Hi Dr. Bill!
I have some confusion over the word "grace". I
typically use the "g" sign from over my shoulder to my chest, but my
Deaf friend says something different. I am teaching how to sign
songs to my music and drama teens at my church. My Deaf friend
insists that the correct sign, in regards to our Christian faith, is
both i-l-y hands (facing the body) coming towards you. Is this an
old sign? I'm not going to teach the kids the wrong sign; I only
speak pidgen and not asl, so I want to make sure that if they decide
to learn actual asl, they haven't picked up any habits/wrong words
along the way. What do you know about it? Thanks!
Yes, I've seen that initialized "G" handshape version of GRACE
before. I suppose if that is what the local Deaf in your area are
using then you would do well to use their version.
For what it is worth, the standard GRACE sign is based on one of
1. SUNLIGHT and/or SHOWER
In all cases the sign GRACE is done very gently and respectfully.
The movement of the LY-toward-self version you mentioned is likely
based on the SHOWER version of GRACE.
I can see a historical basis for the SHOWER or
SUNLIGHT version in Martin Sternberg's classic ASL dictionary in
which he shows GRACE as being:
1. LIGHT-onto-head (using the classic beam of
light sign and bringing it to the head).
I do not see the "HELP" sign used as a direct translation of GRACE
but rather if someone were interpreting the statement "By the grace
of God..." then using the sign HELP would make a lot of sense.
The ILY-grace version you mention has a bit of
sophomoric charm (it is "cute") and could very well be a regional
variation -- so I'd hesitate to say it is "wrong." I would though
say it is non-standard (as of this time) on a national level.
However, these days (with the internet and streaming video) "new"
signs can saturate the community and gain a foothold fairly
quickly. My opinion is that the ILY-grace sign will not become the
predominant version of GRACE any time soon (if ever). I'm going to
cc this to a friend of mine who is quite familiar with religion
signs to see if she what she thinks.
May 1, 2014, Dr. Lisalee Egbert from Sacramento
I have a passion for studying religious and ecumenical signs in ASL.
I agree with Dr. Vicars – depending on the
MEANING of grace it would be signed as kindness, big hearted, etc.
In the JW bible, I even saw it translated as “cool.” Meaning WITH
FAVOR I believe. LDS has used: SAVE GIVE-OUT and GOOD PASS-FORWARD
There is a sign for GRACE. The Catholic Deaf
Community still strongly uses the sign: on handed - light from God
(twisting your hand) twinkling down. (I am not as skilled as Dr.
Vicars in describing signs.) I have even seen this same sign down
double handed. It is very beautiful to me. This the Holy Spirit
I have see the G-hand shape for GRACE used from
hearing interpreter. I do not believe this is a largely accepted ASL
sign… it might have originate from SEE but it is not ASL and the
Deaf Church Community does not seem to use it.
Many faith communities have wonderful websites
with ASL now: LDS, Catholic, JW, Hebrew, etc. It is fascinating to
me to compare and contrast the Hebrew signs with the Christian signs
– because again, it comes down to history and meaning. For example,
passover is signed very differently in the Jewish Faith compared to
the Catholic faith. I encourage you to investigate the more
established ASL religious websites; they all have a wealth of info!
Hands waving (in and for A.S.L. :0) ~
Dr. Lisalee D. Egbert
California State University, Sacramento
Deaf Studies Program
6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6079
Thanks Dr. Egbert!
The standard Catholic sign you mention (based
on "GOD's LIGHT" shining on us) is a classic and likely the most
defensible "standard." It is the first entry in Elaine Costello's
"Religious Signing" textbook. Her second entry shows an initialized
"G" version coming down from God. (Which is considered by many to be
a Signed English version and not "ASL.") Her third related entry is
under the term GRACIOUS uses the same sign as KIND/kindness/grace.
p.s. Katy, for a very similar sign, see the first entry on my "sun.htm"
page at Lifeprint:
Some people modify the sign so that it comes
more down toward the head (rather than SUNLIGHT which comes down
onto the area in front of the signer) but some do GRACE the exact
same way as "SUN/SUNLIGHT." Others "flutter" the fingers while
doing the downward movement (especially for poetry and/or stage
performance of hymns). Fast interpreting will use much less
internal movement and a much smaller sign than performance signing.