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American Sign Language: "vegetarian"

In a message dated 8/3/2004 12:37:28 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Dr. Vicars:
I am a vegetarian and I would like to know how to express "I am a vegetarian" with sign language. Can you give me a hand and kindly tell me how to express it? ...
Thank you!!

There are several approaches but one of the main ways to sign "vegetarian" is to do the sign "vegetable" and then add the "agent" sign. 
There are three popular ways to sign vegetable.  Two of them involve touching the cheek with a "v" hand.  The first variation is to touch the tip of the index of a "V" handshape to your cheek and twist your hand twice.  The "V" pivots on the tip of the index finger.  The middle finger doesn't touch the face in this version.

To do the second variation of "vegetable" first touch your index finger to your cheek, and then twist your hand and arm (pivoting at the elbow) so that the middle finger is touching the cheek instead of your index finger. (If you know the sign "misunderstand" it is sort of like doing the sign misunderstand on your cheek).

The third variation of vegetable is an abbreviated spelling of the word vegetable.  Just spell the letters V-E-G.

Now, to express the concept of vegetarian, you could simply add the "agent" sign to any of those variations.

The "agent" sign is sometimes called "the person sign."  This sign is done by bending your arms at your elbows, with your hands in "flat handshapes" with the fingers pointing forward and the palms pointing toward each other.  You then move both hands straight down about six inches.  Think of sliding your hands down the sides of the torso of a person standing in front of you.

So you end up with "VEGETABLE-AGENT" (or vegetable person) which means vegetarian.

Remember also that ASL is very situational.  If you are at a restaurant and your Deaf friend removes the meat from her hamburger and you sign to her "DO-DO?" (What are you doing?) and she responds "ME V-E-G" It would obviously mean that she is a vegetarian.  She wouldn't need to add the "AGENT" sign.  The fact that she indexed herself prior to signing "V-E-G" established that she was talking about herself as a person.

- Dr. Bill

VEGETARIAN  (example of Version 1)
 I just stick the tip of the index finger of a "V" handshape on my cheek and twist my hand once then do the "person" sign (which used to be known as the "agent" sign but it seems I'm the only one on the planet calling it that anymore so let's just go with "person.")

Note the full sign for vegetable uses a double twist, but since vegetarian is a compound sign, you drop one of the movements.

The "V" pivots on the tip of the index finger.  The middle finger isn't touching the face.


Dear Dr. Vicars:
Thank you so so much for your clear and kindly explanation.  Now, I got it.
I am promoting the vegetarianism with my friends now and we have set up a Chinese website,
I am wondering if I can use the illustration you taught and other illustrations to explain how to sign "I am a vegetarian" to all the friends?
I would credit it so that people know where I learn.  Will this is ok? 
By the way, how about the sign of "I am a vegan", do I have to use the fingerspell to sign "vegan"?
Thank you again and looking forward to hearing from you again.
Feel free to use the illustrations.
Something like: Used by permission."  -- that should do the trick as far as "credit" goes.
Yeah...vegan is just spelled out.  Most of us unhealthy people who will die early and in great pain don't know the differences between "vegan" vegetarian, and the various other related terms. Next time I run into a Deaf vegetarian I'll certainly ask if they know any other signs related to vegetarianism.
Take care.
Dr. Bill

For more illustrations related to this topic, see the "VEGETABLE" page.

In a message dated 11/11/2011 11:26:59 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, David writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
I am a vegetarian and I noticed the sign for vegetarian was VEGETABLE
AGENT which makes sense to me when talking about a person, but what
about foods? For example, we had fake bacon this morning and we've
though of a few ways to sign this but I don't know if there is a better
way. So first was VEGETABLE AGENT BACON. (Is it OK to sign AGENT in this
way?) Or how about BACON WITHOUT MEAT? Or even BACON S-O-Y (couldn't
find a sign for soy so I assume it's finger spelled).
-- David

I just sign "fake bacon."  :)
For that I use the signs: FALSE & BACON

[Edit: A lot can change in a decade or more. These days I'd just spell VEG and then sign BACON, while, you know, trying to keep a straight face.]

The "right" way to sign "veggie" anything  though depends on the "level of familiarity" your conversation partner has with "vegetarian products."

If they've never bought, used, or seen "vegetarian versions" and/or "meatless" products then you will likely need to do a lot more explaining using signs such as:

At some point you and your conversation partner or group may choose to simply sign "VEGETABLE BACON."

If you are sitting around your breakfast table with your vegetarian family and everything in the house is vegetarian, then you would just sign, "PASS-to-me BACON." There would be no need to add "vegetarian" or "vegetable" -- because it would be understood already.

-- Dr. Bill

Also see: VEGAN

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ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

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