Signatures: Your Name or Artwork?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by 6 pies, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. 6 pies

    6 pies Senior Member

    Valladolid, Spain
    In my experience I've noticed a difference in the way people sign their names in different cultures. I would say that Americans typically sign their name so that people can read it, or at least make out the first letter of their first name, last name, and maybe some letters in between. I'm sure there are some people who sign their name very messy, but in general, I would say that in my experience I can read fairly well peoples' signatures. I've also noticed that people from Central America and Spain tend to sign their names very fancy, with x's, large swooping movements, and it's almost like art. I can identify the first letter of their name, but nothing else. I think some of the signatures I've seen don't even have the last name signed; it's just lines and curves. One of my co-workers (from Argentina) signs his first name and the first initial of his middle name. When I asked him where his last name was, he said it wasn't there! When I sign my name, even if I write it very messy, you'll be able to pick out almost all of the letters and be able to know what my name is. How do people in your country and/or culture sign their names? Is it really their name or is it art?
  2. Dr. Quizá

    Dr. Quizá Senior Member

    Esuri - Huelva York.
    Spain - Western Andalusian Spanish.
    I have several hundreds of signatures right here from people of a number of countries (Spain and several European and American countries mostly) and I've seen Spanish signatures are almost always completely unreadable scrawls, yet they are supossed to be the name, but signatures from foreign people are roughly fifty/fifty regardless whether they speak Spanish or not.

    I've also noticed only a pair of my workmates use readable signatures and both of them are who seem to be the less educated of us, but that's probably only by chance.
  3. jinti

    jinti Senior Member

    I used to tutor classes in an English language lab at a New York college. The first day of every class, I'd ask the students to write (not sign!) their names on a roster that I would then use to call roll every day. I had to give elaborate instructions on this, asking the students several times to print clearly, explaining why, demonstrating an illegible "artwork" signature, begging for mercy, etc. Otherwise, at least half the Spanish-speaking students would write these mystery signatures. (This way, I could get the number down to 1 or 2 per class. ;)) I never had that problem with any other language group....
  4. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    All my workmates here use an indeciferable scrawl as signature, and so does my husband and almost every Spanish person I know (and the scrawl gets more complicated if the person is a doctor). Some of them are so spidery that it would take a graphologist to decipher them.
  5. Aderyn Member

    I would have said it was more of a personal thing than a cultural thing, but reading the replies above, maybe not... Having said that, the few signatures of Spanish people I have seen have not been especially indeciferable, although I did that notice it seemed quite normal to put a big squiggle at the end, sometimes right through the whole signature twice. As for doctors, it seems they are famous all over the world for their scrawly messes. In the UK, I think having a "fancy" but still readable signature is the preferred option. My only personal signature is truly pathetic, in fact it's exactly the same as I would write my name in my normal handwriting.
  6. avok

    avok Banned

  7. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish
    I agree we wouldn't have considered it art... :D
  8. palomnik Senior Member

    Russian signatures tend to be very extensive on flourishes, possibly although not necessarily illegible. The original intent was to make the signature difficult to forge. I think the same is true of Hispanics.

    When I sign my name in Russian I tend toward the illegible, although my signature in English is pretty much decipherable.

    For what it's worth, East Asians tend to use carved seals rather than signatures, also on the principle that they are difficult to forge.
  9. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
    Many of the Spanish-speaking Mexicans I have dealt with in my life, perhaps a majority, have signatures that are easy to read and not cursive. Many Mexicans I know did not learn cursive writing during their public education.

    Whether Mexican or American, the people I know who use swoopy, illegible signatures are people who have economic, social and/or professional power -- in other words, they choose to develop a signature that is not literal because they sign a lot of checks or documents, and they develop their signature as part of their identity.

    So I see "artsy" signatures as function of economics, education and/or personality, much more so than a function of culture.
  10. roseruf

    roseruf Senior Member

    Spain (en alguna carretera catalana); Spanish and Catalan
    Firs, sorry about my English.

