Saturday, October 10, 2009

Superhero sign names - as part of Learn to Sign week

As it's Learn to Sign week I thought now would be a good time for a post combining comics and signing.  Here we go.

In British Sign Language we have something called sign names.  They are basically nick names and are a short hand way to refer to someone, as an alternative to fingerspelling their name.  One of my friends likes cake, so her sign name is the sign for cake with the lip pattern of her name.  My sign name is the sign for reading, (flat open palms with fingers together, palms face up, fingers slightly overlapping and move the hands round in one circular motion), with the lip pattern of my name, because I read all day, every day.  One of my old teachers name was based on his hairstyle, so it;s been a pony tail or a mohawk with his name.  You get the idea.

So I got to thinking what would the sign names of the superheroes be?  Signingtime, an American site has a forum which asks this very question.  That is however the only site I can find that deals with this issue.  If anyone knows of any others, please let me know in the comments.

In the UK, the sign for superhero in general is your right arm stuck out in a fist, a la flying.  That also works for Superman, and Supergirl would be the main sign + girl. I expect that Batman is Bat plus Man.  Buffy the vampire slayer is 'B+vampirefangs+a staking action'.  I expect Wonder Woman has her own sign.

As I don't know any Deaf comics fans I cannot ask them what signs they use, so I will speculate.  Sign names are never official anyway, they are given by those who know you, or you give one to yourself.  I will approach this from the point of view of what will those people who know and love the heros, e.g. friends and family, use.

Let us start with Bart Allen.

We cannot simply give him the multichannel sign of speeding-off-into-the-distance, because that could be used for all speedsters.  We shouldn't really use Impulse or Kid Flash as that's his actual code name.  I suppose the general public could trace the lightening logo on their chest, to mean Flash, and Kid Flash could be Flash+kid, but that isn't distinctive enough to mean Bart.  I would be tempted to go with his big feet or his hair.  No one else in the DCU has feet and hair quite like him, and I don't think he would be offended by it.  You could sign big-feet-racing-forward and provide the lip pattern for Bart.  I think that's fairly apt.

How about Speedy (Mia)?

Well, you can't simply sign speedy, or fast, because in all honesty that is far more likely to be associated with the Flash type heroes in the DCU.  Speedy's hero thing is her arrow shooting, but I find the sign for bow and arrow rather unwieldy, so would prefer not to use it.  I also would prefer to choose something that would be distinct from RoySpeedy, so it needs to be feminised or be something completely different.  Considering Mia's cocky personality I think I will go with the sign for Cheeky.  I'm sure Ollie would agree.

Black Canary.

 For her public name, I'd go with black+canary.  Black is a thumbs up hand shape swiped along your cheek from near your ear to off your face by your mouth.  Canary is a local sign in Norfolk, our football team is nicknamed the Canaries (these birds have a long association with the city, due to the influx of Dutch traders in earlier centuries).  As such, both Canary and Norwich are the same - the bird sign over your left breast where the football logo is on a shirt.
As for her private name, for 80s hero Dinah we could trace the headband shape+name.  For florist Dinah we could do flower+name.  For a joke we could do computer+name.  Although that might be best for Barbara.  As a really boring sign we could do blonde+name, or martial arts+name.

Guy gets the bowl haircut sign, no question and no matter how long he's had a new style for.  Batman has his own special sign for Guy though -  falling over (as in being knocked out)+name.

The possibilities are endless!


Feminist Avatar said...

Very cool idea.

Saranga said...


@lex said...

I know super man's name sign in America is not super+Man it's the ASL "s" fist carves another "s" across your chest.