2008-02-03

Sign Language and Prime Ministers

A little news story about sign language and the prime minister of Thailand sent me on an internet search quest this week. It seems the Thai PM is not happy with his name sign. Apparently his nose resembles an apple and in Thailand, name signs are often based on a person's physical characteristics. So instead of finger spelling Samak Sundaravej, signers hold their noses between two fingers. [CBC story]

What is the name sign for Stephen Harper? I wondered. He must care given the news last week that the government lobby to the House of Commons has been transformed into a Harper portrait gallery. [1, 2, 3] Alas, after a lengthy search using both Google and Yahoo, I did not find a name sign for our Prime Minister.

However, along the way I learned some interesting things about name signs. In North America, most name signs are finger-spelled initials of the first and last name with the right hand held by the head. Elsewhere in the world, and sometimes here, the name sign is a gesture based on some other characteristic of the person. [Good detail with images here, including Wayne Gretzky's name sign.]

Another important thing about name signs is that you are not supposed to pick your own. Sort of like getting your aboriginal name. You don't get to call yourself "Soaring Eagle" unless a native person gives you that name. And if "Spawning Cod" is what they call you, that is what you get.

Illustrated above is what I think Stephen Harper would like his name sign to be. This is based on the widely reported but so far unproven claim that in his youth he attended Star Trek conventions in costume.

However, unless someone can tell us differently, I believe we should assume that Stephen Harper's name sign is a right-handed finger-spelled "S" followed by a finger-spelled "H" near the top of your head.

Bonus Links for your edification:

Practice reading finger-spelling here

Some signers don't believe in name signs

ASL Browser

Signs for Babies


4 comments:

coyote said...

The name sign that I think most likely for him is impossible for us coyotes -- we don't got fingers....

Woodsy said...

Every time Woodsy looks at that picture it makes her laugh... and cheers her up!

zoom said...

Do you think those freaky eyebrows are real?

coyote said...

Nope. Makeup. To distract us from noticing his hollow zombie eyes....