Hello Valerie and friends of the sw-list, 


I am so sorry to read this comment. Sounds as if you feel hurt Valerie.
Just want to make clear – it is not my intention to cause any trouble! And I
am convinced that it is not Charles idea to blame anybody but to discuss a
spelling issue. 


On the other side  - it is an excellent chance to discuss the use and
meaning of the SW symbols. 


I know that you do not want your students to follow in blind obedience ...
Insight is helpful to teach  the system  that has been invented by  YOU.


What is going on right now? 


Obviously we try to reopen the same discussion we have had so many times
before. – smile -   


What is to be done if you decide to publish a specific spelling as the
“correct” one – while at the same moment scribes with experience feel
uncomfortable with this definition. 


Of course I can continue to write my documents and dictionary entries the
way I used to do – following the “thumb-rule” which makes sense to me and
which can be seen throughout the whole system as a consistent aspect.  And I
know that you do not panic to see spellings you experience different from
your favourite options. 


On the other hand – what is the idea of using symbols in a writing system.
There should be a chance to read, to understand to identify clearly what is


As I mentioned before – looking at my hand – palm to the face – there is no
chance to understand the spelling if you put the thumb on the left side. I
would identify this as a  l e f t  hand. 


See attached graphic – kind of test for SignWriting students.  The question
would be: What is the correct spelling for the hands as shown on the fotos?
A, B, C, D 
















Von: SignWriting List: Read and Write Sign Languages
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] Im Auftrag von Valerie Sutton
Gesendet: Montag, 12. September 2011 23:12
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: Put the blame on me ;-)


Charles -

Put the blame on me, but don't blame Adam, who is working with me - He is a
wonderful part of my family...has helped me and my family in so many ways -


Of course my writing is inconsistent - so just put the blame on me -


Writing the palm of the hand towards the center of the face is what we were
talking about with the sign for CLOWN, and what you see on the web is my


and the sign for BUG, which is the side view of the hand, is another
situation and different than the white palm toward the face - and that is my
writing too -


so there you see it is my fault and not Adam's!


Val ;-)






On Sep 12, 2011, at 12:03 PM, Charles Butler wrote:

Adam, Stefan, Valerie, et al. 


The fact that you and Valerie agree in what I must strongly DISAGREE is
exactly the point. You have published, in a book, something that is


If you overlay the symbol on the hand it DOES NOT MATCH. No matter what you
do, the THUMB is on the right not on the left.


I must respectfully disagree with you, Adam, and agree with Stefan and Mr.


I follow the orientation of the hand first. Is it toward me or away from me.


If it is away from me, then the thumb MUST be on the actual hand as the
photo is, but not as the drawing. If it looks awkward, I would put the hand
directly over the face so that it would lay on top of it, which is the whole
point of the clown face, it lays on top of the face, not to one side or the
other. Then one can clearly see which hand it is, that the orientation is


Quoting your published notebook is EXACTLY the point. I disagree to the
point that I would edit that textbook marking it wrong if it came across my
publishing house in sign writing to publish. I did it in Brazil any number
of times until they got the point. Don't make a sign identical with its
mirror image, it simply ISN'T. 


The fact that I rotate this same hand around and it now is exactly the same
glyph when pointed in the opposite direction is just plain wrong. It is not
a disagreement, it makes no logical sense, the grasp is happening in the
opposite direction. You have rotated the hand, it cannot grasp left and
right the same way. I have two hands, they are mirror images of each other.
A grasp with one away must be the same glyph as the other pointed toward me.


I go for awkward writing and consistency every time. You showed that with
"crumble". The hands are up there, and the thumbs are on the outside. You
admit it there, so your argument is inconsistent.  


You can write it in a textbook any way you want to, that does not make it
any less WRONG. I cannot teach this, I cannot bend my mind around it. It
does not make intuitive sense. Two orientations, no matter WHAT fingers are
involved cannot be the same glyph.


I will continue to teach, and point out that the software is wrong. It is
software, and it NEEDS to be fixed.


You are working with educators, and I think that the educators who are NOT
just "shrug and make it go away" are on the better side. When they work with
Deaf students in classrooms and get the same questions every day, I think
the educators know more than the software.


If I were in your classroom, Adam, I would contradict you at every "turn" as
it is not logical and I cannot bring myself to write what is simply wrong. I
would strongly disagree, and Valerie knows it. I don't buy the "grasp" logic
as I'd rather write the sign on the opposite side.


If the sign for Clown, Cockroach and Bug are compared, it is clear that
COCKROACH (written by me) shows the right hand on the left side of the body,
with the correct orientation, it is still the right hand, rotated 45 degrees
with the left hand rotated 45 degrees and the hands crossed. BUG is the
right hand at the halfway point so that the thumb presses the nose (written
by VALERIE using her own textbook notes to move the hand until the features
line up) so your argument simply does not hold water.


When the inventor of the system has to put the right hand on the left side
of the body so that a simple orientation rule does not get violated, I think
that the orientation we have proposed is the better one. She makes sure that
the thumb STAYS on the right place, sticking out so it should stay there. 






--- On Mon, 9/12/11, Stefan Wöhrmann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

From: Stefan Wöhrmann <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: AW: NEW: Clown correction
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Monday, September 12, 2011, 2:08 PM

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