The sign for unicorn places an "R" handshape on the forehead and
moves it upward and forward as if representing the horn of a
The sign for "unicorn" is not widely known or used. When
surveyed, most interviewees did not know of a specific sign for
unicorn. For most the first reaction was to just spell it.
Some interviewees would put an index finger on their head and move
it forward and upward a bit and then immediately backtrack and
comment that "Nah, that is too similar to the sign for 'horny,'
better to spell it."
When shown the "R"- handshape version of the horn many commented
that "Oh I see! Yah. That's better. That makes sense!"
Many adults and/or non-artists forget or do not realize that unicorn
horns are traditionally spirals and are typically not just smooth
cones. In American sign language the "R" - handshape
represents a class of objects that are twisted and long (rope,
cigars, hair braids, etc.). When used to represent such
classes of objects the "R"-handshape is considered a "classifier."
Sometimes this is written as "CL:R" along with a note describing
what the "R" is representing.
Sample questions regarding unicorns:
English: "Are you familiar with unicorns? Horses with a single horn
sticking out of their forehead. Do you think that unicorns are
(video in "Flash" format)
Gloss: UNICORN YOU KNOW, HORSE HAVE CL:CS:_"cylindrical
protrusion from the forehead, CL:1_"long straight thing starting at
the forehead and going forward and upward," CALLED UNICORN YOU
THINK TRUE-"real" QM-wig?
CL:CS means a classifier that uses the handshapes "C" and "S."
CL:1 means a classifier that uses the "1" handshape.
QM-wig: Means "question mark wiggle" and is done by bending,
straightening, and bending the index finger as if representing
multiple question marks.
YOU KNOW: The ASL phrase "YOU KNOW" when done with raised
eyebrows can mean "are you familiar with" and is similar in meaning
to the English phrase "have you heard of...?"
* Even though some people will be all too glad to point out to you
that the use of a "1" on the forehead means "horny" as in the slang
term meaning "sexually excited" I think it is important to point out
that just because there is a similarity between "horny" and "a horn
protruding from the forehead" doesn't mean that that are the same.
For example, the English words "sex" and "sects" are pronounced very
similarly but there is a small difference in the pronunciation and
generally a huge difference in the context provided by the rest of
the sentence. Thus I'm not going to prescribe that you stop using
the word "sects" just as I'm not going to promote the juvenile idea
CL:1_"long straight thing starting at the forehead and going forward
and upward" means "horny." It doesn't. The movement is different.
The context is different. They are two different signs. In any
case using an "R" hand to show the horn is a very simple solution.