Sign Names | ASL Ponderings


Hello, welcome! I’ve been thinking that I want to maybe start a new video series called “ASL Ponderings.” About different things like, come on, why do we do this in ASL when we really shouldn’t? And come on, why DON’T we do this when we should? I honestly don’t know how many posts/videos I can make from this, but hopefully it can be a continued thing. Also, not all ASL Ponderings videos will have a companion blog post because it may be all about a sign itself, so it wouldn’t make sense to try and put it into writing.

First, when we introduce ourselves. I’ve noticed that a lot of deaf people will tend to sign it this way: “Hello, my name is Rogan, last name Shannon.” Now maybe you’re looking at this and saying okayyy, I didn’t see any problem with that? I personally feel a little bit eh about it. Why? “My name is Rogan, last name Shannon.” Why? Why do so many people sign that way? Adding “last name?” That’s not how you write or speak it. You just say, “Hello, my name is Rogan Shannon.” It’s a simple pause in-between. Can you explain why people say “last name” in there? I don’t think we need it. Yeah, I know some people will say it’s because it’s showing the separation between fingerspelling the first and last name. It’s simple. Move your hand to the side slightly when you start a new word. Or you can add a pause between your names. It’s not that hard to do. I personally don’t say “last name.” If I’m introducing myself, I’d sign “Hello, my name is Rogan Shannon.” Then if people ask what my last name is, I’ll answer “Shannon.” Or “Oh, last name is Shannon.” But I don’t say “Hello, my name is Rogan last name Shannon.” “Last name” is not part of my name!

The second thing is kind of related to the first one, about names. I’ve noticed that a lot of deaf people do this, including myself – I’m trying to break myself of this habit. I’ve noticed that a lot of people will sign, “Hello, my name is Rogan, sign name [ROGAN].” Nothing wrong with that, really. But honestly, I think that for us deaf people introducing ourselves to other deaf people – or even hearing people – we should do it this way: “Hi, my name is [ROGAN], [fingerspelling] Rogan.” Why do I think sign name should be first, and fingerspelling last? Here’s why. Our first (or primary) language is sign language. So that means sign name should be first. That’s how other people identify us in the deaf community. Our fingerspelled name (Rogan in my case) is really our English name, not our sign name. So I think that we should introduce ourselves with our sign name first then spell our name after. Not spell, then sign. I have noticed that people actually get a little thrown off if I do it that way. Example: “Hello, my name is [ROGAN], [fingerspelling] Rogan.” Confused look, huh? I repeat, “Yeah, my name’s [ROGAN].” After that, they usually get it. People are so used to saying, “Hi, my name is [fingerspelling] Rogan, sign name [ROGAN].” So they get thrown off when I just go ahead and say my sign name first. It’s interesting. I think it works better for us to say our sign names first because that’s really the more important thing. For us deaf people anyway, because that’s how we identify someone – by their sign name, not by spelling their name (except in cases where people don’t have a sign name, or someone else has the same sign name). That’s all I have for you today. Leave your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading them! Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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