Monday, July 29, 2002

Deaf Culture - The Sign Name

I have had the pleasure of meeting a good number of deaf people. One of the more interesting aspects of communicating with them in sign language is the concept of a "sign name," which I'll explain briefly.

In order to keep from having to fingerspell a person's name every time you mention them, it's easier to have a "sign name." This consists of the fingerspelled first letter of the person's name and an action associated with that person. Whenever I've asked one of my deaf friends to give someone else to whom we're talking a sign name, they usually ask, "What does he/she like to do?" In other words, if you had one activity or word to describe you, what would that be? My wife Jennie, for example, has a beautiful smile. Keisha, our 5-year old daughter, has curly hair. I really enjoy playing and listening to music. So our sign names, respectively, with the right hand, are a fingerspelled "J" across the right side of the face (smile), a fingerspelled "K" by the right side of the head in a curling motion (curly hair), and a fingerspelled "D" in a figure-eight motion across the left arm (music).

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