ASL University ►

American Sign Language: "email"

The sign for "email" has evolved a lot over the years and continues to evolve.

EMAIL / me-EMAIL-you
In this version of "email" the right index finger makes a pass through the cavity of the left "c" hand. 
(The "C" hand is often modified so that the fingers are bent from the knuckles and are relatively straight.")



"EMAIL" is one of those signs that could easily spark an argument.
I'll share my thoughts with you on the topic and you can do what you want.

Some teachers might try to tell you that this sign is a noun/verb pair--meaning that the single movement equals a verb and the double movement equals a noun.
In theory that concept makes sense and seems to be true when you do the signs "in isolation" as if standing in front of a group of students and showing them the sign as part of a list of signs.

But in "real life" what happens is that the "1-handshape" (passing through a somewhat flattened "C" handshape) version of this sign using a single movement can be interpreted as either a noun or a verb depending on the rest of the sentence

In situations where it is important to distinguish between the noun form and the verb form of "email" --use a single movement as the verb form and a repeated movement is the noun form. 

Let me give you a comparison.  Back in the "old days" the term Google was just a noun.  And then later it became both a noun and a verb. Now we tend to capitalize it as a noun and lowercase it as a verb, but the same "word" can be both a noun or a verb depending on the rest of the sentence.

Note: the sign "EMAIL" has gone through many variations.  Back when email started becoming popular I noticed a bent-B-hand version being used prior to the index finger version.  As time passed the index finger version started showing up more than the bent-B-hand version.  Thus I think of the index finger version as the new form of the B-hand version.

The sign has also become directional. The sign "you-EMAIL-me" starts away from you and moves toward you.



EMAIL (fingerspelled version)
This sign moves outward while fingerspelling.

It was also quite common for people to spell E-M-A-I-L with an outward movement. Notice how in my example I'm not showing the letter "A"?  Eventually the fingerspelling version became shortened more and more until now there is a version of "me-EMAIL-you" that literally looks as if you are flicking a booger at someone to say "I'll email you."  (Yes, I know, that is a very classy way of describing it eh? That's why they pay me the big bucks. ...oh wait...they don't. Oh well.)



Sort of amusing now, but "in the old days" you might also have seen an "initialized version" based on the "TTY-call" sign. In this old version, the right "e" hand slides along the left index finger. Do NOT use this version.

(Not Recommended)


In a message dated 7/8/2006 3:22:33 PM Pacific Daylight Time, jhender@ writes:

I've also seen quite frequently a variation where you wave an e-handshape in the air and then sign 'letter/mail' by licking your thumb and slapping it in the corner of an open-b-handshape like it was a piece of mail.

If you feel like amusing your local (Deaf) ASL instructor and committing grade suicide - try doing that version on your next expressive ASL test. Heh. But hey, thanks for sharing. Really.
--Dr. Bill


Now for your entertainment, I'm going to show you my email address.
Please do NOT email me (unless it is to send donations).  I love you all, but I get waaaay too much email.


Also see: MAIL

Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


You can learn sign language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University    Dr. William Vicars

back.gif (1674 bytes)