A journal for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Issue 35  

 June, 2006   

spacer.gif (42 bytes)

spacer.gif (42 bytes)

Hello ASL Heroes!
Lately I've had quite a few requests for "fingerspelling" wallpaper desktop backgrounds.
So I took a few hours and built a few wallpapers for your enjoyment:
-Dr. Bill

In a message dated 3/10/2006 8:59:06 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, veryfunnie@ asks:
I want to clarify to see if star and socks differ in LOCATION (parameters) since someone said it is a MOVEMENT difference. Who is right?
Thanks in advance.
Dear Student,
There are two main differences between STARS and SOCKS:
Location:  STARS is done at around face level, whereas SOCKS is done near belly button level.
Additionally, there is a difference in the parameter known as "palm orientation."
Orientation:  STARS is palm forward, whereas SOCKS is palm backward/downward.

The "movement" is essentially the same, however it might be argued that the sign STARS uses a (slightly) larger movement and or tends to be inflected more than SOCKS.  Often you will see people signing STARS using a repetitive movement while sweeping it through the air (as if to show "many stars in the sky).  Additionally, we tend to use "eye gaze" much more with the sign "STARS" than we do SOCKS -- look at the sign STARS and/or look toward the "stars" while doing the sign STARS much more so than we look at the sign SOCKS or look toward our feet while doing the sign SOCKS.
Also from time to time you will notice some people opening their mouths in a shape that looks as if they are pronouncing the first three letters of the English word "stars."  I rarely see people mouthing the word "socks" while doing the sign "SOCKS."
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 2/17/2006 8:10:46 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dr. Bill,
When you are emailing someone would you say "when we signed yesterday," or "when we talked," or "when we chatted" ?
What would you say if you wanted to refer to a signed conversation?
"When we signed yesterday..." is a very awkward way to refer to a previous discussion.
I would most likely use:  chatted, discussed, mentioned, went over, talked about, our conversation...etc.
But the least likely reference to a signed conversation would be:  "signed."

In a message dated 3/6/2006 3:26:27 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, Terri writes:
<<When you are interpreting in a classroom setting, if the teacher is lecturing and asks a question and the deaf student raises his/her hand to answer--but the teacher doesn't see him/her or maybe has his back to the class--and students start answering/having a discussion and the interpreter voices, how do you indicate that it's the student's answer and NOT the interpreter's ? Many times the students begin answering without being recognized by the teacher. I feel sometimes that the students/teacher think it's my opinion since they hear my voice.>>
This generally only becomes a problem if you've established a precedent of sharing your own opinion in the class in the past. The way it should work is that you only voice the deaf student's opinion and you never voice your own.  You are not there to voice your own opinion, you are there to interpret for the student. If you feel this is a problem, then schedule a time to meet with the teacher and explain the nature of your work to him or her.  Then request that the teacher, at an appropriate time, take a minute or two to explain to the class how the interpreting process works.
I'm sure the teacher has certain equipment in the classroom.  It is normal and expected that the teacher explains to the students how to use various classroom resources and equipment.  A teacher might explain to the students how to use an overhead projector, when they can sharpen their pencils, her policy on passing notes in class, seating arrangements, rules for bathroom breaks, tardiness policies, and any number of other classroom management issues.  You are just one more issue to be explained.
It is your job or that of your supervisor to inform the teacher of how you are to be used.  It is the teacher's job to explain that to the other students that when you speak you are expressing the views and opinions of the deaf student and not your own views and opinions.
Dr. Bill

Note: I asked an interpreter friend of mine (Lynda Park) if she had any comments on this topic and she sent the following reply.
Lynda writes:
<<In the classroom setting the interpreter strives to be professional at all times and should have established roles from the onset.  The interpreter is not the student, nor the teacher, and should remember their role as communication facilitator (or whichever currently used term you prefer).  Interpreters should not be personally involved in class discussion, thus never blurring lines of communication.  Teachers know my voice as being the student's comments during class time.  I'm pleased at the ease of understanding and quick reply on the part of the teachers towards their Deaf students.  They don't hesitate and look at me to identify which source to direct their comments towards.  It means I'm doing my job well.  However, I am a human being and don't behave like a machine during the workday.  My personality is still apparent in my presence.

