As a kid, Marcel Danesi loved signatures. Now he studies them -- along with other signs and symbols -- for a living. "In Grade 8, I wanted to imitate another guy who was the stud of the school, so I imitated his signature," says Danesi, a professor of semiotics and anthropology at the University of Toronto. "I felt empowered by the fact that I could sign like this guy. I imitated the detail: the way he made his 'i,' the way he made his 'a.'"
But these days, Danesi isn't signing his name the way he used to. The electronic signature capture pad -- the ubiquitous device at retail checkout counters -- just leaves a pixelated mess. And when he writes letters of recommendation for his students, nobody wants a handwritten signature at all. "My signature is my email," he says. "That to me is the death knell of the signature."
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