    I had never thought in it before but now, that you ask, I think may be is a different point of view: a firm doesn’t must to be readable, is must be very difficult to be forged. When I was a child and need to sign for first time, I write my name very clearly, and my fathers said that in this way, every one can forge my sign! Then, I became an “artist”!;)
    If someone can guess my name reading my sign... he/she is a foreteller! (¿adivino = foreteller?):rolleyes:

    Roser ( os lo he puesto muy fàcil!);)

    Any correction is wellcomed.
  11. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish
    Many people have two signatures: an official one, big and beautiful, and another easier one, sometimes just one "letter" or sign to use to validate documents, when they a lot, and things like this.
  12. loladamore

    loladamore Senior Member

    Zacatecas, México
    English UK
    That is/was my experience among people I know. In Mexico, however, the vast majority of signatures I have seen are quite ornate and generally undecipherable. On the other hand, most of the signatures I tend to see are for official burrocratic purposes, so I wouldn't like to make any claims for Mexican signatures in general. Then again, that's what most signatures are used for, isn't it???
  13. isasisa Senior Member

    I'm a Spaniard and my signature is only my last name. At the beginning was legible, but in the end it's an undecipherable sign. But it's my real "signature", not my name which is my identity and I can write whenever I need it, and it's something genuine.
    Besides I remember when I was a scholar girl, in my School we spent part of the day trying different kind of signatures, and the "rubricas" for them. I think it shows our character. Probably the signs are really art in my country. Even the public Notaries have to write not only the signature, but a sign special very artistic in their Acts.
  14. I used to sign with a legible signature, but my name is somewhat long and I never found my signature very attractive. So I cut it down to the superimposition of my first and last initials, one over the other. It is indecipherable, yes, but also very, very difficult to copy - a definite advantage.

    I'd say most French signatures I've seen are unreadable, you'd be hard-pressed to make out more than one or two letters. In the US, there are also plenty of those, but I'd say you also see a lot of signatures that are fairly clear, or atleast where you could, if you know the person's name, identify the name/letters.

    I don't know why there is this difference, it's a good question. I do like mine though for the two reasons stated above: It's quick, and it's very hard for anyone else to reproduce...
  15. rogelio

    rogelio Senior Member

    Southeastern US
    USA - English
    that has also been my experience. I work with parents all the time from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, and it seems that the more educated, economically well off, or higher in social standing a person is, the more illegible the signature.
    Personally, when I'm signing my name, I write the first two letters of my first name and the first letter of my last name. The rest is illegible. That came about from having to sign my name all the time. It is both quick and easy to recognize (if you've seen it before, that is).

  16. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russia, people may sign their name in a number of ways.

    I've read once a suggestion that you should make your signature as complex as possible to make it the harder to imitate. Indeed, I've noticed that people who hold important positions usually have long and complex signatures. For example, my father, who's chief of a department in a major army hospital, signs his name very elaborately.:)

    But most people prefer to keep their signatures rather simple, so they could sign any document very quickly. Here you have my Mum: her signature isn't very long, and it's pretty simple, at least for me.;) I once had to work for a month in my Mum's office, and I had to sign a number of documents in her stead. The difference was very little indeed.:)
  17. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    My signature was decipherable when I was 18 - 20. Now, a few years later, it has evolved into... something I would never call Art.
    It is not elaborate, but once you need to sign many documents, you want it to be quick.

    Thinking of it, this is stupid because when I sign, I commit myself to something, thus I should think well and write slowly instead of "getting rid" of my signature.

    I sign the initial of my first name and my family name.

    However, when I just sign my first name, it is always readable. No artwork involved.
  18. mirk Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    Native from Mexico, Spanish. Living in
    I think at least in Mexico, having a fancy signature is a sign of the grown ups. As a child you design your own signature, so when the moment to sign your 18 year old ID card arrives, you will have your own personality kit: an ID with your name that says you're a grown up, and an illegible signature no one can copy, for you checkbook... or at least, your highschool grades!.

    In México, the fancier and more complicated you signature is, the better!
  19. 1234plet

    1234plet Senior Member

    Aalborg, Denmark
    Denmark; Danish
    In Denmark the signatures are almost unreadable. :)
    Most Danish people just put something down on the paper, and it hardly looks like their name. You might be able to recognize a letter or two but all in all it's like some big loops and some weird stuff.
  20. Black Opal

    Black Opal Senior Member

    United Kingdom, English/Italian Speaker
    Signatures here (Italy) seem to be fairly legible.

    They have problems with me (English) in the bank and public places, as my signature is illegible, arty if you like, by choice. I can write perfectly well when I want to but I like a pretty, and illegible, signature that would be hard to copy.

