The sign for "worse" uses "K" handshapes.
In a message dated 12/8/2012 8:51:17 A.M. Pacific Standard Time,
I have question regarding the sentence "YOU THINK MEN WORSE JEALOUS
THAN WOMEN?" That means men are "more" jealous. I'm confused because
why couldn't we sign MORE jealous? Do we only sign MORE in regards
to wanting "more" of something and things like that? I think
of "worse" as a person being bad at something. For example i
would say "YOU THINK MEN WORSE COOK THAN WOMEN?" -- but I'm assuming
that's not in the right concept.
To understand the usage differences between WORSE and MORE (in ASL) it helps
to explore some of the signs that are closely related to the sign WORSE and
to the sign MORE.
The sign WORSE has its roots in the sign MULTIPLY which is commonly known in
English as "times" as in "Six times two is twelve." Thus the sign WORSE
often has connotations of "compounded," "multiplied," and "more-so." It
could even mean "on steroids" in some English usages of that phrase.
While the sign WORSE does indeed have many of the same meanings as the
English word "worse" -- the two are not perfectly overlapping. I recall
learning (many years ago) of a situation when two Deaf individuals were
watching a broad-jumper compete. The competitor's second jump was farther
than his first jump, whereupon one of the Deaf observers signed "WORSE!"
(with an enthusiastic facial expression and a bit of a head nod).
Obviously the competitor's jump was not "worse" in the English sense of the
word "worse" but rather the jump was "more so" or "increased" beyond what it
That is a "rare" example though of the usage of the sign "WORSE" from a time
period before you were born. These days you are unlikely to see such a pure
form of the "WORSE/MULTIPLY" sign applied in such a situation. Now you are
more likely to see the signs "IMPROVE," "BETTER," or "INCREASE" used to
describe an improvement in a broad-jump distance of a competitor. Still
though, the example gives you a taste for the historical roots of the sign
The sign WORSE actually based on the sign MULTIPLY. The two signs look
almost alike. The difference being mainly indicated via your facial
expression. For discussion purposes the two signs could be lumped
together and called "MULTIPLY/WORSE" both of which use a "K" handshape and a
The sign MULTIPLY/WORSE is related to the sign FIGURE-out/MULTIPLICATION
which uses a double movement. The difference between "FIGURE-out" and
MULTIPLICATION-[noun] is that "FIGURE-out" generally uses a "contemplative"
facial expression (as if doing math in your head) whereas MULTIPLICATION
uses a neutral facial expression. (Thus "MULTIPLICATION" and
"MULTIPLY" are a noun/verb (minimal) pair differing only in the number of
The sign MORE is related to the signs: ADD-to-(additional/extra),
TOTAL-(altogether). The MORE sign is linked to additional amounts of
"things" or "stuff."
I would sign, "YOU WANT MORE POTATOES?"
I would not sign YOU WANT MULTIPLY/WORSE POTATOES?"
Would it be feasible for an English speaker to say, "The young man's
feelings of fear and dread multiplied as he contemplated entering the
Now, ask yourself, would it be okay for an English speaker to say the
phrase, "The young girl's feelings of joy and happiness multiplied as the
carefree days of summer passed by?"
The English word "multiplied" works in both of those sentences.
Since the sign WORSE is based on the sign "MULTIPLY" you can see how a Deaf
signer might be inclined to use the WORSE/MULTIPLY sign when referring to
physiological states of being or occurrences.
-- Dr. Bll