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ASL: "firefighter" (advanced discussion)


There is quite a bit of variation in the Deaf community regarding the sign for FIREMAN but most versions seem to be based on the cool hats.
ASL instructors need cool hats.  I'm jealous.

Memory aid: Think of the big red hats that firemen (sometimes) wear.
This sign uses a slight double motion.  Tap the back of the hand on your forehead.

FIREMAN (variation)
Here is another version.  I don't recommend this version. To me it looks and feels a little too much like slapping yourself on the head.  I wouldn't "mark it wrong" on a test, but I think you are better off using the first variation.


"C- version"
Some people do the sign fireman by using a "C" to show where the badge would be on the front of an old fashioned fire-chief's hat.


And here is yet another version "out there."
This one is based on the light that some firefighter hats have:

FIREMAN: version:  "FIRE + MAN"  (not recommended)
Note:  You might see the sign "fire" plus "man."  (But I wouldn't do "fireman" that way, because that would actually mean "Burning Man" and if I have to explain "Burning Man" to you -- you obviously haven't "finish touched."  Google "burning man" then head for Black Rock Desert.)

Here is the sign for FIRE:

For more information, see: FIRE

Dr. Bill's Notes:

In a message dated 6/2/2008 7:53:20 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, a student writes:

Dr Vicars,
I was looking at your website and I noticed that you have two variations of fire fighter/ fireman, but my ASL teacher has shown us another version using a thin almost c shape for the badge because the b shape if facing the wrong direction means b_stard. 

Dear Student,
     Not to worry, even if you do the "palm orientation" aspect of the sign "firefighter" wrong it still won't mean "b_stard" since the meaning of the sign "b_stard" depends on a complex combination of the speed of the sign, the force with which it contacts (or comes near) the forehead, the number of contacts (one vs. two) the facial expression, and the context (other signs in the sentence).
Novice ASL instructors and/or Hearing ASL instructors who learned ASL from a classroom rather than from the Deaf Community tend to make a big deal out of "near misses" between common signs and swear signs. This provides "shock" value and some amusement to keep their students interested--but in the real world, it isn't much of an issue.
     I encourage instructors to teach whatever version of a sign is used in their area. If two versions are common, I suggest learning and teaching whichever version is used on more of a national scale. 
As a student you should do whatever sign you need to do in order to get an "A" grade from your instructor, then after that do the versions you see adult, skilled Deaf native ASL signers consistently doing at community events in your area.
     Regardless, I appreciate you sharing your story and mentioning that variation. Please do be gentle with your current instructor, for all I know, that might be a very popular sign in your geographical location. It is a cool variation that has a great tie-in to either the badge worn on some helmets and/or the light/bulb worn on some helmets. When time permits, I plan on adding that version to my fireman page.  :)
Dr. V





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