    So they ask me to put a legible signature on documents, which of course isn't my real signature at all, is it? :rolleyes:
  21. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I noticed, while I was living in France (1992-97), that a large proportion of the signatures I saw ~ mostly fairly legible ~ were surname only, which always seemed very odd to me. Most of the signatures I see in the UK ~ apart from the 'artistic ones', which I don't really class as signatures so much as 'personal marks' ~ consist of at least first-name-initial + surname, if not first-name + surname (which is what I personally use).
  22. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    In Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries it's common for people to have three, four and sometimes five or more surnames, it's as if they didn't want to miss out on any ancestors:) I have a theory that this is the reason why people make up these "artistic" signatures for themselves. Although my name is pretty short, my signature is illegible too -but then so is my handwriting in general. I can't be bothered to sign out my full name legibly as most of my signatures are put where my name is already printed or written, but of course if I know that someone will have to tell my name from my signature I use my "full signature".
  23. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Hello Macunaíma.
    Yes, I've come across Portuguese folk with six surnames ~ they're always pretty to read (or hear) but us Anglo-Saxony types do tend to think How many more of these are there?!
    I never could figure out what the practice was in Portugal/Brazil but as I'm sure you know in Spain women often add their husband's name on the end with a de ~ I once had a teacher with the name María Josefa Fernández González de [longish German name tacked on the end for good measure] ~ I'm pretty certain her signature was something like MJF or MJW.
  24. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    There are many! And, at least in Brazil, the practice spread to people of other origins than Portuguese, so you often meet people who have lots of German or Italian surnames added to their names, although this is not common among Germans and Italians and probably sounds funny to them. The Orleans e Bragança family --descendant of the former Brazilian Imperial Family-- are an extreme case, of course, but some of their members have staggering 26 names! "Princess" Paula was taken to a police station the other day after a traffic incident because she only had an acronym on her ID -- her name goes something like Paula Maria Isabel Blah-Blah-Blah Bourbon de Orleans e Bragança Sapieha and it exceeded the space given for the name on ID cards, so only the initials could be used. People who have such a long name won't probably sign it in full and instead of cutting out a few surnames --it's tricky to decide which to omit-- they opt for using an undecipherable scribble as their signatures.
  25. Chtipays Senior Member

    Mexico, Spanish
    I guess I am a lazy Mexican, I just write my name, but my writing is so bad that it would be difficult for somebody to forge my signature.
    However, I do remember my sister when she was about 15 years old, she spent hours inventing an original signature; she ended up with something that looks like a little sailing boat, pretty original. And yes, maybe a piece of artwork.
  26. Senior Member

    Barcelona Eixample
    Catalunya - català/spanish
    Hi all,

    I'm from catalonia and always sign with a flourish (or rubric).

    The most common here is doing it in that way. It seems that rubrics were thought to avoid signatures falsification, for they're much more difficult to copy.

    Nevertheless, in some cases we are forced to write the name clear down the signature.
  27. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    No we don't, Ewie. The only women who do that in Spain are the ones that think her husband's name is more aristocratic/powerful/known than their own.

    And yes, they sign their initials and their husband's surname (usually quite clearly) to make sure everyone realizes who they are. Or to whom they're married to.
  28. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Hehe ~ I obviously have known some very classy Spanish birds then, Alexa;) ~ or at least ones who think they are.
    But seriously, I think my (seldom admitted-to) interest in European ~ and Brazilian ~ 'royalty' has clouded my perception a bit here. I can't tell you the full name of the princess Macunaíma talks about in post #24, but I can tell you her mother's full baptismal name is Dona Cristina Maria do Rosário Leopoldina Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga de Orléans e Bragança. I'd like to see her artwork!
  29. tvdxer Senior Member

    Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
    So true about the doctors.

    In the U.S., most prefer to give an identifiable signature, while others not. I personally suffix mine with a personal symbol the end (which resembles the "Control" key on an Apple keyboard, its origin :) ).
  30. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Austrian signatures usually are readable only when written by children up to an age of 12-14 years (sometimes even up to 18), but here in Austria I would even go so far as to say that the development of an idiosyncratic signature is considered as part of growing up (part of puberty).

    I can still remember in school, at an age of say 13 or 14 years, when my classmates started creating nice looking signatures, most of the times with a rather complicated initial followed by a (snakelike, dotted, whatever) line which hardly ever gave a clue as to what letters would follow the initial.
    (Well okay, I confess I was no exception. ;))

    Mostly these 'signatures of puberty' did change slightly when one was a little bit older and didn't care very much anymore about this or that ornament in his or her signature which could probably involve some simplification and shortening: after all, if you actually do have to sign here and there on a regular basis you're getting bored with ornamental scripts. This also often includes omission of the first name.
    (On official documents, as for example the passport, most people think that both first name and surname is required - which indeed could even be true - and most people here sign with both names.)

