Fingerspelling 2 | ASL Ponderings


Note: This is a transcript that has been lightly edited, but mainly left alone to reflect the ASL signs and such.

I asked those who follow me on Instagram what the topic of the next video should be: queer or ASL? The votes for ASL won, so here you go. (In case you missed it, that was a hint to go follow me on Instagram :P)

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to a new ASL Ponderings! It’s been a while. I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking. ASL Ponderings has been about ASL’s quirks, why we do that, maybe proposing new ways, that kind of thing. But I’ve been thinking that I want to kind of expand. Make it a place for education too. Like basic rules of ASL that often aren’t taught in the classroom. A good example of what kind of video I want to do is way back, the ASL slang and signs. They don’t really teach that in ASL classes. They often will teach with a focus on the “proper” signs. So I think I want this to become inclusive of that kind of education too. That’s because I know some of you have learned from this series, things that you didn’t know about ASL.

So with that long intro, let’s move on and get to the topic of today’s video: fingerspelling. I know I’ve talked about this before, and in that video I ranted about why ASL fingerspells so much. I still have that opinion. But this video is not about that topic, needing to reduce fingerspelling, no. This is focusing more on fingerspelling itself. I may be wrong, but I feel like that there are two things that I’ve noticed that aren’t really taught to interpreting students or ASL students in general until later. I think that they should be earlier. I keep talking and not saying WHAT. Number one: fingerspelling double letters. Number two: lexicalized fingerspelling. For the rest of this video, I will talk a little about the first one. For the second one, I will separate it and go more in-depth, but I will give you a basic explanation of what it is.

Fingerspelling double letters. I’ve noticed that a lot of new sign language students will struggle with this. Like for example, the word good. I just did the “proper” way of doing it. I’ve noticed many students will do [G-O-O-D]. You really don’t need to. [G-OO-D] The O is important. You move the O to signify double letters. Another example of double letters is [W-E-LL]. The L moves. [W-E-LL] [B-OO-N] It’s important to keep in mind that not all double letters are fingerspelled by moving your hand sideways. A good example of that is if you have a double M or double N. You don’t slide them sideways, you don’t do that. For example, my name. [S-H-A-NN-O-N] I do a sort of up-down flap, not a sideways movement. You could do a sideways motion, but typically it’s like this. I just caught myself moving a little bit. Usually, it’s not as obvious as it is with well or good.

A little related. I know this is because they’re new, they’re learning a new language, but frequently sign language students will fingerspell every letter individually. Sometimes it is necessary, if it’s an odd or long word that’s not often used. That’s fine, I understand that. But when it’s a common, everyday word that most people know, you don’t need to spell EVERY letter. And this should be taught in most sign language classes. When you fingerspell, in ASL anyway. ASL puts a huge emphasis on keeping your hand in one place, not moving. You don’t jerk your hand around while spelling, you don’t do that. Always STAY in one place. Sometimes ASL students will be taught to put a finger on their wrist to fingerspell. If you look at any news channel, like the Daily Moth, DPAN.TV, TruBiz, etc., and at the reporters, you will notice that most of them will put a finger on their wrist when spelling. I don’t really see a problem with this, because it helps if the person has a problem keeping their hand steady. It helps force your hand to stay in one place. And also, for formality, news reporters, yes. I understand that. But is it really needed? No.

This is really interesting. When I was in Europe and we were talking about a variety of topics, like I’ve said repeatedly. One day, one teacher said that he was impressed by how Americans had very clear fingerspelling, compared to most other people he’d met. Even though we fingerspell a lot faster than most other countries. He saw it as clear because we do the finger on wrist thing. That’s probably because most of us, when we learn ASL, it’s drilled into us: keep your hand in one place, do not move. This may not be the case in other countries, I don’t know. I’m curious if you know other sign languages, do they have that same emphasis or not as much? I’m curious! I also wonder… Is that emphasis there only because ASL has so much fingerspelling? Other countries don’t have as much fingerspelling in their languages, which means they don’t have as much need to maintain that stability. I don’t know, I’m just throwing things out. Maybe?

My next video, which I mentioned earlier, is lexicalized fingerspelling. Basically, lexicalized signs are fingerspellings that have become signs on their own. A few examples: but. But. Another one: gay. Gay. I don’t want to give too many signs because that’s for the next video that’s more in-depth about lexicalized signs. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on this video? Anything. Fingerspelling, double letters, ASL, whatever. Let me know in the comments below. And… I hope you enjoyed. That’s all for today.

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Etymology | ASL Ponderings (sorta)


Note: I attempt to notate some signs, so I would suggest you watch the video if you want to be clear on what the sign looks like. Also, fs is short for fingerspelling.

Hello, welcome back! I was unsure about labeling this as an ASL Ponderings because this is more focused on linguistics and analyzing the etymology of a word. So… I guess this is half ASL Ponderings, half linguistics? Today, I want to discuss a specific word: NIGHTMARE. The reason why I wanted to discuss this is that often, ASL signers don’t really think about the etymology of a word or the history of how that word came into being. For this specific word, it’s very interesting. Many will sign this word this way: [night fs:m-a-r-e], or [bad dream]. Either way, it’s simple. However, [night fs:m-a-r-e] is not exactly linguistically correct. [bad dream] does work linguistically though. Personally, I grew up signing it this way. [nightmare] The reason why this is coming up is because I was chatting with someone recently, and I realized that I don’t know why I sign it that way. I wondered if it was an actual ASL sign or if it was just something my family used, so I posted in the ASL That! Facebook group asking what their signs were for this particular word. Many were either of the previously mentioned signs. One in Canada had a very interesting way of signing it. (Go to 1:32 in the video to see this sign.) I did think of a few ways of why I sign it this way. I will propose two theories where my sign for nightmare came from at the end, but I want to explain a little more about the word itself first.

Image result for mære folkloreI was struck by one comment that said [night fs:m-a-r-e] doesn’t make sense because mare is related to horses, and horses have nothing to do with dreams or the word itself, nightmare. Hmm. Is mare from the origins of horse? No, not necessarily. In Old English, horse was originally either mȳre or mere, the feminine forms of mearh (horse). That’s where mare came from for when referring to an adult female horse. While looking at the etymology of nightmare, it comes from Old English mære. It’s the name for an evil spirit or goblin that will sit on people’s chests while they sleep, causing them to have bad dreams. It’s old Germanic, Slavic, and Northern Europe folklore. Back then, people would use the mære lore to explain that they had bad dreams last night due to the evil spirit sitting on them. Later on, night was added on to emphasize the dream aspect of it, rather than the folklore. Thus, it’s become the word we have today – nightmare.

Now that I’ve expanded and explained what the etymology of nightmare is, I want to propose my theories on where my sign came from. The first one isn’t really connected to what I previously explained. It’s possible that it came from the sign for dream. Dreams are minor, while nightmares are more intense and strong dreams. Thus the sign’s adding more fingers to show the intensity of the dream. That’s one possible theory. Onto the second. I think it could possibly be from the sign for dream and the sign for evil being combined to become nightmare. (See the video at 3:35 to see this visually.) So I think that’s one possibility. What do you think? Do you agree with my theory, or do you think I’m way off base? What do you think of that sign for nightmare? Let me know! I hope you enjoyed this little linguistics lesson about the word nightmare. Don’t forget I have a Patreon and ko-fi. Social medias – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Thanks for watching, see you next time.

Some extra fun stuff – it’s mære in Old English, mare in Old Dutch, mara in Old High German, Old Norse, and Old Church Slavic. Here’s the wiki if you want to read more: