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American Sign Language: "widow"


In a message dated 5/26/2005 12:17:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
I have been searching the internet for the answer to my question, but cannot find the answer.  I have purchased your materials and thought you could help.  I am looking for a sign for "widow".  Can you help me?  Thank you so much for your web site.  I am a hearing person wanting to someday communicate in my town with deaf people. Your web site has been very helpful.  Keep up the great work! 

Hello Shelley,
In the ASL if you are referring to woman whose husband has died and who has not remarried you usually just fingerspell "W-I-D-O-W."  This may seem laborious to Hearing people, but fingerspelling is very common among native Deaf Americans.
If you "must" have a sign, you could sign "HER HUSBAND DEAD" or "SHE-(index) HUSBAND DEAD."
For "widower" you'd sign, "HIS WIFE DEAD," or "HE-(index) WIFE DEAD."
I've also seen some people use the signs, "HER HUSBAND GONE."  The sign "GONE" is used by some bilingual Deaf as a euphemism for dead.
If you need a general sign for "widow or widower" you could simply sign "MARRY DEAD." Which would mean that the "spouse" is dead.
But remember, lots of folks will simply use fingerspelling:  W-I-D-O-W.
In English, the word "widow" has other uses though.  It can be used to mean a woman whose husband is gone a lot due to regular or extended participation in an activity. For example, "poker."  If you were referring to a "poker widow" you'd sign, "HER HUSBAND P-O-K-E-R every-FRIDAY NIGHT, NOT-MATTER." (Which means that "it doesn't matter whatever else happens, that husband plays poker on Friday nights.)  There isn't any one particular sign for "poker widow" either.  

Much depends on real life.  For example suppose he plays poker on Saturday nights? You would simply state the situation:  "HER HUSBAND P-O-K-E-R every-SATURDAY NIGHT, MUST!"

"MUST" and "NOT-MATTER" are only two examples of signs that can be used to establish this alternate meaning of "widow."  You could use signs like: HABIT!, ADDICTED, OUTSIDE/leave-(repeatedly).
Dr. Bill



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