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EAT-YOUR-WORDS: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "eat your words" or "eat one's words" (idiom)


The sign “EAT-YOUR-WORDS” is a multiple meaning sign – the specific meaning of which is highly dependent on context and non-manual markers (NMM).

Since this sign is a “multiple meaning” sign that is influenced by context it doesn’t just mean one thing. Rather each usage of the word must be considered prior to interpreting this sign into some other language (such as English).

Some typical and/or observed meanings of the sign EAT-YOUR-WORDS:

1. “Eat your words” or “eat one's words.” This idiomatic phrase means to “Retract what one has said, especially in a humiliated way” (Source: Lexico). For example:
“The politician had to retract his statement.”
“He was embarrassed and had to eat his words.”
“My friend claimed her phone was unbreakable--threw it down--and it broke! She had to eat her words!”

2. karma: However “EAT-YOUR-WORDS” is not a complete equivalent of the English word “karma” – the two concepts merely overlap. “Karma” is a multi-meaning word. One of the meanings of “karma” is “…bad luck viewed as resulting from one's actions” (Source: Lexico). Thus it is reasonable that some people may use the sign EAT-YOUR-WORDS to refer to circumstances wherein someone has “said something” or “made a claim” and then later experienced “bad luck, misfortune, or humiliation as a result of or related to the earlier statement.”

3. “Spoke too soon” as in “I spoke too soon, was wrong, and had to eat my words.”

4. “Take it back” / “take that back”: To withdraw a statement or claim. For example: “Whoops, nevermind, I take that back.”

5. “Your words came back to haunt you” – Something you stated or claimed is now causing trouble or embarrassment for you and you wish you hadn’t made such a claim.

6. “jinxed” Something you said earlier seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophesy with a bad result. Along the same meaning here is “hexed.” For example, “She hexed herself by what she said.”

7. “Talk out of both sides of your mouth” An idiomatic use that means “to try to maintain contradictory positions or beliefs in an attempt to please the most people” (Source: thefreedictionary(dot)com)

8. “doublespeak” To deliberately use euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language. (Source: Oxford)

Notes and observations:
- The EAT-YOUR-WORDS sign is based on a sign that is commonly labeled as TALK.

- The sign TALK can be interpreted as meaning: talking / speaking / ramble / blather / monologue / monologuing / to spew forth words from your mouth -- and similar concepts.

- The EAT-YOUR-WORDS sign starts as the sign for talk and then reverses orientation back to the mouth. The reversal of orientation adds an aspect of “reversal” to the meaning of this sign.

- Some people start the EAT-YOUR-WORDS at one corner of the mouth and end the sign at the other corner of the mouth.

- Some people start the EAT-YOUR-WORDS sign at the center of the mouth then flip the sign around and end it at the center of the mouth.

- When discussed in online groups the sign EAT-YOUR-WORDS elicits a wide variety of interpretations and “claimed” meanings.



Some people may use the "EAT-YOUR-WORDS" sign to mean hypocrite.   However, there is a sign that is actually glossed as "HYPOCRITE" that directly means "two-faced" and is typically a better choice.


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