An ASL instructor writes:
I studied ASL throughout my bachelor's degree in ███████ and work
for ███████████ in which I recently became the sign language
orientation instructor for my department. During my most recent
class, a new staff member who had studied ASL in high school
mentioned she had been taught a new sign for BATHROOM: instead of
shaking a T handshape, she was taught to shake a B handshape. I
looked it up via Lifeprint.com because I know that you are quick to
add any variation and different dialects you come across. Have you
seen this variation before?
(Name and some details redacted to protect privacy)
Shaking a "B" for bathroom is not at all representative of the
signing being done by socially active native Deaf skilled ASL
signers in the American Deaf Community.
Your email is literally, no joking, the first time I've ever
encountered even the mention of such a thing. I have never seen a
shaken-B "bathroom" on the hand of a Deaf person in my entire life.
Calling a sign "new" or a "variation" doesn't justify its adoption.
At best it might be considered Signed English and as such would
likely be eschewed by the general Deaf Community.
William G. Vicars Ed.D.
Fri, Mar 5, 2021
Comments, questions, suggestions welcomed. However, even if dozens
of people start claiming they have "seen" that version done by
"someone" -- doesn't at all change the fact that the vast, vast,
majority of the Deaf Community in 2021 does *not* initialize the
sign for "bathroom" with a "B" and that if someone teaches that
version it means they are out of touch with the current signing done
by the majority of the native adult Deaf Community.
A member of the Lifeprint-ASLU
Facebook group writes:
"I was corrected by an elder Deaf man at our (Deaf) church for using the "t"
asking my toddler if she needed to go. He considers "r" the polite
As he is born deaf and I am a hearing parent, I just thanked him for letting
(Name removed for privacy)
Thank you for sharing that!
RESTROOM is definitely part of ASL lexicon.
All ASL interpreters should recognize the restroom sign.
The tidbit about the older Deaf person "correcting" the use of BATHROOM to
instead be signed as RESTROOM in "polite mixed company" is a very precious
bit of Deaf culture.
1. The direction of the advice was from Deaf to Hearing.
2. The advice-giver was older and from a previous generation.
3. The environment (a church) was a place of reverence and decorum.
Interestingly, churches and office buildings tend to have restrooms (without
a bathtub) whereas houses and apartments tend to have bathrooms (with a
On some level the "mixed company" aspect of the advice (by the older Deaf
person many have to do with a subconscious (or even conscious) awareness
that the bathrooms in public / shared spaces generally don't have bathtubs.
I am not advocating here for or against the use of RESTROOM -- I'm simply
savoring a small historical / cultural gem and mentioning that skilled terps
should know the sign so they can recognize it when they see it.