ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library  |  Issue 51, October, 2007  |  William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor

Hello ASL Heroes!
In a message dated 9/17/2007 6:50:12 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,
Sorry to bother you, but I had a question about the "work" sign.
On the web-site, you show the sign as sort of knocking your wrists together in a sort of circular motion.
In my math class, the interpreter for one of the students uses a different sign.
They make c-handshapes and tap them on the dominant shoulder - like showing a sack over the shoulder.
Is this a regional sign? or does it mean a different type of work?
If you could clarify, it would be greatly benifitial.  Thanks!
~Rebekah Tews
The sign you describe is the sign that is commonly used to mean "employer" or "boss."
If your local interpreter (note the spelling of interpreter) is using that to mean "work" then I'd bet it is either a "regional variation," or "interpreter error," or you have misunderstood the connection between what was said and what was signed due to "lag time" between the speaker and the interpretation.
Dr. V

In a message dated 9/25/2007 2:13:19 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, Cynthia writes:
...Your number practice site ( has 32 rather than 23. When typing 32 after viewing the sign
it shows incorrect. The correct answer is 23 so something is amiss there.
At the number site (, the number 23 is indeed the way it should be. The number 23 has a special movement that starts as a 3 and turns into a mutated "L/K" type shape. It uses a double movement.  So I can see how you might think that it means "32" but it doesn't.  It is just an advanced form of the sign "23."
p.s. When you access that site it is important to give it time to load, there are many pictures that have to be saved to your browser's cache.

Hi!  Thanks for the feedback regarding Spanish translations!
That is very interesting.
To let you know, the "Spanish Version" of Lifeprint is simply an Alta Vista Babblefish translation.
It is done by a "computer" in "real time."  Thus I have no easy way of correcting the occasional inaccuracies in the translation. The computer program is translating at the individual "word" level instead of at a conversational (or discourse) level. I do appreciate you pointing it out though.
Take care.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 10/23/2007 5:02:17 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, bryantz@ writes:
Hey bill,

  My name is Zach and I am a CSUS student minoring in ASL. We met a few
times at Denny's last semester. Anyways, I am studying Spanish abroad in
Mexico right now and we have to tell cultural stories so I was browsing
your jokes to see if I could find something good to tell. The spanish
secion has really helped me, so thank you for including it!
  While reading I noticed that joke number 4 (mama caliente) is translated
a little awkward. When talking about a pretty women or a "hot women" in
spanish you don't use caliente. Caliente is used with food or objects, but
when used with people it means horny. It reminds me of how some people
repeat the sign for hungry not knowing what it means. Here's the
definitions of caliente (from the verb calentar):
definition 1 part 4 explains it in slang as "to be aroused".

Also, at least in Mexcio, mama or mamacita is a bit rude to say to women.
I know the joke doesn't translate exactly, but you may consider using
chica or mujer (both mean women).

I would suggest "chica guapa" or "chica sexy"

thanks for all you do!

In a message dated 10/31/2007 9:23:20 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, lalaliv314@ writes:
If the sign for pain/hurt can be signed over the body part that's hurting, how would you indicate that your hand or finger(s) hurt?
Thank you very much, 
The concept of "hurt" is quite often expressed by spelling the word "hurt" very quickly near the location of the pain.  The spelling of "hurt" can actually take the form of "lexicalized fingerspelling."  (Check out the topic of lexicalized fingerspelling at the library.)   When used at the location of the pain this sign is also considered to be a "locative" sign.
In response to your question about "how would you indicate that your hand or finger(s) hurt?" -- I'd do the sign for "hands" and then sign "pain."  Or if it was a specific point on my hand I'd point to it and sign "pain."  If it were my "left" elbow, I'd likely just spell "hurt" (as a lexicalized version) near the elbow, while using appropriate facial expression.
Dr. V

In a message dated 10/17/2007 8:08:39 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, eliot@ writes:

On your CD there is a variation of WORK.  This variation uses both “a” hands, but taps the inside wrists together with the a hands’ palms facing one another.

 In our area this is a 4 letter word starting with F.
 I’m not well versed in the vulgarities of ASL, but the students in schools certainly are!
I just thought this was interesting.
 Thanks for a GREAT site and a GREAT CD. I just ordered (and received) another, the updated version.

The variation of F___ to which you are referring actually has a slightly different (internal) movement.  It starts with the right (if you are right handed) fist bent forward at the wrist slightly and then as you move the arm downward the wrist thrusts forward as the fist tilts backward. (Imagine the movement you make when giving a motorcycle gas.)
Additionally, it generally doesn't make contact with the other wrist.
This is different from the WORK (variation) sign which doesn't change the angle of the fist.
Dr. V


In a message dated 10/15/2007 12:02:17 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
I love your website but I sure wish you would use a different picture and analogy to make your point. I would be reluctant to use this page for any of my NA families because not all chiefs wear headdresses and this is stereotypical.Thanks for your consideration.
Susan Stokes
Thank you for the feedback.  As a result of your email I have added the word "some" to the description. I have also removed the word "Indian."
I will keep the image because it is a fact that many Native American tribes do use headdresses. It is part of their culture.
 I am simply providing my students with a mental image that they can use to remember the sign.  I hold a very similar mental image (of a chief in a headdress) from my childhood memories of associating with my friends at the Intermountain Inter-Tribal School in Brigham City Utah where I grew up.  I remember the exciting pow-wows, the ornate costumes, thundering drums, and amazing dances.  Greg Littlewhiteman, the student captain of the campus chess team, used to explain to me (over games of chess) the culture of and the differences in culture between the 100 or so tribes represented at the school.  Yes, you read that right, there were representatives from around a hundred or more tribes there. It was an amazing place. They (the government) closed it down in 1984 as part of a shift toward promoting better education on the reservations.

The words "culture" and "stereotype" are two sides of the same coin. Both words can refer to perceptions of characteristics and traits associated with a group.   People use the "culture" side of the coin when they want to support their point of view.  People use the "stereotype side" when they want to attack someone else's point. Whether an image (such as a Native American in a headdress) is an insulting stereotype or an iconic celebration of a proud culture pretty much depends on the viewer's point of view (paradigm).  I suspect most Native American readers will see the icon and think "That's cool." I also believe many will appreciate the "mention" of an aspect of the larger culture even though "their" own tribe's chief might not use a headdress.

At this point certain readers might start thinking (or muttering), "What credentials does this guy have that he thinks he's qualified to comment on what a Native American will and will not think about any particular topic?"  Well, I could (and will) mention that my grandfather was Navajo, my mother is half Navajo, and I am at least one fourth, but that would be (and is) meaningless since a pedigree (bloodline) doesn't make one an expert.  The nice thing about this day and age is that we don't have to guess.  All we have to do is ask.  I'll put this in my next newsletter and ask my Native American friends and readers to set me straight if I need straightening.
(Dr. Vicars of

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