” by the fact that it’s completely illegible, she says, we might instead infer that Lew is a private, guarded person—that the public Lew is protecting the true Lew behind a row of faceless circles. The consistency and rhythm set Lew apart from the scribbles of 8 year olds, she says. He packs no fewer than eight loops into his signature, perhaps one for every letter in his full name, Jacob Lew. Most kids’ loopy signatures presumably contain a maximum of two or three.

Lew also starts and finishes his tightly bound curves on the same baseline — i.e. the imaginary line in space that the bottoms of the first and last loops touch. Lew thus thrusts the majority of his autograph into the “upper zone” where we typically dot our i’s and cross our t’s. And the upper zone, Page says, is the “theoretical area” where thinkers tend to linger: “His signature shows a lot of imagination.” Indeed.

Page cautions that there are at least two sides to every trait. While the loops convey creativity to her, they could also be interpreted as signaling the worry or anxiety of someone who is mentally “just spinning his wheels.” In this case, both sides would fit his task as a high-placed financial official, Page concludes. “He’s obviously a thinker and obviously dealing in the Treasury warrants some worry,” she says, “especially the way our Treasury is now.”

Celebrity signatures, she says, are often dynamic in the area below the baseline, which conveys a more social personality. And she theorizes that Lew might have some trouble with the more public portions of his role. Yet this baseline-based analysis inevitably leads us to some of graphology’s limitations: were Jack to write the traditional representation of his name, only the cursive J would dip into the social zone. What does that tell us?

On the far right of Lew’s signature is a line that extends away from the loop-fest. Page sees this as a hand sticking out, one advising caution and conveying a man who is careful and take times to think things through. This insight would also seem to fit a person of his accomplishments–even if Lew’s signature has brazenly defied the alphabet.

33 comments
johntaho72
johntaho72

That's means 00000000 for spending!

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Jack Lew's signature is an insult to the English Language.  

It also makes him appear to be no more educated in penmanship than the average Bushman of the Kalahari.

damthis2
damthis2

I think all those loops mean he can't spell his own name

TheDisclosure
TheDisclosure

The signature means he will be a human rights activist. Just guessing here.

gysgt213
gysgt213

Media entertaining themselves. Anyone else give a crap about this guy's signature?

AfGuy
AfGuy

If his signature is "loopy" does that mean that he is?

RichardSmoker
RichardSmoker

So this is what goes for journalism these days? Lew should be in jail and all you have to talk about is his signature. For your complacency you should be strung up right along side him.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Isn't that the motion we all do with one finger around the temple area when we talk about the tea party?

notsacredh
notsacredh

My signature is hard to copy. It's almost like caligraphy.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

I think that OOoooOOO will make an excellent Treasury Secretary....

bobell
bobell

My regular signature bears a distant resemblance to the actual spelling of my name, but when it comes time to sign electronically -- you know, with that blunt "pen" on a video screen -- I draw a poor semblance of a sine wave. No one has objected yet.  I wonder what Ms. Page would think of that.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

What it tells me is that he's secretly a Slinky.

Heian
Heian

@mrbomb13 If you're drawing that kind of conclusion from penmanship, you are just...out there.

Also the signature is not restricted to the English language. Perhaps in your small-minded world all names and signatures are English, but that is not the case. Just a good, solid display of ignorance amidst your ridiculous insult.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@gysgt213 

Personally, I don't give a crap about Lew's signature.

However, as a teacher, we had to learn about the development of education in the U.S. over the last 200 years.  Even 50 years ago, Mr. Lew's penmanship would have resulted in him being publicly humiliated in front of the classroom, and/or light corporal punishment.

bobell
bobell

"Lew should be in jail?  Please explain. (This oughtta be good.)

bobell
bobell

And you gotta admit it's easy to pronounce.

notsacredh
notsacredh

At stores I sign my name on those card swipes as everything from Santa Claus to Jack the Ripper.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Q: How is a slinky like a MIL?

.

A: They're no fun if they just sit there, but push them down the stairs and they're hilarious.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@Heian @mrbomb13 

For the sake of argument, I will concede that signatures are not restricted to the English language.  

However, the point still stands that his cursive skills are deplorable.  In prior centuries, a person's signature was an indication of a his level of education.  Again, Mr. Lew is lucky that we live in the more permissive 21st century, where a poor signature only raises jokes (and not more critical eyebrows).

notsacredh
notsacredh

Larry, mine isn't just well written. It looks like the type of writing you get on printed invitations. It's harder to do than you might think unless you have a knack for it.

bobcn
bobcn

@bobellThat's pronounced "Boing boing boing...". (from Jon Stewart)

bobell
bobell

My MIL was tightly coiled and apt to spring at any moment.

(Actually not true, but anything for a joke.)

bobell
bobell

Who is your friend that I should read?

Okay, missing commas aside, I read the two articles. They are, shall we say, less than flattering to Mr. Lew.  Neither accuses him of any criminal offense. Are you proposing that we should jail -- or even string up -- everyone whose politics you don't like?  Please calm down.

Heian
Heian

@sacredh Well, take a little bit more time to pat yourself on the back, and tell us more about your rather high opinion of yourself.

jmac
jmac

@sacredh My ex-German SIL tried to convince me that die Schwiegermutter (MIL) meant "be silent".  Good try!  

notsacredh
notsacredh

bobell, I've had the flu for almost a week and my MIL won't come anywhere near me. It's almost worth being sick.