Concepts back.gif (1674 bytes) brown

  ASL University ►

American Sign Language: "red"

The sign for "red" is made by making a movement that looks like you are stroking your lips (one time) with the tip of your index finger.



Notice that I tend to change the "index" finger into an "x" hand as I move it downward. I also tend to only do the movement one time but some people keep the finger straight. You might also see this sign done with a double motion. But again, the way I do it is by changing the index finger into an "X" handshape as I pull it down an inch or two.  Also, I don't go out of my way to actually make contact. If you do happen to touch your lips a bit, no big deal, but contact is not needed for this sign.


RED (initialized version)

There is another version of RED can also be done with the letter "R." 
You can use the "R" handshape to sign the word RED, but why? The "index finger" version works just fine and means "red" without needing the more complex "R" hand shape.  The "initialized version is generally considered "Signed English" and I don't recommend it for "ASL classes."

Optional Discussion (Not necessary for class).
"Tracie" writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
To answer a question you posed on your website:
Question:  You can use the R-handshape to sign the word 'red', but why?
Answer: To distinguish it from the word "pink" which uses the same motion with a P-handshape where the middle finger crosses the lips. (???)

Dear Tracie,
Think about it, we don't need to use an "R" for "RED" to distinguish it from PINKPINK does use a "P" hand and thus is different from the non-initialized "index-finger" handshape used in RED.  So, I still recommend doing RED with an "index finger. It simply doesn't need to be initialized. Putting an "R" hand on the sign for RED makes it harder to do and serves only to link the sign to English.

Suppose you had a blog and someone from England commented on your blog that you should spell the word "color" with a "u" as in "colour" -- to make it more distinguished from the word "colon?" (You've got to admit that color and colon look a lot alike.)  Plus the chap from England likes the word "colour" because that is how his Mum spelled it and doing so makes him feel warm and fuzzy. He likes the spelling of colour with a "u" because it looks more like that with which he is familiar. He doesn't mind or really even notice the added complexity because he has a set of brain cells that due to familiarity actually prefer the "u" version of "colour."  However to you "colour" looks weird and takes more work. Thus you resist adding complexity to your language just to accommodate the wishes of someone from a different language background.

It is the same for us Deaf people. We do not see a need to add an "R" to the sign for RED just because Hearing people like to think in English.

I do believe that the initialized version of RED is worth "knowing about" (since you will probably see quite a few people using it).  Interpreters for the Deaf should certainly know the initialized version. But other than that I really can't recommend initializing RED since it is simply an unnecessary attempt to put English on the hands.
Who knows? Maybe 20 years from now the vast majority of adult native Deaf people might sign it that way and I'll have to change my stance on my recommended version?  Time will tell, but for now you know my opinion and reasons.
Dr. Bill

Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


You can learn sign language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University    Dr. William Vicars

Concepts back.gif (1674 bytes) brown