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American Sign Language: "minute"

The sign for "minute" also can be used to mean "second" (depending on context).

The sign minute is generally done on the palm.  You "tick" the right "index finger" handshape forward as if it were the minute hand on a clock.  Although the finger does move, the  movement is from the wrist, not the finger. Note: This sign can also mean "moment," or "a second."



Sample sentence: How many minutes equal one hour?


Another very common way to sign "minute" is to use an "index finger" on both hands. The tip of the non-dominant hand's index finger touches the wrist at the base of the dominant hand.  Only the dominant hand moves.

MINUTE: (variation)


If you need to distinguish between a minute and a second you can use a fingerspelled abbreviation.


Or you can do a sentence like this: "One minute has how many seconds?"


You can sign, "Wait a minute," (the classic gesture) by just holding up a finger.  Use a bit of a thrusting movement and a small "set in place" movement, as if setting a candlestick into its holder.



In a message dated 3/29/2004 9:06:46 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
"I'm having a hard time telling the difference between a second and a minute. They both seem to have that fast ticking. What am I missing?"
- (name on file)

Dear Student,
You aren't missing anything. MINUTE and SECOND are signed the same. 
Yes, I know that is lame.  Having two concepts that use the same exact sign and rely on context (or a mouth movement) to distinguish between the two meanings.  For what it is worth, I didn't invent the language, I'm just teaching it to you.
In those sentences where it would not be clear, which meaning to apply, you would spell the letters "M-I-N" or "S-E-C."  Otherwise, for the sign "second," make sure to do a very quick twitch of the right hand in an "index finger" handshape.  Have it do one "tick" of the clock. The movement is from the wrist and pivots on the heel of the other hand.  The movement is small and fast.
Remember, we depend on context to make the difference clear.  If someone asks me how long it takes to drive to work and I respond "15 MINUTE/SECOND," which meaning fits?  Obviously in that sentence it means "MINUTES."
--Dr. Bill

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