Friday, April 27, 2012

X: Signature for the illiterate

Legally, a simple X can still be the signature of a person that cannot write their name. It needs to be witnessed, since such a thing is so easy to forge, but it's still legit. Some places substitute an inked fingerprint, which is quite reasonable too.

Illiteracy is the default state in my fantasy story -- not surprising, I'm sure. Peasants have more important and time-consuming survival skills to teach their children than reading and writing. Most of them would sign with an X if they needed to sign something.

Unexpectedly, this also came up in my science fiction when a truce needed to be signed. The universe I built -- the Jovian Frontier -- is so hooked up, wireless and otherwise computer-driven that I suddenly realized that it had been 150,000 words and nobody had even typed anything, never mind held a pen and written something on a piece of paper.

(a piece of what? the stuff you blow your nose on?)

So I was wrapping up the end of the second book and suddenly I looked over at Maggie and asked, Can you sign your name? 

She said she'd practice for it, since this treaty was important. But it made me think about hand-writing and how it's slowly but steadily fading from the world. Would it ever become so unusual that one would need to practice one's signature for a special event?

What would that special event be?

If computers become good enough to take dictation and read text to us, will reading fall by the wayside too?

Perish the thought...

5 comments:

Stacy S. Jensen said...

Very clever X and a very interesting world you have created. Children are learning to type (hunt and peck anyway) before they write. And, cursive? Most kids ask- what's that?

Elizabeth Twist said...

Interesting question. I still write by hand, but I know a lot of people who don't, or only rarely do.

Under the circumstances you describe, handwriting would probably be practiced only by Luddites like me. There must be some other way to indicate one's unique consent, like a particular brainwave pattern or special conscious action that could be recorded as a signature proxy?

A-Z @ Elizabeth Twist

Lynda R Young said...

Losing reading is a lot further away than losing our handwriting skills. But it's a definite possibility.
Loved your choice for the X letter.

L. Blankenship said...

We really ought to make typing a required part of elementary school. If not the two-thumb typing cell phones require...

L. Blankenship said...

I can't think of anything that wouldn't be easily forged... then again, forging signatures isn't that hard relatively speaking.

Retina scan? Thumbprints? And then don't keep the picture on file? (yeah, right.)

Never mind a hundred years from now, I don't know what it will be in ten years. :)

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