In my experience, the first day or two of a new school year brings curious looks from hearing students unfamiliar with the interpreter's purpose when he/she voices Deaf students' comments, but the newness of the situation quickly fades into understanding IF the interpreter is doing their job properly.   Yes, it is the teacher's responsibility to manage the class and clarify roles to the students in the classroom.  They do that quite well!
--Lynda >>

In a message dated 4/4/2006 8:52:21 AM Pacific Daylight Time, aries_662001@ writes:
Dr. Vicars,
How would u sign "underestimate"?
i have searched online in dictionaries and i cant find how u would sign this.
would it be one sign? a combo?
please advise?
Thank you
How you express "underestimate" in ASL will depend on what is being underestimated.
For example, if I underestimated an opponent's physical strength, I might sign:
If I have underestimated a test:
If I have underestimated expenses or money:
There are many, many ways to express the concept of "underestimate."
If it were to be used again and again in a spoken lecture I would not mind if the interpreter signed "LESS-than ESTIMATE-(guess)"
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 4/6/2006 8:17:17 AM Pacific Daylight Time, martinezsquared@ writes:
Hello my name is Misty Martinez.  I am a student of American Sign Language. I at first started to study the language because my niece is deaf due to meningitis as a young child, but developed a love for the language and for the deaf in general. Here is my question. At our church at home in California, we used to do dramas or songs with sign language also called blacklight, (where you sign with all the lights off and white gloves) and since most of us that participated in the program were either deaf or ASL students, we signed the songs in ASL using correct signing and translation. Now I have moved to South Carolina, and the church I go to now has asked me to participate in one of their "signing dramas", but they have already told me that they will not be using correct ASL and that they heard that the deaf do not like it when they do drama the correct way. In my understanding if you do not sign correctly, how are deaf people going to understand what you are trying to put across? Also this seems to throw my education in the dirt, I took the time to learn it the correct way, and in the correct way it is a very beautiful language. It just seems very offensive to me is all. I don't know who is right on this, but I have decided not to participate in their program. What do you think?
There is a lot of variation out there. So I am cautious about announcing a "right way" or a "wrong way" especially in situations involving drama and performance.  I guess the "right way" is the way that fills the seats with people who have purchased tickets--and does so consistently year after year.
What works in one part of the world won't necessarily work elsewhere.
The key sentence in your letter is, "They heard that the deaf do not like it when they..."
What Deaf are "they" talking about?
Seems to me the people you need to be asking this question to is "those deaf." (The ones who supposedly don't like it done the correct way.)
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 4/8/2006 9:36:09 AM Pacific Daylight Time, wendy.m.spurling@ writes:

Hi Dr. Bill,

I saw a couple of different ways to sign “you’re welcome” on your website. A Deaf person once told me that “thank you” and “you’re welcome” is the same sign. Is this a common way of saying thanks in ASL?

Also, I was wondering if you have any recommendations for a hearing person to learn to “see.” I find myself saying the words in my head automatically as I sign, as well as mouthing (not saying them aloud) the words. I know that if I continue to do this, it will cause difficulties later on in my ASL studies. Learning ASL is my love in life; I am very dedicated to learning it correctly. As of now, I am only in Elementary ASL I, with a wonderful Deaf teacher – an excellent teacher! Knowing that you have many resources, I thought it proper to ask you this question.

Thank you so much!

For my thoughts regarding the sign "WELCOME," please visit:
And also:
I do not believe that you will have "difficulties" later on in your ASL studies if you say words automatically in your head.  That is a myth.   That particular myth hinders the development of interpreters who can skillfully interpret from sign to voice.  When you research bilingual and multilingual cognitive development it is clear that the human brain is fully capable of sorting it all out.
Dr. Bill


In a message dated 4/19/2006 7:43:17 PM Pacific Daylight Time, john@ writes:

