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Why do stars always scribble their names when they give an autograph? Why can't they write it legibly? It always looks like they wrote it when they were drunk. Why bother?

By: ML, Detroit

A.B. Replies: Given that Jessica Simpson only recently acquired her first checkbook, one might assume that most celebrities simply cannot write. (And no, this B!tch does not exaggerate about the checkbook. Go get the April issue of W, the one with Jessica glaring on the cover, doing her best to look defiant and independent but instead looking like someone just fetched her the wrong pair of ostrich-feather-topped bedroom slippers.)

In fact, most stars are literate. They may be dyslexic--and if so, they would tell you, because everybody loves a plucky dyslexic--but otherwise, when they want to, stars can write just fine. The reason many autographs look so scrawly is because your faves are sending subtle signals that you are making them nervous or nettled. Again, as you'll see, this B!tch does not exaggerate.

First, let's assume the autograph you receive is from an actual star, not a star's assistant or publicist. Many, many celebrities train their minions to dash off the hundreds of autographs that get mailed to fans. Unless you see a John Hancock created right in front of you, those angry lines of supposed-celebrity scrawl may actually be a reflection of an underpaid underling's frustration.

Now, with that out of the way, I tracked down a handwriting expert for this answer. Paula Sassi analyzes celebrity autographs as a profession, as the head of Handwriting Consultants International and as the publicity chair for the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. She says two factors are to blame for scrawly signatures. The more obvious, of course, is haste.

"The number one enemy of clear handwriting is speed," Sassi tells this B!tch. "What a [sloppy] signature suggests is that the star is being mobbed."

So, the more of you who line up at Tower Records and beg the lads of Maroon 5 for an autograph, the more Cyrillic their worthless signatures get. You have only yourselves to blame.

The other major culprit is annoyance or insecurity. Through their illegible scrawlings, stars are actually sending subtle signals that they dislike you or that they're keeping secrets, say, about whether that leggy, young, brunette fiancée is really pregnant.

"By writing something illegible, they're being evasive about who they are," Sassi says.

Wait, there's more. "When a star uses a series of vertical lines in an autograph," she adds, "they are putting up walls.

"A dash at the end means the star is holding people at arm's length," Sassi says--in other words, shorthand for freak, get away from me. (When I sign the B!tchling's checks, I use just a horizontal line. Okay, that's a cruel joke, actually. Nobody pays the B!tchling.)

According to Sassi, Angelina Jolie has a total scrawl. "You can't make out any of the letters," she says. Ditto with Jolie's un-boyfriend, Brad Pitt. Julia Roberts and the previously mentioned Simpson also have mostly illegible signatures.

However, you can see the M in Michael Jackson's penned moniker. That has to mean something nice about the guy, right?