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American Sign Language: "make"

WARNING: The sign "MAKE" is different from the sign "coffee."  In the sign for "coffee" the top hand does a rotational movement as if turning the crank of an (old fashioned/antique) coffee grinder--thus only one hand moves.  But for the sign "make" BOTH hands twist as if screwing something together.  See COFFEE
Each semester a couple of my students lose points on tests because they didn't pay attention to the difference between these two signs.

The sign for "make" has a couple of popular versions.

In one version you put the fists one on top of the other and use a twisting movement.  Do the movement twice. The hands "stay" in contact with each other. 

Sample sentence: 

Sample sentence:
Do you know how to make soup?


There is another version of the sign for "make." In this version, the hands come apart.

MAKE (version 2)

If you mean "make" as in "necking," see: "MAKE-OUT"

If you mean "make" as in "force" see: "FORCE"

If you mean "make" as in, "I can't make it." Sign "I can't" and then sign "GO" or spell "do it."

Also compare: COFFEE

Also see this note regarding: CREATOR


In a message dated 10/31/2012 2:19:01 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, a student writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
Is it proper to use the sign for "make" when saying
things like " I will make you go home"" or " you made me angry". It
isn't so much a manufacturer like in the examples you provide. If not,
what do you recommend for instances like that, the sign force? I think
it might be too strong.
Thank you!
(Name on File)

Dear ASL Hero,
Hello :)
I concur that the sign FORCE is too strong when striving to convey the phrase "you make me angry."

Instead I recommend restructuring your sentence and using either the WHEN sign or the HAPPEN sign in situations where you want to tell someone they "make you" feel something.

For example:

However, you can even just drop the "WHEN" sign and the "FEEL" sign and go with:  YOU ARRIVE LATE I ANGRY!

If you want to ascribe more of a "cause" and effect, you cause use the CAUSE sign.
For example:

Another method would be to use the sign INFLUENCE, but adapt it a bit so that it is aimed backward over the back of the non-dominant hand toward you the signer -- thus meaning "INFLUENCE-me."
For example:

Another approach would be to use a rhetorical question. For example:
I/ME ANGRY WHY-rhet? YOU ARRIVE LATE! (Note: The WHY-rhet would use raised eyebrows rather than the usual furrowed brows since you are not asking for a reason, you are pseudo asking if the person wants to know why you are late which would be a yes or no type question -- if you were actually asking a question).

So, keeping in mind that there are plenty of very appropriate ways to get the "you make me feel" type of concept across without using the MAKE/manufacture/create/produce sign -- I will now say that in "real life" many of us Deaf folks do indeed use the MAKE sign in such situations. That doesn't mean we are using "appropriate ASL" it just means that the individual is bilingual and he/she is choosing to mix and match his/her vocabulary choices in a bit of a language mash-up. The longer such "mashing-up" goes on and the more people that do it -- the stronger the likelihood that one day such usage shall be considered "standard." No one individual will make that decision for the community, rather, if it happens it will be thousands of individuals making the decision until so many do it that anyone who doesn't do it will look or feel "out of sync." We are not at the tipping over point yet on increasing the semantic range of the sign "MAKE" but many individuals do use MAKE to mean cause.  Language changes and evolves (whether ASL teachers like it or not).

Best to you.
Dr. Bill


How would you sign, "She makes me happy!"?  Should you use the sign for "CAUSE"?

When taking an ASL test with a prescriptive teacher use CAUSE.

When signing in the real world with typical native Deaf, sign MAKE.

When being criticized for one or the other approaches by someone (who claims to be "the source" of all ASL wisdom) regarding the way to sign "She makes me happy," -- nod and smile.  Then go on with your day.

Also worth considering (or retaining at the back of your brain as an option) is the idea of using the sign for INSPIRE in sentences such as "she makes me happy." For example, IX INSPIRE HAPPY ME!
Because, when you think about that sign INSPIRE it really does iconically match up with the concept of "being filled internally with" (insert positive feeling here).

A minor debate in ASL instruction and learning groups has to do with whether or not you can use the sign MAKE when referring to the preparation of food.
This brings up the topic of whether or not ASL signs can have more than one meaning. (I firmly believe the answer is yes.)

I'm totally okay with the concept of signing:  I MAKE PEANUT+BUTTER JELLY SANDWICH.

For those who argue that "technically" we are not "making" the peanut butter (but rather we are putting together existing parts) I would suggest that English speakers are not "making" the peanut butter in their sandwich either. Yet in English it is still common to use the term "make" to refer to "putting something together."

I would also suggest that the ASL sign MAKE can mean to "put something together" (rather than just the Godlike act of rearranging atoms and molecules).

It seems to me that the basis of the sign COOK is the flipping of something on a grill. (And grills tend to be used for applying heat).

Again though, the right or wrongness of language is based on whether or not a significant percentage of people use the language in a specific way to successfully communicate.

So it is good to observe how lots of people sign while, of course, also giving increased weight (consideration / respect) to the signing of those for whom signing is the main way they communicate and/or who have been signing their whole lives while living amongst others who have been signing their whole lives.

I think it is important to teach and promote signing in ways that are reflective of how socially active native Deaf adult signers sign (including when discussing the preparation of food). Yes, of course that often involves the sign COOK -- yet I propose to you that it also (in real life) often involves the sign MAKE, and to a limited extent -- PREPARE or other related signs.
When referring to the making regular uncooked (no heat involved) PBJ sandwiches. -- I don't recall having ever seen skilled native or native-like signers sign "COOK" a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Oh sure, if you are making a toasted PBJ" that involves heat you might see the sign COOK show up but even then the sign would probably be in a rhetorical phrase such as "COOK HOW? fs-PANINI depiction-"close a panini press."
However, if no "heat" is involved I don't think I'd sign I COOK a PBJ sandwich. Personally I'd just sign I MAKE SANDWICH.

I  brought this topic up in an online group:
Discussion topic: The use of the sign COOK when working with food.
Focus question: Do we COOK a PBJ sandwich or do we MAKE a PBJ sandwich (in ASL)?

Some Deaf use the sign COOK when referring to the making of food but many (Deaf) people responded that they use MAKE when discussing preparing food and tend to sign COOK when applying heat to food "or" (and this is important) the act of cooking in a very general way.
I ENJOY COOK. (I enjoy cooking).

For what it is worth (and I think it adds a lot to the (tired) discussion about "cook vs make", Melody of Mozzeria Pizza signs "MAKE PIZZA" at the 52 second mark of this video:
My point here is that pizza obviously involves "cooking" yet she still uses the sign for MAKE.

Interestingly she chooses to use the international sign for Pizza -- which is also the name sign that is fairly common (in the American Deaf Community) for "Mozzeria" (a famous Deaf pizza restaurant).

In other words, the owners of Mozzeria (the business) decided to use the international sign for PIZZA as their name sign and then in the above named clip Melody is also using the international sign for pizza to mean "pizza" in general.


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