ASL Handshapes Produce Mental Movies

Mental movie? What’s that and how do we produce mental movies?

When we visualize something in our minds, it’s a scene running of what we recalled or imagine what it would be like. It can be a memory or possible situational scenario. For the Deaf people, while thinking in English, we do have words/short phrases popping up in mind sometimes. However, in sign language, we mainly use visual scenes, not English words by using the handshapes to create signs. They’re like mini movies we’d watch. How do we do that?

Do you ever look at your hands and wonder what kind of shapes they would create? Have you ever watched mimes performing and gesturing? Without voicing the words, you could figure out and understand what they were doing and “saying” (gesturing), right? Or you might have observed children playing the pretend game, using their imagination and their hands like maybe robbers and cops, using their hands in the shape of guns?

There are about 52 handshapes and classifiers and around 40 of them are most commonly used daily in signing. In ASL, handshapes are much more than creating shapes. They are magically evolving into something that you’d recognize and know what the word or object may be. How do you say, “drink”, using your hand(s) without saying it in voice? I’ll wait here while you figure it out. :^) You got it? Let’s see what it looks like.

One hand would have the four fingers together and bend halfway with the thumb, also bend halfway. Then you gesture your hand as if you’re holding a drink and put it close to your mouth to drink in action. Pretty easy, right? This handshape is called “C” – you probably would notice the shape looking like backward C (your right hand) or standard C if it’s your left hand. Now, let’s up the challenge a bit. What else can you think of with that handshape? Any other purposes?

Handshape C

How about using both hands in forms of C and putting them on your face, where you’d look through them as if you’re holding the binoculars? Pretty neat, eh?

Now, here is another handshape you might recognize that’s being used sometimes in the media like TV shows or movies and social media as well.

Handshape ILY

It’s ILY (I love you). You may wonder how this would be shown as ILY since it doesn’t seem to be iconic or makes sense. It is actually made up of three letters in the ASL alphabet that blended all together. Here is the picture below to show you:

Combination of I-L-Y = ILY

Now you know what it means and you can show it to your family and friends to let them know your love. :^)

Let’s do one more:

Handshape F/9

What do you think it is? A different kind of number 3? Okay? A small hole? In general, it’s a gesture to say, “I’m okay” or to ask, “are you okay?” In ASL, it is either letter F or number 9. With your imagination and creative mind, can you come up with what can be used as a word or appearance? How about this – the part where the index finger and thumb touch together (in the form of a hole), now with that – pretend you’re picking up something from the table, something that grosses you out hence the finger/thumb for the least touch. You can make a grimacing face to go with it while “picking up the gross item”. Fun, eh? Lol

That’s it for today’s topic. I could go on and on about other handshapes but this post could become a novel or at risk of putting you to sleep midway. However, you can mull over any of the three handshapes you’ve read and learnt about to see how many words you can come up with. Leave a comment to let us know how many words you think you’ve come up with the letter C, ILY and/or F/9. Have fun being creative with the handshapes!

Until next time, ta ta! 🤗

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