Signature


Signature

A signature (from Latin "signare", "sign") is a handwritten (and sometimes stylized) depiction of someone's name, nickname or even a simple "X" that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent. The writer of a signature is a signatory. Like a handwritten signature, a signature work describes the work as readily identifying its creator.

Function and types of signatures

The traditional function of a signature is evidential: it is to give evidence of:
#The provenance of the document (identity)
#The intention (will) of an individual with regard to that documentFor example, the role of a signature in many consumer contracts is not solely to provide evidence of the identity of the contracting party, but rather to additionally provide evidence of deliberation and informed consent. This is why the signature often appears at the bottom or end of a document.

In many countries, signatures may be witnessed and recorded in the presence of a Notary Public to carry additional legal force. On legal documents, an illiterate signatory can make a "mark" (often an "X" but occasionally a personalized symbol), so long as the document is countersigned by a literate witness.There are many other terms which are synonymous with 'signature'. In the United States, one is John Hancock, named after the first of the signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence. [ [http://www.answers.com/topic/john-henry "Dictionary definition of John Hancock"] , The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2007, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Updated in 2007.] [An alternate expression commonly used as a synonym for "signature" is "John Henry":quotation
JOHN HENRY/JOHN HANCOCK - "As every schoolboy knows, the biggest, boldest and most defiant signature on the Declaration of Independence was scrawled by John Hancock of Massachusetts. So completely did it overshadow the autographs of the other founding fathers that the term 'John Hancock' has become synonymous with 'signature' and each of us at the one time or another has spoken of 'putting his 'John Hancock' at the bottom of a document. In the West, a half century and more later, the phrase became altered to 'John Henry,' and nobody knows quite why. Suffice it that, in the words of Ramon Adams's excellent collection of cowboy jargon, 'Western Words': 'John Henry is what the cowboy calls his signature. He never signs a document, he puts his 'John Henry' to it!' Incidentally, there seems to be no connection between the John Henry of cowboy slang and the fabulous John Henry of railroad lore, who was so powerful that he could outdrive a steam drill with his hammer and steel, This legend has been traced to the drilling of the Chesapeake and Ohio Big Tunnel through West Virginia in the 1870s - substantially later than the first use of John Henry by cowpokes of the Old West."
( [http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/10/messages/147.html "JOHN HENRY/JOHN HANCOCK"] , Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, William and Mary Morris, HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988, ISBN 006015862X ); [http://books.google.com/books?id=my_ut0maeV4C&pg=PA808&lpg=PA808&dq=%22john+henry%22+%22john+hancock%22&source=web&ots=l222gQw3xC&sig=_ZdQgAm3Yy1GEudkK6pYnRWtlAI "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang"] (Jonathon Green, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc, 2006, ISBN 0304366366) states that this usage of the phrase "John Henry" dates from the 1910s, and other synonyms for signature include "John Brown", "John D", "John Esquire", "John Handle", "John Q", "John Rogers", "John Willy" and "John Smith".
]

The signature of a famous person is sometimes known as an autograph, and is then typically written on its own or with a brief note to the recipient. Rather than providing authentication for a document, the autograph is given as a souvenir which acknowledges the recipient's access to the autographer.

In the United States, some states’ legal definition of a signature defines a signature to mean "any memorandum, mark, or sign made with intent to authenticate any instrument or writing, or the subscription of any person thereto." [ [http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wslrcwsup/RCW%20%20%209A%20TITLE/RCW%20%20%209A.%2004%20%20CHAPTER/RCW%20%20%209A.%2004%20.110.htm RCW 9A.04.110 Definitions.] ] In the context of one particular statute, a "signature" doesn’t have to be the popular notion of a written name, but may be other methods of authentication; the intent of any mark or memorandum makes a signature.

Many individuals have much more fanciful signatures than their normal cursive writing, including elaborate ascenders, descenders and exotic es, much as one would find in calligraphic writing. As an example, the final "k" in John Hancock's famous signature on the US Declaration of Independence loops back to underline his name. This kind of flourish is also known as a "paraph". [ has a Wiktionary entry.] [Paraphe, also spelled parafe, is a term meaning flourish, initial or signature in French ( [http://dictionary.reverso.net/french-english/paraphe Paraphe entry] , [http://dictionary.reverso.net/ reverso translation software] , based on the Collins French-English Dictionary, Harpercollins, Flexible edition, August 1990, ISBN 0062755080). ] [The paraph is used in graphology analyses.]

Mechanically produced signatures

Special signature machines, called autopens are capable of automatically reproducing an individual's signature. These are typically used by people required to sign many documents, for example celebrities, heads of state or CEOs.

More recently, Members of Congress in the United States have begun having their signature made into a True Type Font file. This allows staff members in the Congressman's office to easily reproduce it on correspondence, legislation, and official documents.

