This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Nuts and Bolts: paraph.

Paraphs are tremendous.

Okay, one of this word's meanings is rather dull - it's an alternative name for a pilcrow, which is one of these:



- but the other meaning is terrific. You might even have a paraph yourself, without knowing it.

Here's a famous signature from the American Declaration of Independence:



(It's so famous, in fact, that in the USA when someone talks of a John Hancock they mean a signature.)

John Hancock's signature had a paraph, which is a squiggly bit round a signature. The idea was that although letters all look much the same, the squiggle was much more individual, especially to someone who couldn't read very well - which, for most of the period of human civilisation, has been practically all of us.

Nowadays the paraph has fallen into sad disuse, replaced as it has been by either the totally illegible scribble or the PIN number. 

But I rather think the paraph was better, both in practical and aesthetic terms.

Thing To Design Today: a paraph. Well, why not? I mean, why should dead people have all the fun?




This word comes from the French paraphe, from the Latin paragraphus, which means a short horizontal stroke.


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