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STEP-MOTHER: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "step-mother / step-mom"

The sign for "step-mother" has a few variations. 

A very popular version of the sign for "stepmother" uses the sign for "second" as in "second-hand" or "turn-taking."  The sign for "second hand" has many meanings including, "used" as in a "used car" or with a bit larger movement it can mean "your turn."  This is not meant to be an insult. In ASL it is simply a way to refer to the idea that a stepmother is "taking a turn at being someone's mother." 
In this version you combine the signs for "SECOND-HAND" and "MOTHER." 




It is also very common to simply spell S-T-E-P and then sign MOTHER.





There is a version of stepmother that combines "FALSE" + "MOM."
I personally don't like using it for stepmother since I use it to mean "foster mother."


STEP-MOTHER: (false mom version):


There is a version of stepmother in which the index finger (of an "L"-hand) bends at the knuckle and returns to the "L"-hand shape again using a very quick movement.

STEPMOTHER:  ("L"-hand version)




While I (Bill) don't tend to use the "one finger" variation for STEP-MOTHER, I got an email from Dr. Lisalee Egbert mentioning that she uses the one-handed version for both step-mother and stepfather.  I think it is important to note that in her house the terms "stepmom" and "stepdad" actually get used quite a bit so it is natural for her to use fast / evolved version of the sign. Interpreters should definitely add this version to their signing toolbox. 

Notes from Dr. Bill regarding the "one finger variation" of STEP-FATHER and STEP-MOTHER:
A "one movement/one location" sign has an advantage over a "two movement/two location" sign since the single movement sign has "economy" in its favor. The "one finger" sign is a strong variation in some parts of the country and I think it is actually increasing in popularity.  I can certainly see why Dr. Egbert would use it and I think it is a terrific sign. For me personally though I think I'll still stick with the "second hand" version of "stepfather/stepmother" as the version I teach my own classes.  Also remember the "safest" version will likely be to spell STEP when used  as part of the sign for "stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, etc."


Just in case you are wondering, here is the sign for "STEP." This is a version of the sign for walk that only takes "one step."  Do NOT use this sign as part of the sign for step-father during an ASL test  (unless you want to give your instructor a chuckle).




Notes:  See: STEP-FATHER







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