Reading through your Deaf Culture pages, I'm struck by what seems quite strange to me. It's clear that I'm not part of the Deaf Culture, even though I've been HOH for many years. I don't have contact with other deaf/hoh people and don't know sign language. A light dawns, as I see the hints of what exists there in the Deaf Culture, and I'm filled with admiration and respect. I understand why they would resent being viewed as "impaired", and I have felt "disabled" for years. What seems strange, then, is that they adopt the term "Deaf" to refer to their culture, when, to me, it seems that is not at all what the culture is really about. For example, I am HOH, but that does not make me part of the Deaf Culture. I am an outsider, and I hope I'm not saying anything offensive, but it seems to me what epitomizes the culture most is their ability, their manual language skills, rather than their inability, the lack of hearing.
It would seem more appropriate to me to adopt a "positive" name for the culture, such as the ASL Culture, or the Manual Linguists Culture (when being more globally inclusive). The word "deaf" refers to the inability, the lack of hearing. So why is that any less offensive than "hearing impaired"? And the lack of the ability to hear is not what qualifies a person to be a member of the culture, so the word deaf is not even appropriate, besides being negative.
To me it seems like referring to the Spanish Sub-Culture in the US as the Non-English. Like a group of Spanish-only speaking people getting together and adopting a name for themselves like The Association of the Non-English. Rather than focusing on what they can't do (can't hear), by calling themselves Deaf, why isn't it that they focus on what they do so well (speak a different language, ASL)?



You asked, "Why is the term 'deaf' any less offensive than the term 'hearing impaired?'"
Hearing people perceive the word "deaf" to be a negative label describing an inability to hear.  Deaf people on the other hand consider the term Deaf to be a positive label describing a community of people who share a language and culture. Notice that the word "deaf" (lower case) refers to the audiological condition of not hearing.  The word "Deaf" (upper case) is a cultural term.  We see ourselves as "Deaf" people, not "impaired" versions of Hearing people.
The sudden granting of the ability to hear to a "totally" deaf person would likely be extremely traumatic.  First of all, his or her brain would not be wired to make sense of the incoming sound.  All of his habits would be Deaf.  And almost all of his close friends would be Deaf or CODA (hearing children of Deaf).
You compare the Deaf to the Spanish.  In doing so, you make my point.  Speakers of Spanish like and approve of the term "Spanish."  Whatever the phrase "deaf" used to mean, whatever negative associations the phrase used to carry--is not today's reality.  The reality is that Deaf people like and approve of the term Deaf.

In a message dated 4/20/2006 12:41:05 AM Pacific Daylight Time, john@ writes:

Hi Bill,

I'm pleasantly surprised to get an answer so quickly, since I'm sure you are a very busy person.
I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure I made myself clear. I hope I'm not imposing by trying to explain myself again.
If a hearing person refers to a Deaf person as deaf, he most likely does not understand the culture and the meaning it has to the Deaf person. I didn't, until I read your web site. You've explained it very well there, and I understand that now. When most hearing people say "deaf", they most likely do not mean Deaf, they simply mean to say "you're a person who can't hear". So for the Deaf community to choose to call themselves that doesn't gain them the respect that they are looking for from the hearing world. The hearing people "don't get it". They don't know there are two different words, Deaf and deaf.
Another way to try to explain what I'm trying to say: What is it that Deaf people are proud about when they feel proud about being Deaf people? I'm thinking it is not the fact that they cannot hear, but rather all of the cultural things, including ASL, that they have developed. Their lives as people, and as a People, and the fact that they don't hear is not important, wouldn't even be wanted if offered, as you say. They're proud of who they are, not what they cannot do (hear). I'm not presuming to say I know, because I don't. This is just what I'm thinking. Am I wrong about that?
I understand (now, thanks to you) that Deaf people consider the term Deaf to be positive. But they've chosen to create a new "name", "term" or "word", Deaf, as opposed to deaf, by which they wish to be called by the hearing people. They distinguish the two, deaf and Deaf, but they sound exactly alike, so the hearing people are less likely to get the message. If the Deaf people succeed in getting the hearing world to stop using the term "hearing impaired" and refer to them as d-e-a-f instead, will they have accomplished anything? Where's the respect and understanding when a hearing person utters the sound that's pronounced deaf, if you have no idea if he means the same thing when you utter the same sound, but are meaning Deaf?
Thanks so much for taking the time to communicate with me on this. I'm honored.

