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Treasury chief's loopy signature evolves into something almost legible


The official signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on a $5 bill, top, and Lew's signature on a 2011 memo.

Penmanship purists can relax: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has straightened out his signature.

When he was nominated for the post earlier this year, Lew was mocked for his John Hancock — an aimless series of loops that was compared to the white icing atop a Hostess cupcake.

The top finance official in the federal government was given the humiliating nickname Loopty Lew. Worse still, the treasury chief is one of two people whose signatures grace United States currency. President Barack Obama joked that he might devalue the dollar.

But the Treasury Department on Tuesday released Lew’s signature as it will appear on bills this fall, starting with the $5 note, and it’s a little more grown-up. In fact, it’s borderline legible.

The first name arguably looks more like “Paul” than Lew’s real first name, Jacob. But the middle initial is an unmistakably accurate “J,” and the last name is at least a close approximation of the real thing — an L, an E and the faintest beginnings of a W.

Asked to explain the dramatic change, a Treasury Department spokeswoman would say only that it’s common for secretaries’ signatures to evolve once they get the job and start practicing for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Reaction on the Internet, meanwhile, was mixed. Some people said the country had dodged an embarrassment. But others were nostalgic, having hoped that the zany original would lend some whimsy to the greenback.

Kevin Roose of New York magazine mourned on Twitter: “boOoOoOo.”