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American Sign Language: "Amish"

A student asked me how to sign "Amish."

I suggested that she search "" to see if anything came up for "Deaf" and Amish -- or ASL and Amish.

She replied:

<< Dr. Bill
Well I've been watching YouTube video's for an hour and in all but one video "Amish" is fingerspelled. In one of the video's a young man uses an "a" hand in front of chin (palm left) and double taps on chin with the thumb (similar to "secret" but done a little lower).
- Laurie >>

 I think it is safe to say that (at this time) in general the concept of Amish is fingerspelled by most native Deaf Adults.
My wife and I both just spell it.  None of my friends seem to know of a specific sign for it.
However, I do think it interesting that there "is" a sign floating around out there for "Amish" that is most likely an initialized sign based (somewhat) on the sign for "BEARD."
- Bill

In a message dated 6/27/2015 6:57:23 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, Lyn Wiley writes:

I read your discussion of the sign for "Amish."

This is from my very limited experience with the sign. For years I was very close friends with an Old Order Amish family in Grabill, Indiana.

Several of my Amish friends were Deaf. They told me that some people use a sign for Amish that many (perhaps most?) Amish people consider highly offensive. It is the sign that hearing people sometimes use (or use to use) for 'twiddle one's thumbs.'

Since Amish people often start their days at 3:00 a.m. and work until about 7:00 p.m. some of the activity being 'extremely hard work' they do not consider that 'twiddle the thumbs' sign to be appropriate or to accurately reflect their culture.

Nor did they like the sign for 'suffer/endure/tolerate' which is in use in some parts of the US. They don't like that sign because they do not feel that they 'suffer' in their lifestyle (most of them cherish their way of life).

When I asked how they wanted me to sign "Amish" they said "To show great respect to those in the Amish culture, simply spell A-M-I-S-H. Or as the Amish sometimes spell it: A-M-S-H.

When I stayed with my Amish friends i did everything alongside the women - like get up at 2:30 AM (with a kerosene lantern) and go out to the barn to milk the cows (by hand). Then collect eggs, then feed the llamas and sheep and cows and other animals, then back to the house to make home made noodles, home made breads and a HUGE meal for the 'men folk' when they came home at the end of their very long day.

The men ate what most of us would call a FEAST seven evenings a week (homemade butter, cream, pies, all kinds of meats etc.) and they were all skinny (seriously) from all their work on the farm and in the fields. I have some very wonderful memories of my time with them and wow I miss them :)

- Lyn

Thanks for sharing your Amish adventures and advice!  I appreciate it!
- Bill


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