What’s in a Sign Name?

A few hours from now, the American nation will be witnessing a historic event. The most powerful nation in the world will inaugurate its first African-American president in history, Barack Obama. Most of the news articles on DeafRead are related to that momentous event. The most popular blog post happens to be the sign name the American Deaf community assigned to their newest president.

I got very curious so I immediately viewed the video post. It was kinda cool and the explanation on how Kirsi Grigg (Deaf lady) arrived to that sign name was pretty unambiguous. She said that having a sign name is very important for the deaf community. Deaf parents give much thought in giving a name that is significant for everybody.

President Arroyo (Notice her left mole?)
President Arroyo (Notice her left mole?)

Filipino Deaf community also value their sign names. It’s easier to refer a person through their sign names instead of fingerspelling every letter. It also makes them feel proud about their culture and being identified into a community. Hearing people associated with the deaf must also have their own sign names. However, it’s better for the deaf to assign a sign name to the hearing person instead of inventing his own. Deaf people are more creative. Your sign names will be much striking and easier to remember if you are “baptized” by a deaf.

When I started associating with the deaf in 1991, I still wear those dorky eyeglasses that keep on falling from my oily nose. I often use my nickname instead of my real name because I’m a junior. My Dad and I have the same name. Since my Dad is also involved with the deaf through me, I decided to use my moniker instead. I’m Jojo Esposa, so my deaf friend Christened me as “sign J-E near right eye corner.” I was stuck with that until now.

President Estrada (Notice his wristband?)
President Estrada (Notice his wristband?)

Our current Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was given a sign name of “index G hand points to cheek“. This was because of the noticeable mole on her left cheek. Former President Joseph Estrada (1996-2001) has a sign name of “E slicing left wrist“. It was due to his signature wristband. When I first interpreted for the deaf in a congregation, the president then was Fidel Ramos (1991-1996). Since he always sport an unlit tobacco on his mouth, the deaf gave him a sign name of “thumb R near mouth” like holding a cigar.

President Ramos (Notice his hand holding a cigar?)
President Ramos (Notice his hand holding a cigar?)

The Philippine Federation for the Deaf assigned unique Filipino Sign Language (FSL) signs to their deaf colleagues. I said unique because it doesn’t use the first letters of their names. They argued that using the old style of assigning sign names often confuse them with somebody else. So they give signs based on their observations about the deaf’s common gestures, behaviors or even mannerisms. As an example, their President Rack Corpuz was given a sign name “claw hand face down twists clockwise” like turning a person’s head to face you. They gave that sign to her because she always signs that whenever she wants to catch her audience’s attention and to focus more on her.

I may not agree with that method. But who am I to contradict? So long as they understand each other, that’s good enough reason for me. 🙂

PS: I am using a code system to refer to a sign. I hope you understand how to execute my sign codes. 🙂

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