At 08:58 AM 4/20/2006, you wrote:

We are discussing a classic "public relations issue."  Is it easier and/or better to come up with a new label than it is to change public opinion of an existing label?  To some degree, this is a matter of pride.  Regardless of how Hearing people perceive the term "Deaf," we as a community are proud of the label.  To abandon that label would smack of giving in and of being ashamed of who we are.  Instead what we have is a type of defiance.  A counter culture that takes pride in the very thing for which the majority culture pities us.  Perhaps it is a defense mechanism, but I prefer to see it as a form of social evolution.  The "pride response" is a defense or coping mechanism developed by a social "animal" in response to a threat presented by the environment (audism/oppression).
Now, let's compare this situation with that of "Americans."  Throughout the world, the people of many nations consider "Americans" to be war mongering, indulgent, fat, self-centered, capitalists.
So then, should Americans choose a different label for themselves? We could call ourselves "Freedans" because we love and support freedom.  That way other nations would perceive us as being lovers of freedom rather than drivers of gas guzzling sport utility vehicles.
It is a fact though that labels are transitory.  I suspect that a few hundred years from now many of today's labels will be relics.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 4/22/2006 11:44:29 AM Pacific Daylight Time, john@ writes:
Dear Bill,
I understand the "pride response". That seems natural, appropriate and healthy. I'm sure you're right about social evolution and things will change.

I'm reminded of the Blacks. (I'm no sociologist, so please correct me if I'm wrong; just my layman's understanding.) They first preferred to be called Negroes, to avoid the derogatory term nigger, then they preferred to be called Blacks, but later wanted to be called African Americans. Not all of them, most likely, some may still prefer Black. These are designations they chose for themselves, and felt good about. And Black is similar to Deaf, I think, in that the words black and deaf both describe just one physical characteristic, but Deaf and Blacks mean much more. I'm just guessing that the Blacks feel similarly about Black as the Deaf do about Deaf. My uneducated gut feeling is that Black evolved to "African American" because that more completely embodies everything that they are wanting outsiders to understand when they refer to them. The parallel that pops to mind is that Deaf might evolve to American Signers, or something of the sort. Not that the term Deaf would be discarded, just as Black has not been replaced by African American. It's also a parallel that not all Blacks are African Americans, and not all Deaf are American Signers (other sign languages).

It IS a public relations issue, as you say. No easy task and one that only happens over time. But one worth continually nudging along. Rather than discarding the existing label, Deaf, the public relations might work best as with African Americans not discarding Black. Keep "Deaf", but make the term American Signers more common.

As for the "Americans" changing the name to "Freedans", I understand your point. The Black=>African American illustrates more the point I was originally trying to make. With both the words deaf and black describing a single physical characteristic, and both words potentially being considered a negative (deaf an inability, black possibly evil, in the dark).


I agree with the Black / Deaf comparison.  That idea crossed my mind while typing an earlier email.
An interesting point though is that there are many "whites" living in Africa.
Suppose they moved to the United States (as I'm sure some do). They could "technically" be called African Americans.
Do you think they such "African Americans" could integrate well with what we commonly refer to as African American Culture?  And suppose there were some sort of community event and one of these white "African Americans" stood up and announced that he was African American and how proud he was to be a "brother."  How do you think that would go over? 
Hearing people may learn to sign, but they still don't know what it is like to be physically deaf. 
That knowledge is a large part of our culture. It is part of "the Deaf Way."  Deaf people, by virtue of having a shared experience, have automatic connections to each other. Calling ourselves something other than Deaf would lessen those connections.
Labels like Black and Deaf function in such a way as to draw a perimeter around a culture.  Sort of like wearing light or dark jerseys helps to define who is on what team.
Calling ourselves American Signers would expand the perimeter to such a degree that the boundaries of our culture would become confusing and in a large part, meaningless.
Taken to the extreme, perhaps we should abandon all labels.  No Blacks, no Deafs, no Christians, no Jews, no Muslims--just billions of Earthlings.  Would the earth be a better or worse place?  More peaceful, but also more boring.

Note to readers:  Don't take the following bit of information overly seriously.
To put it in perspective, you need to remember that students are constantly requesting that I help do their homework for them (instead of them doing their own homework).  Often they contact or approach me because their instructor has "required" them to interview a Deaf person.
I try to respond to all of my email.  But, you can understand, after the first hundred or so interviews a person (me) starts to ask himself if the problem isn't the student, but rather it is the instructors who are assigning their students to go interview Deaf people -- instead of arranging for Deaf people to come to the classroom.
Putting the burden on the Deaf community is a lazy and cheap way to teach.  If you are going to be assigning your students to go take up Deaf people's time, then hand your students a 20 dollar bill to give to each of the Deaf people he or she will interview to pay them for their time, since their time is valuable.

