Difference Between Descriptive Name Signs And Arbitrary Name Signs
Name signs are a naming custom in Deaf culture that are used to identify and address individuals. Name signs are usually created based on the person's characteristics, personality, hobbies, or other unique traits. However, not all name signs are the same. There are two main types of name signs: descriptive and arbitrary.
Descriptive name signs are name signs that indicate some distinctive physical feature or quality of the person. For example, a person with buck teeth might have a name sign that mimics the shape of their teeth, or a person who loves to travel might have a name sign that shows the sign for travel. Descriptive name signs can be more personalized and memorable, but they can also change over time if the person's appearance or behavior changes. Descriptive name signs are more common in Europe and other continents[^4^] [^2^].
Arbitrary name signs are name signs that do not have any specific meaning or relation to the person. They are usually based on the first letter of the person's name, followed by a simple handshape or movement. For example, a person named Violet might have a name sign that shows the letter V with a circular motion. Arbitrary name signs are more stable and consistent, but they can also be less expressive and distinctive. Arbitrary name signs are more common in North America[^2^] [^5^].
Both types of name signs have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is no right or wrong way to choose or create a name sign. However, it is important to remember that name signs are part of Deaf culture and identity, and they should be respected and honored. Only a culturally and linguistically Deaf person can assign a name sign to someone, and it should be mutually agreed upon by both parties. A name sign is not something that can be made up or invented by anyone, nor can it be imposed or rejected without consideration. A name sign is a gift and a privilege that reflects the person's connection and contribution to the Deaf community.
How to Use Name Signs
Name signs are not only a way to identify someone, but also a way to show respect and recognition. Therefore, it is important to know how to use name signs properly and appropriately. Here are some tips and guidelines for using name signs in the Deaf community:
Do not make up your own name sign or ask someone to give you one. Only a Deaf person can assign you a name sign, and it should be based on your relationship and interaction with them. Wait until a Deaf person offers you a name sign, and accept it graciously.
Do not use someone else's name sign as your own. Name signs are unique and personal, and they belong to the person who received them. Using someone else's name sign is considered rude and disrespectful.
Do not change or modify someone's name sign without their permission. Name signs are part of a person's identity and history, and they should not be altered or replaced without a valid reason. If you are unsure how to sign someone's name sign, ask them politely or fingerspell their name.
Do not use name signs for people who are not part of the Deaf community. Name signs are reserved for people who use ASL and are involved in Deaf culture. For people who are hearing or do not know ASL, use fingerspelling or other forms of communication.
Do introduce yourself with your name sign after fingerspelling your name. When you meet someone new in the Deaf community, you should first fingerspell your name, then show your name sign if you have one. This helps the person remember your name and associate it with your name sign.
Do use name signs to address or refer to someone in a conversation. Name signs are a convenient and respectful way to get someone's attention or mention them in a dialogue. You can also use eye contact, facial expressions, or body movements to indicate who you are talking to or about.
Name signs are a valuable and meaningful aspect of Deaf culture and ASL. By using name signs correctly and respectfully, you can show your appreciation and understanding of the Deaf community and its members. a474f39169