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ASL: "meningitis"


To express the concept of "meningitis" in ASL you either spell it out, or you spell the first few letters and then do the FINGERSPELLING sign. M-E-N-I-FINGERSPELL.

One of the considerations regarding "what to do" when you make a mistake while fingerspelling is: Does it matter? It is very common in the Deaf world for us to start spelling a word that we don't know how to spell (such as "meningitis") and then just flutter our fingers a bit as we move our hand to the side a few centimeters. This is often accompanied by a "pbbfff"-mouth-morpheme and followed by a subtle raised eyebrows facial expression (typically used for yes-or-no-questions) to check with your conversation partner to see if they understand you (yes or no?). If so they will do a very subtle nod indicating that they know the concept to which you are referring (even though neither of you know how to spell it). This back and forth micro-confirmation process is the equivalent of active listening and as a third-person beginning-level observer you will likely miss it during a conversation between two skilled signers (unless you are specifically looking for it).

Another consideration (if you happen to be the obsessive compulsive type) is to prioritize your conversation partner's time as being more valuable than your need to spell things completely be “right.” Quite often I'll be signing with a student and the student will start to spell something. I'll figure it out within a letter or two (due to context) but the student keeps spelling the word all the way to the end. Worse –I figure out the word after just a couple of letters and am signaling: "I got it—go on" (by signing KNOW-KNOW) but the student keeps spelling and messes up the spelling and insists on starting the word all over again so he/she can spell it right (even though I already know what he/she is trying to spell and he/she is now choosing to trade my time to scratch his/her itch to "spell a word completely and correctly).

You need to be watching your conversation partner (instead of staring at your own hand). If after a few letters he or she "gets it" (understands the word you are trying to spell) stop spelling and move on to your next sign. You are not in a “spelling bee.” There is no prize for getting each letter right.
If you mess up your spelling and I'm nodding and signing KNOW-KNOW on my cheek and using "go-on"-type gestures -- but you decide to "drop your hand and restart the word" I'm thinking "Noooo -- don't start over -- just get on with your point!!!"

Now, lest you think I'm saying people should never correct their spelling -- I'm not saying that. If you are in a situation wherein spelling actually matters (such as conveying a password, prepping for a spelling quiz, telling someone your email address, etc.) and you do the wrong letter—of course you need to indicate that you messed up and then clarify or start over.
 



 

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