How do you deal with requests for sign name?


New Member
I was often asked to give a sign name to hearing person because either interpreter or ASL professors or (whoever) told them that it's one of deaf's rule. Hearing person cannot give a sign name to themselves or to other person. So, I am often only one in my class that is deaf. Therefore, I get asked many time. It is really a tiring and annoy thing (even the most patient person have their limits). I never really understood that rule or even accept it. Even after a while, I told two of my hearing classmates that I hang out often to do it instead of me, lol. (No, I don't care about breaking that rule.)

Really, I never feel comfortable mostly because when I was asked this I usually don't know that person well and I do not like to make up sign unless it fits who the person is and that take a while.

How do you deal with it in a nice or tactful way? I always try to be polite so this is why I asked you guys for your opinion. It also sucks to tell them the reasons I cannot give them theirs because I really don't know them very well or because I don't really agree with that rule.

Seriously, I don't know if my interpreter did it on purpose to torture me or something lol.

And is it even a real rule? I don't know if it's just from my area I live in or if it's a nationwide thing.

I hope what I said was clear. I know my grammar isn't that great.


New Member
Those people who told hearing people that it is Deaf's rule that hearing people cannot create their own sign name are very STUPID!

I usually let them create their own sign name :roll:


New Member
The idea behind the sign name for hearing is that the person is connected the the deaf community in some way. A friend, co-worker, job etc.

If you don't know them that well, then you obviously aren't friends with them, and they do not have other deaf friends, then they don't get a sign name.

If they give themselves a sign name, and then some deaf person asks them where they got it from, then they will be embarrassed when they admit they gave it to themself.


Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
But not really knowing the Deaf Culture, how is a deaf person usually given a sign name?? Is it usually based on some sort of physical or personality trait?


Crime fighter
Premium Member
Maybe it's a regional thing, because I was told by several people that it's appropriate to have your sign name given to you by a deaf person and not to make it up yourself. I never went around asking for it, though, that to me seems rude. It should be something you want to do for a friend, I think.

But not really knowing the Deaf Culture, how is a deaf person usually given a sign name?? Is it usually based on some sort of physical or personality trait?
I had a deaf friend who for some reason really loved my hair. So she gave me a sign name that mimics the shape of my hair.

There are a lot of rules in Deaf culture about the sign names of Deaf kids, but I don't know if they still apply or if it's only a deaf-of-deaf thing. Like the Supalla family have their own system of naming, I believe. There's actually a whole book about it but I can't remember the name at the moment.

I gave my fiancé his own sign name because he doesn't socialize with deaf people, but I needed a way to refer to him without fingerspelling his name over and over again. So that was just my convenience.


Retired Terp
Premium Member
It is The Book of Name Signs, Naming in American Sign Language by Samuel J. Supalla (1992, DawnSignPress); I just happen to have it. :)

Aside from the "rule" aspect, sometimes it's just safer to let a trusted Deaf friend create the name sign. There are too many horror stories about novice signers creating inappropriate (even unintentionally obscene) name signs.

But watch out for the Deaf trickster who thinks it's great sport to give an innocent hearie a nasty sign name. Yeah, it happens. :D

Sometimes it is just convenient for hearing people to create name signs for people who are known to the Deaf community but are not part of the Deaf community. Sometimes just using the person's initials are enough.

I think some hearing people ask the Deaf person to do the "naming" because they're afraid to offend the Deaf community by doing the naming themselves.

Maybe they think they are bestowing some kind of honor on the Deaf person by asking him to do the naming. Almost like a spiritual ritual. If that's the case, run with it. Close your eyes, strain for inspiration, touch the person's head, mumble a chant, bestow the name sign, jump up, and shout. If you can sprinkle some fairy dust, even better. (Just kidding, folks.) :lol:


New Member
Reba, ha that's funny.

Interpretrator: I never went around asking for it, though, that to me seems rude. It should be something you want to do for a friend, I think.

Yeah, it makes sense and maybe that's what I felt. Two of classmates I hanged out often were the ones I gave the name sign to and I was happy to do so. Because it's something I chose to do. It's better when it happens naturally I think.

But that question cannot be avoided, so I am trying to find a way around it. Seems like I can't. *shrug*

It's just that way, people think it's cool to have one and it make them look more cool. They don't know that it's bothersome for me. But I guess that's life.


Audist are not welcome
Premium Member
That's a funny one Reba..

