Usage of Idioms in Sign Language for Strong Statements

One of the key issues in the deaf and hard of hearing community  is the lack of a universal sign language. In fact, every country has different variations of sign language interpretations. For example, American Sign Language mainly uses gestures of a single hand whereas the British language has both hands in use.

Recognizing the rights

Nevertheless, certain universal gestures (International Sign) are common in sign languages throughout the world. The recognition of the rights of signers is a relatively new development. Uganda was the first country to recognize sign language as an official linguistic in 1995. The United Nations clearly forbids any forcible unification of sign languages from different variations. Currently, about 70 million people worldwide use signing as their first languages. Advanced signers often use different idioms to convey strong feelings.

Find below a brief list of three common idioms used in ASL (American Sign Language).

  • Grabbing the Eyes: The signer points to both eyes and follows it with a grabbing gesture near the chest. This implies that something is very fascinating.
  • Slipping from the mind: Also known as the think-disappear idiom, the signer holds the index finger of the right hand to the forehead while the left fist is held with the palm downwards near the index finger. The signer then brings the right finger down but the left hand remains in the same position.
  • The I-I-I sign: The signer curls all fingers of the hands except the pinky finger. They hold both hands close to the chest and repeat the sign three times. This expresses a big ego.

Apart from the above expressions, a whole range of other idioms are available. Signing requires extensive studying with practical demonstrations and video tutorials. Some of the other expressions used in this unique linguistic include ‘The train gone’ for missed opportunities, puking sign for something disgusting, success, failure, ‘it is my mistake’, ‘it is your mistake’ , ‘why are you staring’, ‘ don’t make me angry’, and ‘I understand’. In the above examples, sometimes the ‘cigarette gone’ gesture also implies a missed opportunity.

Gestures such as making a turtle neck imply the signer is feeling embarrassed and shy. The pride-swallow gesture is also widely common. The most beautiful sign idiom is perhaps the one that says ‘I love you’.


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