Ideas Not Mine

I wonder if future generations will have some sort of analogue to the issues created by sloppy handwriting.  Maybe people won’t write by hand at all; it’ll be a quaint form of archaic barbarism, like cave paintings or good manners.  Everyone will type on fancy handheld devices and use a hexadecimal code instead of a signature.

If that last part happens, I’m going to make sure my signature is the HTML Hex Code for something cool.  I’ve always been a fan of 9F79EE, but I could do with something rosier.  I suppose I could also try to spell out an amusing word or phrase with the first six letters of the alphabet.  Maybe I’ll call myself “Faded Beef” or some such, but probably not though.  (That’s 67,342,548,719 for you decimal folks out there.)

I’ve been thinking about this because my wife and I discovered recently that she can’t read my handwriting at all.  To get the full effect you have to understand that she teaches young children for a living; she reads bad handwriting professionally.  She can translate poorly spelled gibberish in which some of the letters are backward; she can’t read my notes.

In my defense however, everything in the world is too small.

Either way, we had to do some traveling over the past few days, and while we sat in the car we tried to plan out my next few posts.  During a lull my wife started flipping through my little idea notebook, figuring that she could help me unpack one of the half-formed fancies I’d scribbled inside of it.  Instead, a new post was created.

Here is a list of things that my wife read.

Ideas in My Note Book  (Supposedly)

“Dawning outer balloons”

I don’t know what outer balloons might be, but they sound very mysterious and powerful.

 “Slopping for grapes”

Clearly I do strange things for fresh produce.

 “Wooing Ow Shoes”

Your guess is probably as good as mine.

 “She screamed while
I was in the bathroom
I danced for room
J’s head in garbage
What does the cat say?”

This is clearly the part of my notebook in which I experimented with new age poetry.  I think, in a suitably smoky environment, if I asked about the cat in a poignant fashion, this could seem brilliant.  Instead, this note became an altogether less artful post series.  I don’t remember a cat being involved.

“How do I love keys?”

Oddly, I’ve actually addressed this topic.

“1st birthday party
so many togs
polite saw them everywhere
wear clean underwear
then the octopus
hangover asleep?”

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, this note might actually make sense to you.  If not, I suspect the underwear comment seems particularly out of place.  Then again, sandwiched between togs and an octopus, maybe it fits right in.

“Frosty the snowman
kissing, moo”

Sadly, she wasn’t mistaken about this note.  That’s actually what I wrote.  I’ll tell the story eventually.  Until then you just have to wonder.  If you’re like me, the critical question is why I put that comma there.

“Fishermen in the woods talking about bad things happening to my body”

This could be the plot of a blockbuster summer film, don’t you think?  I’ll call it Deliverance 2.

“Roblet poppy?”


“Anatomical coefficient of waffles?”

I don’t have any idea what this could possibly reference, but I’m intrigued by anything that mentions coefficients.


91 thoughts on “Ideas Not Mine

  1. I’m imagining your wife reading through your notes. Guess you don’t have to hide your diary! But maybe you need code for emergencies if one of you leaves the house quickly or something. I’ve always believed in notes on the fridge. SMS seems so cold compared to a nice hand written note on the fridge

    • Apparently if we tried to leave notes for each other on the fridge, it would turn into a sort of puzzle game. I didn’t include this part of the story, but I can’t read my wife’s handwriting either; it has too much flare. She once gave me a grocery list and sent me on a wild goose chase to find “red wine boop.”

  2. “I might call myself FADED BEEF”
    I love your notes as well.
    I have terrible handwriting, which is perfectly legible ot me, but to everyone else reads “squiggle squiggle, uppy loop, straight line” every time. aluminium is a favourite for writing badly

  3. I think there’s still hope for future obscurity. I have friends that don’t edit predictive text choices. I have fond memories of being invited to “watch some mothers”…granted the smartphone qwerty keyboard has limited my fun a little.

  4. Thanks for the humor! I needed it. I had to learn how to be a professional stenographer for a living … it killed my otherwise very legitimate handwriting.

    I’m retired now and I’m trying to relearn how to hand write so I get a second chance at improving on it. I still see shorthand symbols more than I see alpha characters in my mind when I’m thinking!