So, the meaning is that when people are given a sign name by the Deaf community, they are esentially being born into the deaf community? Just like people giving babies names when they are born or even before they were born. Just thinking silly thoughts so dont mind me. :giggle:


Farting Snowflakes
Premium Member
Not to offend the closest analogy I can think of is when a Native American child is born, they are given a legal name for use on state records, but they are given their tribal name such as Kicking Bird or Smiles Alot. And I imagine that you dont keep the same sign name your entire life as you change as a person throughout the years, much like in the Navajo tribe, they never keep the same tribal name their whole life. It usually changes when they have accomplished something major and the name comes with honor for the individual.

So would this be a similar concept??

I agree that getting a name sign should come naturally. I wouldn't even dare ask a deafie to make up a name sign for me, I think that would be crossing an invisible boundary that is widely accepted in the Deaf community.


bloody phreak from hell
I never really cared for sign names. I don't have one myself. A few people have given me one, but it never falls through. I've got a few different sign names signed only by specific individuals. Other than that, I have none.

My sign name is something that people don't even consider a sign name... a 'S' on the chest where my name tag would be. That's it. :)

I've had people ask me to give them a sign name. Yet, I can't... because it's something that takes time through observation, experience, and actions. :)


New Member
Name signs are the rights of the Deaf Culture and should be given out by Deaf Leader's only !
This is how ppl in your Deaf Community remember u by... Cuz theres so many ppl in your Deaf Community that many have the same name...
Smile hope this clears up about who can give out a name sign.


New Member
I had gotten my name sign from my ASL teacher. He too, told us that we should only get our name signs from deaf people. I however, gave a few of my best friends name signs because I was tired of fingerspelling "K-E-N-D-R-A" or "M-A-T-T-H-E-W" over and over again. My sign name is the letter K with the second finger on the corner of my/your mouth sweeping back. Reason? Because I was always smiling or laughing.
There's usually a reason behind a sign name. Like mine. My other friend, Kevin, has a similar one, Same letter, same position, but tapping the corner of your mouth...Same teacher gave him the sign name and same reason!
For Kendra and Matthew, They were the only two I "bended" the rules for. Otherwise, its fingerspelling everyone elses names :)


New Member
I had gotten my name sign from my ASL teacher. He too, told us that we should only get our name signs from deaf people.
That's what I don't understand. I mean I got mine from my hearing parents and I treasure that. Also my family make up name signs for other members and I remember one time my cousin who is hearing told me that he got one from ASL teacher. I went like "What? You already have one from us and I do not like someone else give you a different one." But looks like ASL teacher have good reason for giving him a different one I guess. And I would have accept that, it's hard to change since I have signed it for more than fifteen years.

I even remember deaf students threatening me to change mine because I did not get mine from a deaf person. That made me angry because I already liked mine and it's from my family for frak's sake. I can understand if there weren't a close relationship between family and deaf child, but that's not the case with me. But I don't have problem with that now. I just have problems with hearing people who aren't familiar with deaf culture asking me to give them one.


New Member
I just tell them: "Sorry, I dont know you that well, so I am not qualified to give you a name sign. Get a deaf FRIEND and s/he probably will get you a name sign once s/he got tired of fingerspelling your name."

I think the name signs are only granted to those who are COMMITTED to socalize with Deaf people. If you are taking up ASL up to level 3, that is it-- no name signs for you.

I am an ASL teacher and I do get nagged by my students to give them name signs. SOme of them invented themselves, but I don't condone it because most of their self-invented name signs can be twisted into something pervent and they didn't know it.

I just flat-out told them: "I dont even know you. You are just my student, period. I think only friends of your can give you... if you dont have Deaf friends, then that is the big reason. Who will use your name sign??? Definitely not by typical hearing people. That. so I cannot put all of my energy to give each student a name sign that won't be used ever! "


New Member
tell them to socialize with deaf, and they will get one in time. let it happen naturally.
It does happen naturally! I was with my ASL prof, who is now my friend, and we were chatting when all of a sudden she said... "I have the perfect sign name for you" And that is how I got my sign name

I felt kind of special when she showed me it, made me feel important.


New Member
For a n00b, getting a sign name can really make them feel good, and motivate them to learn sign language, but I agree that it isn't that big of a deal and that the rule of "only deaf can give a sign name" shouldn't be too strict. I had to wait months (I think like 8 months), actively participating with deaf/Deaf people before I got one... even then, a deaf friend sent it to me via txt message :giggle: