Sound in Sign | ASL Ponderings

A new ASL Ponderings is here! Also, this is my 200th video!

No full blog post, all about the signs.


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:

Queer Signs [VIDEO]

The intro is a bit long, so if you want to jump ahead to the signs, jump to 1:45. Also, I won’t be doing a blog post because this is about signs but below the embedded video is a list of the words I sign and timecodes when they happen so you can easily refer to it later.

Video I mention – LGBT Signs:

– Queer: 1:45
– Ace/asexual: 2:04
– Bisexual: 2:13
– Cisgender: 4:01
– Coming out: 4:09
– Drag queen/Drag king: 4:48
– Gay: 5:08
– Gender: 5:37
– Gender identity: 6:26
– Gender expression: 6:50
– Genderfluid: 7:01
– Genderqueer: 7:31
– Intersex: 8:01
– Lesbian: 8:31
– Pansexual: 9:21
– Romantic orientation/sexual orientation/sexuality: 9:44
– Transgender: 9:57
– Transitioning: 10:20

Perception of Spoken/Written vs Signed Languages


Hello! Welcome back. Before I jump into today’s post, I wanted to remind you that this post has a companion video, linked above. I’m going to go back through this website and modify the titles, so if the title has [VIDEO(S)], that means it’s only the video, and no blog post attached with it. If it’s just a regular title, it’s a blog post. My website is being weird right now, and not showing pictures and such if you look at the homepage, but individual posts are fine, so just do that. I’ll try to figure out what’s going on and fix it. I’m still working on older videos, but I will let you know when they’re up! Let me know what you think of them, do you like them? I appreciate any feedback! Also, quick reminder – I have a Patreon and ko-fi. I seriously appreciate any support you guys give me. Okay, enough dawdling, let’s get into the post.

Today, I’ll be responding to a comment on my ASL Ponderings video about prefixes. This comment was made a while ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to thinking about it until now.

Remember, what I’ll be saying is mostly from my experience, and mainly the US. It’s an interesting thing to look at, especially sign. A lot of people will say that they’ve always wanted to learn a language different from their own. And from my experience here in the US, a lot have said they’d love to learn ASL. But even so, there isn’t that much value put upon knowing another language here. Especially Trump’s ‘Murica, many of these people believe that in ‘Murica you only speak English. (Ignoring the obvious fact that English is NOT an indigenous language, and Spanish is widely spoken.) ANYWAY. I talked about this in another video, linked, there’s a term for people who know many languages and that’s polyglot. Many polyglots know only written/spoken languages. Very few actually know a sign language.

In regard to ASL, I’ve seen people think that ASL isn’t a real language, that it’s just a gestural system based off English. Wrong! There’s plenty of research proving it’s a true language. The same is true for many other sign languages. In 2011, the Italian government tried to label LIS [Lingua dei Segni Italiana] as a gestural language. It failed, thankfully, but it’s still not formally recognized as a language. I’ve seen people say that it’s better to learn another spoken language like Spanish or French because you’re more likely to use/need it in the future than a sign language. I would disagree, depending on where you reside and how often you actually interact with people who speak/sign a particular language. I believe that it would honestly be better to teach ALL children in the US ASL, because they can use it with each other, and their Deaf classmate if they so happen to have one. Besides, ASL IS an indigenous language! I feel that since people often don’t realize that ASL is a true language, and the fact that it’s a visual language with no aural components, they don’t see it as equal to a spoken language. They can hear the difference between German, Czechian and Flemish, but they can’t see the difference between Japanese Sign Language, Dansk Tegnsprog and Lengua de Señas Chilena. People who sign can however. That’s another thing, many people assume that there’s only one sign language. Why do you think it’s called AMERICAN Sign Language? And with how many spoken languages there are, do you honestly think that there would be only ONE sign language ALL OVER THE WORLD? So people somehow think higher of you if you know another spoken language, rather than a sign language.

There’s another thing that has far more negative connotations. If someone says they know ASL for example, people will often automatically assume they know sign because they’re interpreters for “the helpless deaf people.” Or doing some “good work” to help the “poor deaf people.” I know not everyone has this attitude, which is why I said often, but this happens very frequently. Sure, a lot of hearing people who know sign happen to be interpreters as well, but it’s often not because they’re taking pity on deaf people. (Oh yes, there are interpreters who have this attitude of “I have to help the poor deaf people!”) But that’s not for here. Of course, the attitude towards sign language all depends on the area, the country, the people. Here in the US, ASL is definitely being seen in a much better light with the recent explosion in #DeafTalent being shown in media. People are having a renewed interest in it, so perhaps the perception will change as time goes on. Let me know what you think about this in the comments of the video! Follow me on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Thanks for reading, see ya next time.