    • I still find myself writing things in shorthand, or tracing words from conversations with my index finger on the arm of the sofa…but you are right, it does destroy otherwise legible handwriting.

      • My writing has never been legible so I can’t complain that shorthand ruined it. The really great thing is that I can read my (terrible) writing.

  5. Incomprehensible notes are so much fun!
    I used to be completely unable to read my mother’s handwriting. Drove me nuts when we went grocery shopping. “Why do we need sawdust?!” – “That’s soy sauce!”

  6. I had a similar funny situation with my friend actually. She is very unfortunate with technology so any mention of texts and she goes berserk. To think about it, I can’t understand her handwriting either. So I’ve had a series of funny conversations trying to decipher her texts… which have all ended with me clutching my stomach dying of laughter.

  7. I really like this. HIlarious. And I found myself trying to decipher what you could have meant with each one.

    I’ve been a teacher and a writer all my life. In my earlier years, I had beautiful penmanship. But as I moved into my late 30’s and on, my writing became less and less beautiful and, more importantly, less and less legible. Then came using the computer for all my work — especially newspaper reporting and novel writing. Now, I don’t even want to have to take a note by hand. I actually type much faster than I write by hand — that is if I want to be able to read it — and if I use a pen, my fingers get into a cramp, etc. But I won’t text on my phone either, because, as an English teacher, I absolutely refuse to spell 75 percent of the words wrong and abbreviate everything — and it would take me an hour to spell everything out. So I’m really a misfit.

    However, I did learn something interesting this past week. A friend who is entering medical school next month — and who has spent many months with doctors, getting familiar with a lot of first-hand experience — told me he learned that the reason so many doctors’ signatures are unreadable is that they often sign their names in their Latin form. That way, it’s much more difficult for anyone to forge them on fake prescriptions. Okay … so they have an excuse for the name, but what about the rest???

    Your article reminded me of a photo a friend of mine posted on Facebook several months ago. It is of a note on the refrigerator — posted by a husband — who wrote what he thought he heard. Now, his handwriting is fairly readable, so it isn’t quite the same point, but I thought you and your wife would enjoy seeing it. So I’m posting the link to the photo on my own Facebook page just in case you want to check it out. It’s hilarious. Here’s the link:

    Congratulations on being “Freshly Pressed.”

    • I always try to use correct spelling and punctuation in text messages, too. You’re right that it takes a lot longer. I used to have students who could send text messages without even taking their phones from their pockets. I suppose that’s the benefit of being cavalier with the language.

      Also, thank you. 🙂

  8. This post made me chuckle. 🙂 I’ve had people misinterpret my scribbles too, so I can commiserate.

  9. You could always tell yourself that your handwriting is just so beautiful and revolutionary, that she is unable to comprehend it? I too share the handwriting problem, my words usually end up looking more like pathetic drawings. Great post by the way.

  10. I wish I could read my boyfriend’s handwriting but even when it’s written very carefully, it seems to be reduced to a scrawl. My brother’s is the same. What is it with boys?! I on the other hand, have what I would consider to be pretty clear handwriting. However, I frequently get asked to read back what I had wrote and I must admit that I am not allllways able to do so. So maybe all we can say is that the beauty of handwriting is in the eye of the writer? Great post 🙂

      • Oooh, I’m sorry, but I can’t let grammar mistakes slide…. (Except my own of course. I frequently find mistakes in my old posts and shout at myself: “This has been public for months! The world must think I’m a moron!”) 🙂

    • I remember an old children’s science program that talked about how male hands are designed for strength rather than finesse. The extra muscle might thus cause difficulty with fine-motor tasks. However, that smacks of rationalization to me, especially when it can be easily rephrased: “I’m too muscular and strong to write neatly.”

  11. My diaries are safe for exactly this reason. Problematically, my scrawl is such that i fail to decipher it myself after a gestation period of a few months. Maybe if we just slowed down and printed it out? Or does that destroy the unique character of our written work?

    • I can usually read my own handwriting after time, although it sometimes takes a few minutes. My problem is that my notes consist of brief nonsensical fragments, which I can remember thinking were transparent when I wrote them. I stare at the page later and think, “What could this possibly have meant?”

  12. Wow. That was a solid two minutes of uncontrollable laughter. I have a few penpals, snail mail penpals, and I always find myself apologizing for my handwriting. I have one who writes like one of those cursive fonts on MS Word. I hope she doesn’t think I’m a neanderthal.

  13. Oh my word, I was laughing so hard it hurt — this is great!
    I have a list of thoughts I’ve caught floating absently through my head, and there’re distinct similarities. For example:
    “Damn Welsh. They have the only heavy-handed job of the century.”
    “There, see! You should get a dislike, a person of material following.”
    and “I bet the fish would like that, wouldn’t they? Especially since it’s my dead husband we’re talking about. Archipelago.”
    (That last thought is especially odd, as I am single. :P)

  14. I like this post because I have beautiful, ultra-legible handwriting, yet if someone else transcribed blog ideas from my notebook, it would look a lot like this.

  15. I was at a bar/restaurant last night – and a dude, drunk mind you, saw a list of specials written out on a piece of paper and nearly lost his mind. “HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS CHECK THIS OUT! This handwriting is like totally perfect penmanship, man! Look at it – it’s like cursive or something.” Way to go good penmanship people, you blew that guy’s mind!

  16. I had to chuckle when I read this. I suffer from abysmal handwriting. The folks I work with have complained for years that they cannot read my scribbles. It is not unusual for me to write something in a hurry and then later not be able to decipher the scrawling mess in front of me. The funniest moment at work came when the nurse came into our office and read something I had written in a hurry with no problem. Great post and congrats on getting freshly pressed. 🙂

  17. As usual, very very funny. I grinned the biggest at the coefficient of waffles. I have horrific handwriting and even my printing is hard to read. It’s getting worse as I age. Thank goodness for typing and email. Poor handwriting must be genetic and gender specific to males. Maybe it’s a chromosomal anomaly. Chromosomes are either xx or xy, after all, so the potential for screwing it up can’t be that hard. If I wrote either combination you couldn’t read it. My dad has horrible handwriting, I have it, and my son has it. Now days they call it dysgraphia. In my educational time it was called “Straighten up your lazy butt and quit slacking” as the ruler came down across the hand. I blame my current deficits on PRT “post-ruler trauma?” I tried to start a support group, but nobody could follow my hand-written directions.

  18. My handwriting can be acutely described as God’s curse to humankind… and to think I am now into a profession that requires so much writing (hand) in front of many people. I’m lucky I still have my job up to now.

  19. Classic! Reading your idea book is like when you’re singing a song and sing what you think the words are, only to be told by a laughing friend that you are singing it completely wrong.

  20. Maybe it’s just the fact that I read this after 1:00AM, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
    If you ever get writer’s block, just show your wife some of your notes, and then see what you can make of what she comes up with! 🙂

  21. Hello! Congratulations on being ‘Freshly Pressed’!

    Your post made me laugh out loud which was not good considering I was at my office at the time. My colleagues were giving me weird looks!

    I have really bad hand writing but no one other than my dad has ever really complained. I can type much faster than I can write so I actually prefer typing to writing.

  22. The great thing is that your wife can double your list of blog post ideas simply by reading your notes back to you. I for one am very much looking forward to “Dawning Outer Balloons,” though it doesn’t sound very figure-flattering. You’ll have to be convincing.

  23. My handwriting isn’t so bad. I actually do the full cursive hand! I actually changed elementary schools. The old school taught cursive the in 4th grade (the grade that I was in) while the new school taught it in 3rd grade. So I was forced to learn off of greeting cards, spending hours and hours tracing over each letter. This is the thing though, I’m severely dyslexic. Handwriting things out was sooo much fun! AND NO PESKY ANNOYING RED DOTTED LINES UNDER EVERY OTHER WORD either! 😉 Seriously! I’ve tried several times! No red dotted line! Go ahead, give it a try! Trust me, there won’t be a red dotted line! … Unless of course your wife grades your paper… 😀

    • Actually, since I was an English teacher for a while, I’d probably be the one grading papers. I always try to grade in purple though; it seems friendlier. 🙂

