It is a dying art. At least that is my opinion. Not too many people I know write in cursive. A few I can confirm: my mom, my grandmas, one grandpa, and just a few older lady friends who write me cards. I really can’t say that I know anyone my age that writes pure cursive at all times. Think of how many generations wrote in cursive! It is almost like a language: when you stop using it or practicing, you forget it. I realized this during yesterday’s spontaneous lesson.
I just finished a book called, Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence, by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese. It is a really interesting book! So often we only hear about the famous men such as John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. There are 56 signers and for most I had never heard of their names before, which means that I had a great history lesson reading this book! Fascinating to read about their upbringings/occupations, impact of the revolution, their duties during and after the war in public service, and how their lives ended.
Now, obviously, these men did a lot of writing. They corresponded to each other in letters, wrote documents and edited them using paper and a feather tipped in ink before the documents ever reached the printing press. And people think typewriters were a pain. 😉 Now, the signers names caught my attention: Some of their names are shortened, such as only writing the first two or three letters of their first name before they affix their last names; some signatures are big–such as John Hancock, who also had excellent penmanship; some are small, and others are a bit sloppy–such as Stephen Hopskins (Kiernan and D’Agnese. p. 38, 50). Fifty-six signatures and they all had one thing in common (as far as writing style goes): they are all in cursive. Let me say that again. These famous signatures are written in cursive!!!
I thought to myself, “When was the last time I wrote in cursive?” The answer: probably 5th grade. We were required to write in cursive in elementary school, then had a choice in junior high of what our preference was in writing. I liked to write fast (still do), because I think fast. Cursive took me so long to write, so I opted for a sloppy something in between cursive and print. I sometimes use an uppercase cursive “L” for paintings, but that is about it. This was a wedding present for my best friend back home:
Thus, my thoughts all came to one conclusion: I must write in cursive! I borrowed Mom’s “feathered” pen–she had attached two fake daisies and leaves to the top of a pen, seemed feathery enough!–and off I started with vicarious intents! I got my “T” down, but my hand could not follow the motions that my brain was trying to remember. I ended up just sitting there at the table staring at a blank piece of paper. It was then I decided that if signer John Penn could teach himself how to read and write at the age of eighteen (p. 202), then I could relearn cursive handwriting! I googled “How to write in cursive” and found myself with oodles of practice printouts from www.abcteach.com. I found the experience enlightening. My dad noticed and said it was actually good Occupational Therapy. Genius! 😀 If I graded my practice sheets, I would probably given myself a B-. HAHA!!! Serious though, the “Q’s” and “Z’s” are somewhat ridiculous.
After a quick practice, I wrote a short paragraph. What do you know?!? My handwriting is actually legible!!! 😀
I enjoyed a short “back to school moment.” The hardest issue for me was not lifting my pen. A website called “wiseGEEK” says,
When writing cursive, never remove your pencil from the paper in the middle of the word. All the letters are connected together through a series of loops. This gives the letters an appearance of flowing together (Conjecture Corporation, 2003-2012).
I am not sure if I will write all the time in cursive. Maybe here and there now that it is fresh in my memory and good therapy for my hands. Regardless, I think it is beautiful art within the written language (when written smooth and in the author’s own signature style). It is something that I hope we never lose completely. If you have not written in cursive for a while, try it! I think you will find that your hand remembers the motions of the letters quickly once you get started. Have fun and more to come…
Kiernan and D’Agnese. (2009). Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia: Quirk Books.
“What Should I Know about Writing Cursive?” wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions. Conjecture Corporation, 2003-2012. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-should-i-know-about-writing-cursive.htm.