    Then there are people who need a short signature at work, like Chics has mentioned:
    This is the case in many firms where the workers (both blue coat and white coat!) might have to sign here and there on a regular basis (a signature that says nothing but 'I've seen it/done it/acknowledged it'): and for that, mostly only one or two initials or the first two letters of the surname are used.
  31. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    From my experience in Argentina and Brazil, I've noticed that the lower the education level, the more likely is the signature to be elaborate and legible. As others have mentioned, the higher you go on the social/educated scale, the more illegible the signature becomes, but even more elaborately designed with whorls and squiggles all over the place and painful to watch when they are signing.

    When I lived in the UK I signed my full first name and last name with an initial for the middle one. Later in my professional career when I was required to sign large numbers of documents on a daily basis, this became impractical and I reduced it to just the last name, reasonably legible (I think). For many other items I just adopted a form of initials which my wife once remarked looked like a squashed fly!
  32. belle_gique Senior Member

    Scotland (English Language)
    My signature is my regular writing (maybe a bit messier when I'm being lazy). In Scotland I think that is normally the case. I tend to sign my full name but many people use only their first initial and surname. The writing here is really different to on the (European) continent - last year I was a language assistant in Belgium and the students couldn't understand my writing unless I WROTE IN CAPITALS ... I thought their writing was beautiful, full of loops and twists, very elegant (but a bit difficult to read!):)

    Hmm I should add that they didn't know what kisses were at the end of an email either e.g. "see you tomorrow! Name xxx"
  33. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    In Britain, lords sign using their surname only. Princes sign using only their first name. The sovereign signs with the name assumed on ascending the throne followed by "R".

    Signatures with fancy scrolls are traditional in Spain - I remember reading about it in my Spanish textbook at school.
  34. pickypuck Senior Member

    Badajoz, Spanish Extremadura
    Extremaduran Spanish

    Just for the record. Although 0.01% of the Spanish women (or less) would use their husband's name (no "normal" woman would do that, as Alexa told you), this action has no legal validity, i.e., she will have their two surnames (from her parents) in her identity card, passport, etc. I think your teacher did it because she married a German.

    Speaking about signatures, mine is kind of artwork, although it tries to reflect my two given names. I've been told that it looks like Chinese :rolleyes:

    As you have mentioned for other royals, the king and queen of Spain also add the letter R to their signatures. Their son Felipe and his wife Letizia add "Príncipe de Asturias (y Gerona)" or "Princesa de Asturias (y Gerona)" to their signatures. Elena and Cristina (the king and queen's daughters) add Infanta de España. Their signatures are quite simple, just their names. Maybe that of the king is more ellaborated.

  35. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    You perception is correct, Porteño. I used to work for a bank and a did a course to learn the basics of recognizing authentic/false signatures, and those signatures that stick to the regular standards of writing were referred to in my textbooks as "assinaturas de baixa cultura gráfica" (signatures of low graphic culture).

  36. Ёж! Senior Member

    In Russia, people sign both their name and their signature in official papers; otherwise, the signatures are not used. The name is written in plain text, and the signature can be any set of strokes, it does not have to have any relation to the name. Usually, though, it is an elaborated variation of the first letters of either one's surname, or the first name, or of both. And yes, it happens to be elaborated enough to be illegible.
  37. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I had a nice legible signature before I joined the Navy, along with equally legible initials, but I had to sign and/or initial papers so often during my 21 years in that both signature and initials turned into scribbles. I still sign things "Firstname Middlename Lastname RM1(SS)," but very few of the letters - even the capitals - are identifiable.
  38. Glockenblume Senior Member

    Deutsch (Hochdeutsch und "Frängisch")
    I constated a real difference between German and French signature culture:
    In Germany, the tendency is legible writing:
    A signature for a contract is valid when you sign with your
    - first name + last name
    - initial(s) of the first name + whole last name
    - last name
    (middle names can be added)
    If you only use initials it's not valid.
    Besides, people must be able to read at least 3 letters of your last name. Otherwise, it might happen that a contract is valid.
    Another thing:
    I read a book about applying to high carrier jobs. They gave exemples of letters:
    The signatures were: Surename and lastname, easy to read, without any paraphes...

    In France, signatures are more personal artwork.
    By the way, I read somewhere that some French graphologists consider people for childish when they write the full surename before the last name.
    Besides, I've heard that someone telling that a bank didn't accept his signature because it was not exactely like the other (the person had a problem with his arm that day or something like that - so her signature was a bit different).

Share This Page