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American Sign Language: "second-hand"


An ASL student writes:

Dr. Bill,
I learned a "new" sign today that [my] teacher hadn't known before: apparently the local slang for "used car" is signed with an "L" sign with the index finger pointed away from you like a pistol (at about a 45 degree angle) and shaking it back and forth a few times--like prodding someone with a gun to buy a car they don't really want? The person who had learned it from Deaf friends had no explanation but swore that it was true.
- Loren

Loren,
Actually, the sign you are describing is based on a sign that means "second" as in "I second that motion," or "used / second-hand."
When at a board meeting if we want to second something we will use the "L" hand pointed somewhat forward and up.  The movement is a forward/sideward roll with a quick ending.
If you roll the sign toward a person that sign can also be used to mean, "it's your turn."
When this sign is used for cars it means "a second-hand car."
- Dr. Bill

SECOND-HAND / his/her-TURN / STEP-(as in step-father or step-mother)


Also see: STEP-FATHER

NOTES:

In a message dated 7/26/2008 11:09:18 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, reed@ writes:

Hey Bill,
Just a quick note: My Deaf friend taught me to sign "second" (as in unit of time) similarly to "minute" but with a closed dominant hand.
So the secondary hand is a flat  "b" shape and the primary hand is an "s" shape, with the curled thumb and index finger against the palm. It ticks just like the sign for "minute".
Apparently, this sign is in use here in the Bay Area. It avoids the trouble of having "minute" and "second" signed the same way.
Thanks again!
Reed.

Hello Reed,
Thank you for sharing your Deaf friend's version of the time sign "SECOND."
That version of the sign SECOND is what I'd call an "initialized" version. It uses the initial of the English word "second" as the handshape for the sign "SECOND." As an ASL instructor I would classify that version as "Signed English."
Some people might be tempted to knee jerk react and say that your Deaf friend doesn't sign ASL. It has been my observation however that quite a few skilled ASL users use initialization from time to time and borrow signs liberally from Signed English according to convenience. Whether or not such signs "jump the gap" and become an accepted part of ASL -- only time will tell. As of right now though I would NOT recommend using that version. If in doubt, just spell S-E-C.
But THANK YOU for the input. Seriously I appreciate it.
Cordially,
Dr. Bill


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