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American Sign Language: "Hawaii"


Note: Starting in 2015 I noticed people starting to do the sign for Hawaii with an "index finger" handshape instead of an "H" handshape.   Out of context an INDEX-FINGER-(handshape) moving around the perimeter of the face is the FACE-(looks) sign and tends to mean "face" or "looks" as in "the appearance of something."   So, if you are going to do the INDEX-FINGER-(handshape) version of Hawaii -- make sure you have plenty of context or spell out Hawaii at the beginning of your conversation. - Dr. Bill



The sign for "Hawaii" has a couple of main versions.  One of the more popular and traditional versions is done by drawing a circle around your face with an "H" hand.  This likely has to do with the concept that Hawaii is a beautiful place.  Someone probably initialized the sign for PRETTY with an "H"-hand and the sign spread. 

HAWAII-(face_version)

Model: Byron Cantrell (Native Deaf, Deaf School/Georgia, Deaf wife, Deaf kids, long-time ASL instructor.)
 



Dr. Bill's Notes:
Memory aid: The signs for "pretty" and "beautiful" use a (somewhat) circular movement around the face. Hawaii is a "beautiful" place. This same approach is also used for the sign Monterey, California.
 



HAWAII-(hula_version)
There is another sign for "Hawaii" that looks a bit like someone doing a hula dance. It is a legitimate and respected old sign. I wouldn't mark it "wrong" on an expressive test (though some teachers might). I might use the hula dance sign in "creative signing" situations though, (poems, plays, children's stories, etc.).
I personally don't use the "hula-version" simply because it takes two hands and is a little bit more work than just circling my face with an "H" or an "INDEX-finger."  The one-handed "H" around the face version is fast, easy, and previously well accepted in the Deaf community.  However since initialization (using the first letter of the English word for a sign as the handshape for the sign) has become associated with "Signed English" many ASL teachers and aficionados (people who are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity or subject) eschew (deliberately avoid using) initialization.  That means they go out of their way to NOT use "letters" as the handshapes for their signing.  
Note: John Feagans (who lives in Hawaii, travels frequently to Japan, and interacts with Deaf people in both places) wrote to tell me that "Oahu" (one of the Hawaiian islands) uses the circular movement around the face with an "O" handshape. John also noted that Japanese Deaf people (using Japanese Sign Language) prefer the "hula dance" version of the sign for Hawaii.
 


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