Name signs for companies | ASL Ponderings | Vlogmas

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome back to Vlogmas! Today, I’ll be talking about a question I got through email, and I thought it’d make a good video. As is obvious from the title, the question was about name signs for a company. This person had learned ASL, but it was a while back, so they were a little vague on rules around name signs. They remembered that back then, it was a rule that only people got sign names, and companies didn’t, they were to be spelled out. Also, sign names are given to the entity, not created by them. This person asked if there are name signs for companies, and if they could create one for themselves.

I made a video in September talking about proper nouns, and this falls solidly in that category. I’ll link it here. I briefly mention that we create sign names for brands all the time. I’m going to talk a little more in depth about that now.

This person is correct that generally it’s people who get sign names, but that “rule” of companies not getting sign names isn’t true today. Sign names can only be given by deaf people to whoever’s getting it, it cannot be created by the person/entity that wants a sign name. To be quite blunt, no one wants to fingerspell the name of a company every time we mention it, especially if it frequently comes up in conversation. A quick list of companies that have their own unique sign: Starbucks, McDonalds, Whole Foods, In-n-Out, Mozzeria, Google, Disney, Linguabee, Taco Bell, Amazon, and many more. (Note: watch the video at 1:37 to see these signs.)

Many companies that are abbreviations or have a name that’s easy to abbreviate such as Microsoft, MS, don’t get a unique sign name. If their name is something that already has signs, like Burger King, we just sign the literal words. Of course, there are exceptions. Deaf companies can create sign names for themselves, because they are run by deaf people. There have been some companies that worked with the deaf community to create a sign name, the best example being Glide. If you don’t know what it is, this is what came before Marco Polo, the app. They’re basically video texting apps, and have become fairly popular in the deaf community. When Glide exploded in popularity with the deaf community in around 2015 I think, they took notice and their community media manager, Sarah Snow, decided to learn sign. Over time, they built a relationship with the deaf community and put out a request for sign name ideas. They gathered up the most popular ideas, and put them up for a vote. That’s how we ended up with the current sign for Glide. *That* is the right way to do it. Amazon has a sign name created by its deaf employees, [A-backwards Z with pinky finger], which is another way to do it, having the employees come up with it. I personally don’t use it, because it’s not my favorite and I’ve already been signing it [A-Z] for most of my life. However you want to look at it, the sign name must be created by the deaf community in some capacity.

I also want to add something that I told the person in my email reply. If your company decides that they want to have a sign name, there are a few questions you have to ask first. Does the deaf community already have a way of signing your company’s name? Whether that’s literal word for word of your name or abbreviations. What’s your purpose for wanting a sign name? Is it because you want to build a relationship with the deaf community and work with them, or is it just for bonus cool points? Really think about why you want to have a sign name before you go around asking for one. 

I’ll link my previous video about sign names here so you can learn more about them. I hope you learned something from today’s video! Leave any questions you have in the comments.

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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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