For the sign "monkey" see: MONKEY
I'm looking for the sign for CHIMPANZEE. Consider this is for children who
know the difference between a monkey, chimp, gorilla and orang, but aren't
old enough to fingerspell. Can you help?>
Dear Mimi (Melinda)
In American Sign Language there are no widely or consistently used signs to
distinguish the "variations" of primates.
There are only two "popular" or "common" signs used for referring to
primates. The MONKEY sign, and the APE sign.
The MONKEY sign is used to represent the smaller primates and the APE sign
represents apes and gorillas.
The MONKEY sign scratches your sides upwards with both hands simultaneously
and repeats the motion once.
The APE sign beats on your chest using alternating hands (in a fist
Note: You don't actually have to make contact with your sides or chest for
either of the two signs. If you are hamming it up or being theatrical you
will use bigger movements and more contact.
I would suggest to you that "Hearing adults" tend to underestimate the
ability of children to fingerspell and to read fingerspelling. Many people
approach fingerspelling as a series of letters on the hand. Children that
grow up in signing households tend to handle fingerspelling as "signs" that
have a general flow and shape pattern. At age 2, my daughter, Kesley, used
to morph the letters V, I, and T together to express the concept of
Thus if you spell words like "chimp" often enough using fluent
fingerspelling, the kids will pick up on what it means and will start doing
their own "version" of fingerspelling that perhaps looks like the letters C
and P. You would spell ORANG to mean orangutan. And eventually it would
start looking like ORG then even "OG." This is known as "lexicalized
Now, since I realize that you probably "still" want specific signs for
primates (even though I've told you how it would be handled in a culturally
appropriate way), I'll suggest to you the group of people that I would
consider to be experts in the various signs for primates: The Gorilla
I will cc this to them at email@example.com and also to their "kid question
email service: firstname.lastname@example.org and see if they know of any signs for "chimp"
Or, for faster service, pick up the phone and call 1-800-ME-GO-APE
(seriously, that is the number listed at their website). Or mail them at:
The Gorilla Foundation, P.O. Box 620530, Woodside, CA 94062
You can learn American
Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars