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American Sign Language: "pay"

The sign for "pay" is a directional sign. That means the direction in which you do the sign indicates whom is getting paid.

Think of having a coin in the palm of your left hand.  You place the tip of your right index finger on the coin then flick the coin to the person whom you are paying.



"pay him/her"


Now for my favorite version of this sign:

"pay me"


The sign "PAY" is related to the sign for "owe a debt."  In the sign "debt" or "owe" the index finger jabs the palm twice as if saying, "Look, it says right here that you owe me money!"




Question from Scott:  To me, the sign for "investigate" looks a lot like the sign for "pay." I guess the difference must be the orientation of the right hand. For "pay" the finger is flicked back-handed, whereas "investigate" has a palm-down orientation. Plus it repeats. Yes?

Dr. Bill replies:  Yes.  The angle of the index finger to the palm when doing "investigate" is similar to the angle of a wood chisel to a piece of wood.  Investigate uses a double motion that is similar to quickly sliding a penny about four inches along the surface of a table. Sort of a "digging movement."  The movement often continues an inch or two beyond the end of the left hand fingertips.  Also, "PAY" is directional (you-PAY-me, me-PAY-you) but "investigate" uses a separate sign for the subject-object relationship.

Also see: BUY

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