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American Sign Language: "pretzel"

Many Deaf just spell the word "pretzel."  There is a sign though that is "out there."
The sign for "pretzel" uses "R" handshapes to draw the shape of a pretzel in the air.


On Oct 19, 2011, at 5:05 AM, Derek Smith wrote:

"... I work at Magnolia School in Orlando Florida. Me an another teacher are team teaching the teachers at our school sign language every Wednesday morning. I was wondering if you could share your sign for Pretzel? We we're arguing this morning who was correct. Could you help us? Maybe send a video back to me?
Thank you.

On Oct 19, 2011, at 11:29 PM, "Bill Vicars" wrote:

Hello :)
I use "R"-handshapes. I touch them or nearly touch the tips of the "R"-hands in the air in front of me and then move both hands simultaneously out to the side and down and loop them back in and up again.  Thus "drawing" a pretzel in the air.
So, how do you do it in your neck of the woods?

To which Derek sent me a video from which I pulled the following pics:

PRETZEL (version seen in Orlando, demonstrated by Derek)

Thanks for sharing that version of "pretzel" with me. 
I always enjoy seeing local or regional variations of signs. I'm also very cautious about making any claims as to whether any particular version of a sign is "right" since a sign that is recognized and used in one part of the world may or may not be used and recognized in another part of the world.  So, your sign may indeed be a fine version for your location.
I'll share with you a couple thoughts regarding the sign you demonstrated (the one you are using which links the index and thumb of both hands, rotates, and links them again).
1. The linking movement is commonly used as the sign for "the Olympics."
2. The linking version is also the general sign for "chain."
3. Most pretzels are not in a "chain" shape but rather they are in a knot shape.
4. The classifier "R" handshape (CL:R) is commonly associated with rope-like, braided, and/or twisted things. It is also used in two versions of the sign for "doughnut" (which involves dough that has been rolled or cut into a rope-like shape and made into a circle).  Thus there is somewhat of a precedent for preferring an "R" handshape for signs involving rope-like dough shapes such as a pretzel.
In your video, you mentioned that your student uses that version.
If you were to survey 10 or more adult Deaf native ASL users in your location I would predict that many of them would simply spell P-R-E-T-Z-E-L. If in your local investigations you notice that a majority of Deaf sign "pretzel" a specific way, I certainly do encourage you to do it the way the locals do it.

Dr. Bill

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