Note: Starting in 2015 I noticed people starting to do the sign
for Hawaii with an "index finger" handshape instead of an "H"
handshape. Out of context an INDEX-FINGER-(handshape)
moving around the perimeter of the face is the FACE-(looks) sign and
tends to mean "face" or "looks" as in "the appearance of something."
So, if you are going to do the INDEX-FINGER-(handshape) version of
Hawaii -- make sure you have plenty of context or spell out Hawaii
at the beginning of your conversation. - Dr. Bill
The sign for "Hawaii" has a couple of main versions.
One of the more popular and traditional versions is done by drawing a circle around your
face with an "H" hand. This likely has to do with
the concept that Hawaii is a beautiful place. Someone probably
initialized the sign for PRETTY with
an "H"-hand and the sign spread.
Model: Byron Cantrell (Native Deaf, Deaf School/Georgia, Deaf
wife, Deaf kids, long-time ASL instructor.)
Dr. Bill's Notes:
Memory aid: The signs for "pretty" and "beautiful" use a (somewhat)
circular movement around the face. Hawaii is a "beautiful" place.
This same approach is also used for the sign
There is another sign for "Hawaii" that looks a bit like
someone doing a hula dance. It is a legitimate and respected old
sign. I wouldn't
mark it "wrong" on an expressive test (though some teachers might).
I might use the hula dance sign in "creative signing" situations
though, (poems, plays, children's stories, etc.).
I personally don't use the "hula-version" simply because it takes
two hands and is a little bit more work than just circling my face
with an "H" or an "INDEX-finger." The one-handed "H" around the face
version is fast, easy, and previously well accepted in the Deaf community.
However since initialization (using the first letter of the English
word for a sign as the handshape for the sign) has become associated
with "Signed English" many ASL teachers and aficionados (people who
are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity or
subject) eschew (deliberately avoid using) initialization.
That means they go out of their way to NOT use "letters" as the
handshapes for their signing.
Note: John Feagans (who lives in Hawaii, travels frequently to
Japan, and interacts with Deaf people in both places) wrote to tell
me that "Oahu" (one of the Hawaiian islands) uses the circular
movement around the face with an "O" handshape. John also noted that
Japanese Deaf people (using Japanese Sign Language) prefer the "hula
dance" version of the sign for Hawaii.
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