What Does Handwriting Tell us About Culture?

Atheer – External Sources

Although in today’s world an abundance of technology means that we now write very little, at times we are still forced to. We tend however to use something of a scribbly un-joined print as opposed to the fancy cursive writing of the past. What is interesting about handwriting is that there can exist notable differences in handwriting between people of different nationalities, which may tell a story or two about culture.

According to a BBC article, such variations are nothing new, rather they have existed across the ages. Had you grown up in mid-Twentieth Century Britain you would most likely have written in looped cursive, although had you been raised in the United States you would probably be writing in what is called the Spencarian script. Those from Western Australia on the other hand write at an 80 degree angle to the right, while those from continental Europe write vertically.

Aside from these differences there exist more subtle regional ones as well. In France the number seven is written with a dash, whereas in Canada, among other places, it is written without. A lowercase letter ‘q’ in German lowercase has a decorative flair on the part of the letter below the line, in order to avoid it being confused with the number 9. So why do these regional differences exist and what do they tell us about cultural identity?

Some writing styles came around arbitrarily, while others took off in part due to their aesthetic. Such styles became preserved by copy books and were passed on to the next generations. In the 17th and 18th centuries handwriting also served to represent one’s social standing, which meant that writing styles differed from class to class as well.

In the United States, the speed of commerce saw drastic changes in handwriting styles. Italic cursive was found to be too slow, hence a more simple Copperplate style was born. Fountain pens, a replacement for the traditional feathered quill, made it easier to write in cursive lettering. The 1960s saw the mass production of ballpoints and fibre tips, which meant that with the exception of France fountain pens became something of the past. Until this day young French students are required to write using a blue fountain pen, which probably explains why French handwriting retains a characteristic elegance. On the other hand, the ballpoint pen requires users to hold it in such a way that results in a bolder, more vertical script, similar to that exemplified by American handwriting.

Handwriting is constantly evolving, however it is clear that the result of people turning to technology is that regional nuances in handwriting are in danger of disappearing.

*Image taken from Internet (Google)

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