Friday, June 24, 2011

The Decline And Fall Of Handwriting

Languishing in remote corners of publishers' warehouses must be piles of mildewed books that claim to understand human beings through their handwriting. Yellowing pages devoted to the way you dot your 'i's and cross your 't's, with each characteristic loop, slant and curlicue identifying you as introverted, sociable, pathological or a unique combination of the three. ("Lines sloping downward? Looks you need some Prozac at once!") Graphology, it's called, from graphos, writing, and logos, word. If I'm not mistaken, there was even one such volume that claimed to make you change your lifesimply by changing your handwriting.
Whether such analysis is science or mumbo-jumbo, handwriting itself is in irreversible decline. Most prefer nowadays to strike or touch keyboards, with the result that the knowledge of an art we spent years painstakingly perfecting now lies gathering dust in our synapses. Heidi Harralson, a Tucson graphologist, was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying, "I'm seeing an increase in inconstancy in the handwriting and poor form level — sloppy, semi-legible script that's inconsistent." I feel your pain, Heidi: I used to be proud of my cursive style, now lying in tatters. Once, doctors were famously derided for illegible handwriting; now all of our scribbled notes look like medical prescriptions. The rest of my Yahoo India column continues here.

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