In any case, here are several questions recently asked of me by somebody else's student and my answers:

Student's Question:
  Do you feel that sign language should be used with handicapped people?  Why or why not?
Response:  Yes.  Sign language enhances communication by either augmenting spoken communication or replacing it when it isn't available.  Sign language encourages and expedites cognitive development, especially if and when used prior to acquisition of verbal (spoken) language skills.

Question:  Should there be boundaries set with this communication?
Response:  Oh sure, there should be a few boundaries.  No using sign language while standing naked in line at the supermarket.  No using sign language while holding on to a vial of nitro glycerin. No sign language while holding TWO cups of piping hot coffee. No sign language....
Come on now, your question is wack (silly).  Plus, you misspelled "boundaries" (but I corrected it for you).
I mean, that is like asking, "Should there be boundaries set on women?"
Nobo folks nobo
That means "No Boundaries."

Question:  Do you fell that the hearing community has taken advantage of sign language to communicate with HC people?
Response:  Do I "fell?"  You must mean "FEEL!"  (When you turn in this paper make sure to leave it spelled "fell" okay?)
Sure, I fell, er, I mean feel Hearing people have "taken advantage" of ASL.  The question itself though smacks of cultural bias.  When did using ASL become a crime?  Oh that's right--it was about the time that the Deaf Culture Police (DCP) started carrying tasers and mace.  What are we so afraid of?  Ooh the bad hearing people are going to benefit from "our" language?   A tragedy indeed.  Tsk, tsk. Okay you Deaf Power People (DPP), let's all lower our fist from it's position high in the air and remove the other hand covering our ear and--GROW UP!

Question:  Any other comments.
Response:  Tell your Deaf Culture Teacher he owes me $20 for helping him teach his class.  (Requiring students to interview Deaf people is a form of Asymmetric Instruction.  It is no different really from having a guest instructor come to your class and spend twenty (or more) minutes of their time with your students.  Your instructor typically gets paid $60 an hour or so for student/teacher contact.  So, now I've invested 20 minutes (longer actually) in asymmetric contact with one of his students, he should come teach my class for 20 minutes or pay me $20.  [Or stop requiring students to request unremunerated (unpaid) donations of time and expertise from the Deaf community].

Note:  Readers of this newsletter may feel ("fell" heh) that I've been overly harsh or rough in my replies to this student.  Ask yourself. How much time did the student put into this situation?  Did he or she offer to take me to lunch for my time? Did he or she even bother to spell check?  But that is not my real point.  The sharpness of my comments is more directed toward the instructors out there who give their students assignments without providing appropriate avenues and methods to complete the assignment.

I knew an instructor once who required her ASL 2 students to each interview a deaf person and RECORD IT ON VIDEO as proof that they did it.  That means 25 students are now going to go waste the time of 25 Deaf people and glean only a very, very small fraction of the information they could have gotten had they read a decent Deaf Culture book instead.  While many of these Deaf individuals won't mind doing the interview, many will do it out of guilt or some sense of not wanting to be a bad person. Can you see it from the point of the Deaf person?  Sitting there patiently waiting for a second semester Hearing student to struggle through sentence after sentence.   And it happens semester after semester.  My opinion is that if the ASL instructor wants his or her students to meet a deaf person, the instructor should HIRE a Deaf guest speaker and PAY the guest for his or her time, (and include mileage!).  If the instructor wants his students to have one-on-one time signing back and forth with a Deaf person then the instructor should set up a lab and PAY a lab assistant to come sign with his students. Sending students to go out and "find" Deaf people is a cheap and lazy teacher's method of creating an artificial, decentralized ASL lab.

Dear Heroes,
Pete (, an avid learner of ASL and Deaf culture, has written me indicating that he wants to get a tattoo that shows his "Deaf Pride."
Pete writes:  <<"
I was wondering if the deaf had any  symbols or icons of deaf pride or if there was something a hearing  person could use to represent the fact that they are involved with the Deaf? ...The reason I am trying to find this out is cause i am getting a tattoo and want something deaf pride (even though I'm hearing) and know sign.>>
So, how about it folks?  I'm not personally into tattoos, but Pete poses a fascinating question.
What sort of tattoo would best indicate "Deaf Pride?"  What visual icon or printable symbol or set of symbols do you think best represents the concept of Deaf Pride?

To unsubscribe, visit: and click on unsubscribe.


© Lifeprint Institute