Several cultures whose languages use writing systems other than alphabets do not share the Western notion of signatures per se: the "signing" of one's name results in a written product no different from the result of "writing" one's name in the standard way. For these languages, to write or to sign involves the same written characters. Three such examples are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. In Asian culture, people typically use "name-seals" or inkan with the name written in "tensho" script ("seal script") in lieu of a handwritten signature (also see Calligraphy).

In e-mail and newsgroup usage, another type of signature exists which is independent of one's language. Users can set one or more lines of custom text known as a signature block to be automatically appended to their messages. This text usually includes a name, contact information, and sometimes quotations and ASCII art. A shortened form of a signature block, only including one's name, often with some distinguishing prefix, can be used to simply indicate the end of a post or response. Some web sites also allow graphics to be used. Note, however, that this type of signature is not related to electronic signatures or digital signatures, which are more technical in nature and not directly readable by human eyes.

Other uses

"Signature" is also to mean that which gives an object or piece of information its identity. Examples include: the voice of Elvis on one of his records or the shape of a classical Coca-Cola bottle.

By analogy, the word "signature" may be used to refer to the characteristic expression of a process or thing. For example, the climate phenomenon known as ENSO or El Niño has characteristic modes in different ocean basins which are often referred to as the "signature" of ENSO.

Copyright

Under British law, the appearance of signatures (not the names themselves) may be protected under copyright law. [cite book | title=Media Law | last=Spilsbury | first=Sallie | publisher=Cavendish Publishing | year=2000 | isbn=185941530X | page= [http://books.google.com/books?id=X2qyT3Y7IpEC&pg=PA439&sig=zJC_raZTlbdzKOsJw5fp9OiLqcs p. 439] | quote=An individual's signature may be protected under law as an artistic work. If so, the unauthorised reproduction of the signature will infringe copyright. The name itself will "not" be protected by copyright; it is the "appearance" of the signature which is protected.] Under United States law, "titles, names [...] ; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring" are not eligible for copyright. [ [http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wnp Copyright Office Basics ] ]

ee also

*
* "manu propria" ("m.p.")
* Autograph
* Cryptographic signature using Public key infrastructure
* Mobile Signature
* Diabolical signature, said to identify the demons in diabolical pacts
* Biometric Signature as form of the Electronic signature

References


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  • signature — [ siɲatyr ] n. f. • 1430; lat. médiév. signatura, du lat. class. signator « signataire » 1 ♦ Inscription qu une personne fait de son nom (sous une forme particulière et constante) pour affirmer l exactitude, la sincérité d un écrit ou en assumer… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • signature — sig‧na‧ture [ˈsɪgnətʆə ǁ ər] noun 1. [countable] BANKING your name written in the way you usually write it, for example at the end of a letter or on a cheque. It is often used to give official or legal permission for something: • I couldn t read… …   Financial and business terms

  • signature — sig·na·ture n 1 a: the act of signing one s name or of making a mark in lieu thereof b: the name of a person written with his or her own hand to signify that the writing which precedes accords with his or her wishes or intentions c: any mark (as… …   Law dictionary

  • signature — Signature. s. f. Le sein de quelqu un apposé à une lettre, à un contract. Je connois sa signature. il y a vingt signatures à ce contract. c est un habile faussaire, il contrefait toutes les signatures. cette signature est fausse. mettre un arrest …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • signature — [sig′nə chər] n. [LL signatura < L signare: see SIGNATORY] 1. a person s name written by that person; also, a representation of this in a mark, stamp, deputy s handwriting, etc. 2. the act of signing one s name 3. an identifying characteristic …   English World dictionary

  • Signature — Sig na*ture, n. [F. (cf. It. signatura, segnatura, Sp. & LL. signatura), from L. signare, signatum. See {Sign}, v. t.] 1. A sign, stamp, or mark impressed, as by a seal. [1913 Webster] The brain, being well furnished with various traces,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • signature — ► NOUN 1) a person s name written in a distinctive way as a form of identification or authorization. 2) the action of signing something. 3) a distinctive product or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified. 4) Music a key… …   English terms dictionary

  • Signature — Sig na*ture, v. t. To mark with, or as with, a signature or signatures. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • signature — 1530s, a kind of document in Scottish law, from M.Fr. signature (16c.), from M.L. signatura sign, in classical L. the matrix of a seal, from signatus, pp. of signare to mark, sign (see SIGN (Cf. sign)). Meaning one s own name written in one s own …   Etymology dictionary

  • Signature — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Signature (homonymie). La signature de John Hancock est l une des plus remarquables de la Déclaration d indépendance des États Unis d Amérique …   Wikipédia en Français


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