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American Sign Language:  "doctor"

NOTE: You will see the sign "doctor" done a number of ways. Do it however your local (qualified) instructor or local Deaf friends do it.


DOCTOR-(medical-doctor) (recommended version)

Tap the fingertips of the dominant "bent hand" twice on the upturned wrist of the base hand.


Discussion:  Where did this sign come from? 
The "bent hand" probably evolved from an earlier version that used an "M" handshape.  Why an "M" handshape?  The "M" comes from back in the "old days" when doctors were commonly known as "medics."  Over time, the bent hand replaced the "M" since the bent hand is easier to produce than an "M" handshape.  Quite a few people (books, instructors, teachers etc.) do this sign with a "D" handshape. It is not worth arguing about. Really. I'm suggesting you know both versions and do it the way your local teacher does it or the way your local Deaf friends do it.  

DOCTOR ("D" version)
In this version of doctor, the right "D" hand taps near where a doctor or nurse would take a person's pulse.  The non-dominant hand (the left hand if you are right handed) can be either relaxed (curled up a bit) or flat.

A student writes: I
Hi Dr. Bill,
I noticed in the sketch of this sign, the left hand is curled, almost closed. Yet in the variation of the 'doctor' 'medic' 'nurse' pictures, the left hand is open.  Does it make a difference if the left hand is open or closed? Has the sign evolved to the open hand?
Please advise.

It is either.  Really.
The "base hand" handshape is immaterial (it doesn't matter) in that sign.
Most Deaf people if we aren't thinking about it will do the non-dominant hand in the sign DOCTOR with a "relaxed" hand (somewhat curled).  If you ask us to "show you" the sign...we will get all "proper" and tend to do it with a palm-up flat hand.  But when just hanging out amongst ourselves we do it with a relaxed base hand because it takes less effort.
- Dr. Bill

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) / Doctor of Education (EdD)
Do not use the sign for "medical doctor" to refer to your college professors unless they are indeed an "MD."

There is a difference between the sign for a medical doctor and an "academic" doctor.  "Dr." as in Ph.D. (a doctor of philosophy) is generally fingerspelled.   While the Deaf community is not overly concerned with titles, if you are introducing someone to an audience you would simply spell the letters "D-R" and then the name.

In most everyday communication we don't use titles. We use name signs instead.



The sign "NURSE" is an initialized form of the sign "Doctor."  It uses an "N" handshape on your dominant hand.


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