Hi Charles, Valerie, Adam and friends,


well – this has been a     v e r y   intense discussion in the past.  From time to time it became an emotional discussion.


Now looking at your wonderful book about hand shapes and their matching symbols, I felt pretty much disappointed and confused to find some symbols with this kind of interpretation, violating my intuitive understanding of the “thumb-rule”

I do not agree with your idea of how the hand looks like.  I do not follow your point of view.

Why ? Well  Charles explained the point of view I understand best. And if you would look at the good old “Lessons in SignWriting” second edition page 36 you will understand – that at least some of us “old scribes”  prefer the thumb to be seen where it belongs ... right thumb right side of the symbol.


The whole confusion is connected to the fact that originally there have been more but three basic orientations. I discussed it several times and have had a hard time to explain my doubts and ideas about different interpretations.


This discussion came up several times in the past. It is a pity that people feel frustrated to accept  the use of symbols if it does not go along with their understanding.  But I can understand the feeling of irritation. Personally I follow Valeries advice to write my documents the way I think it feels best to my understanding. And of course – I do no teach these symbols in question the way they are shown in this list because my brain refuses to accept the logic you try to explain.  I simply do not see, what you would like me to see. I can’t – no matter how intense I try.


I agree that sometimes the fingers or the thumb on the right side touching the nose or the ear  are somehow funny – but at least this kind of representation does not hurt the general concept: write what you see.


Personally I would not write the sign for clown with this “left hand” –  smile  (I understand that you – Adam and Valerie  can see this hand as a  “right hand” – but I cannot.


Same problem with some other symbols for hand shapes  ;-(   and this “direction of fingers is important”- idea – I do not agree with that either.  



When I started to “learn” the meaning of SW-symbols 11 years ago, I followed the Parkhurst interpretation. It made absolute sense to me and everything seemed to be consistent.


So now we can restart to understand that there are at least two different “schools” to use some symbols differently. It might be worth to just have a table showing a given symbol from the two points of view – this would not blame anybody but give a chance to accept what is going on – We do not follow the same way of thinking.





Von: SignWriting List: Read and Write Sign Languages [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Im Auftrag von Adam Frost
Gesendet: Montag, 12. September 2011 18:30
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: Re: NEW: Clown correction


I'm assuming the sign you are referring to is:



While I personally don't do it with this down movement, we aren't talking about that at the moment. ;-)


Technically speaking, the hand symbol is the correct one for what the symbol was intended to mean. If you look at the book that Val and I just wrote, the image of my hand and the symbol match.



 I know that the thumb seems to be on the wrong side; so do the fingers. There is a reason for that. This isn't official because I need to test it, but from personal observation I have found that when a handshape has the thumb interacting with the other fingers (ie as if it can hold a physical object), the symbol construction points the fingers to the center of the body and is static and does not rotate like most of the other symbols. So this hand symbol falls in that category. 


Now, my understanding is that there are some who say that these hand symbols should rotate just like the other symbols. That means this writing of clown should be:



The problem is that since the hand is on the left side of the face, many readers feel that is for the left hand as opposed to the right hand. That is the reason all those symbols were made static and not rotate like the rest.


I hope this helps clarify why the hand symbol used is actually not wrong.




On Sep 12, 2011, at 9:00 AM, Charles Butler wrote:

Please look at "CLOWN" on the ASL Sign Puddle.


The fingers point to the right and the hand is white, therefore it is the left hand, yet the arrows indicate the right hand. if you turn it at a slight angle then the thumb is clearly on the wrong side, pointing up the axle on the left side of the square. This, to me, is the easiest test. 


If I were to see this sign in an ASL SW exam I would mark it wrong. This is not a matter of "variant" this is simply wrong. 


If I cannot mark a test unambiguously then there is something wrong. The hand is not "pinching the nose" from the side it is "facing the nose".


As I can't edit it, I can't fix it.


Charles Butler