      • Nice! You would have loved my hand written papers. Because of my dyslexia I put lots of space between each word … well, I say “word” … So there would have been plenty of room for you to put that purple “SP” at the top left corner per say of every other “word” 😉

  24. Oh, I sympathize with you. I like handwriting – and beautiful handwriting, especially , which is still out there even in this day and age – but I cannot brag that my handwriting is any great work of art. When I used to be high school student and wrote a geography exam (hurriedly, of course) the question I got was whether or not I had written with my elbow and how like chicken scroll my handwriting resembled. I can’t say that it has so improved over the years but there are occasions when it looks pretty decent. However, for the most part, nothing to write home about, if anybody can read it???? Yet, despite all this, I much prefer to write longhand any poem or story over typing it. Somehow the feel of the pen gliding over paper is inspirational – I feel more connected to what I am writing – so, I would say that though the teacher may despair at the results of teaching the physical act of writing, he/she need not give up. However, as in my day, the art of handwriting has to be held up to a higher standard than it it today – only then do we have hope that any student will see the value in good penmanship. It is true that it didn’t work in my case, but then I am not the only student in the world and there are many with great handwriting (my sister of one year older and one 2 years younger being fine examples of good penmanship!!!) There is always hope!!!

  25. I have a draft blog written about the death of cursive…it seems you beat me to it in some respect. Sometimes I can’t even read my OWN writing.
    Love your wife’s interpretations of your scribbles..just like my own interpretations of what I hear in song lyrics…You know…the bathroom on the right…

  26. I’m in the same boat. I’ve been told my entire lift that “I should have been a doctor” because my hand writing was so bad.. but in Times New Roman.. I can write like a master!

  27. My husband is in the next room working so I had to be quiet…I laughed so hard it hurt! I didn’t know you could “quiet laugh” that hard. I have tears streaming down my cheeks. And I’m glad it’s not just me, my husband can’t read my handwriting either. Made it interesting when I was writing him copious love notes while we were dating that he read differently than I wrote!
    Oh and I think the “moo” makes perfect sense with the comma there. It gives it such possibilities – as opposed to Frosty kissing a cow, or some milk.
    Emailing this to my husband to distract him, and so he can laugh as hard as I just did. Thank you for that!

  28. Haha this is ridiculous! But I absolutely see that happening. Have you ever been told you’re going to become a doctor when you were in middle school or so? Apparently that’s the bad-handwriting-guys destination, or at least quite a stereotype. Good lough!

  29. How long do you think it’ll take her to crack the code? It’s always funny when people can’t make sense of your notes to yourself…then, again, it can also be pretty frustrating.

  30. Haha! My other half and I can’t read each other’s handwriting… Deciphering Christmas cards and shopping lists inevitably leads to questions over each other’s sanity/drunkennes at the moment of writing and doubts that you’ll ever pick up the right flavour of crisps.
    Great post!

  31. Really, is your handwriting that bad? I quit doing cursive long ago in favor of block printing. Trouble is, “six o’clock” always looks like “six o’dock”! Maybe you’re on to something here. Great post. J.

  32. There’s a teen fiction series out called Uglies in which future generations do not know how to write by hand. In this future world, penmanship is a valuable skill, no matter how scrawly. Take comfort in that, I guess.

  33. I must say that is a pretty good post that you’ve published there. I haven’t seen your blog before and “stumbled” upon this post via the Freshly Pressed section of the WordPress Dashboard thingy. I liked your post so much that I thought it deserved a few minutes of my time to leave this comment. So hence, the reason why you are reading this from me.

    I found it to be clearly present, well written and very to the point. I’ve also enjoyed reading some of the previous comments left by other users.

    Please… please keep up the good work and I will be sure to stop by!

    Have a nice day! 🙂

    Regards to you all…


  34. Very funny post. I can’t read my husband’s handwriting and his printing is just as bad. He writes his letters from the bottom up. What were those 1st grade teachers thinking when they let him get away with that?? Oh well.

    My handwriting, on the other hand, is beautiful. But I can rarely make sense of my notes. I can read them — I just don’t know what I meant.

  35. I feel your pain! My hand actually cramps up when I try to write long-hand these days. And this year I’m getting married and choosing a pseudonym, so I need two brand new signatures, which however hard I try come out as childish scrawls.

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