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American Sign Language:  "bum"




In an email message a student writes:

Dr. Bill,
I wouldn’t ask if I could find the answer elsewhere. The problem is that one of my go to online dictionaries doesn’t  show bum or sloppy, and both another online dictionary and my hard-bound dictionary indicate that the signs FARM, BUM, and SLOPPY are all done the same way.
-- Name on file


Dear Student,
Well, I can't say as how they do those signs in Michigan, but to me they are all three very different signs.
See my FARM and SLOPPY pages.
The sign for the concept "bum" is open to a lot of debate.
The most simple and straightforward way to sign "bum" in ASL is to do the sign LAZY with a single, large, movement ending with a solid thud on the upper, side chest, with a slightly exaggerated hold.
You would think that a 3-letter word such as "bum" would tend to develop a fingerspelled version, but I don't really see that happening. The letters B-U-M don't seem to flow off the hand very well, and lexicalization of the B and the M ends with a muppet-like result.
Personally, I use a variant of the sign "MENSTRAL-PERIOD" to mean "bum." I picked up that sign in Salem Oregon about 20 years ago but I've seen it pop up in conversations in at least two other states so I know I didn't just make it up.
-- Bill


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