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American Sign Language: "not"

To sign "not," form your hand into an "A" hand with the thumb extending a bit more than normal.  Place the thumb under your chin.  Quickly move your hand forward a few inches.

NOT / "un-"


Generally you use a negative headshake with this sign.  For the sake of emphasis, you may see this sign done with a very strong forceful movement and little or no head-shake. 

If you do this sign with two hands it can mean "DENY."

In a message dated 3/22/2012 7:58:17 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dr. Bill,
Recently I used the thumb in an extended "A" sign coming from my chin to make the not sign. I was told that this is a very bad curse word among deaf and ASL students at our nearby Jr. College. Is it true? This is the sign I had learned many years ago for "don't".
Thanks for your help.
Kelly P_____

I reckon someone is either "pulling your leg" or they do not hang out enough with native Deaf adults and thus are unfamiliar with how signing is done in the real Deaf World.

You state that you've been told that the sign "NOT" is a "curse word" among Deaf and ASL students at your nearby Jr. College. Hmmm. Well, then perhaps whenever you are on that college campus you should negate concepts by simply using a "negative head-shake, (and thus avoid using the "NOT" sign around those folks). Heh. But when you are "not" on that campus I think you'll be just fine using the sign for "NOT."  

The sign "NOT" (done as an "extended-thumb-A-hand" starting under the chin and moving forward) is well established in ASL. It is used to indicate or emphasize negation, denial, or refusal. (For example: " PRO.1 NOT GO!" = "I'm not going!") The "NOT" sign also commonly appears as the second segment of the compound sign "WHY-NOT" which is used to express the question, "Why not!?"

Dr. Bill


In a message dated 3/22/2012 9:39:11 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, chiapetvet writes:
Is it possible that they are using it in a quick motion to mean something else? I use it when I am trying to tell my children to stop doing something. I do the sign as a quick action, as if I am orally saying" DON'T"
I am just trying to clarify as I would hate to upset a deaf ASL user when I am HOH and using a sign I thought was correct.
Thank you,


If you want your kids to "stop" doing something then you should use the sign for STOP or the specific sign for DON'T.
The sign NOT does overlap for some usages with the sign DON'T but the two signs are not interchangeable.
-- Dr. Bill

Also see: NEGATION
Also see: DON'T
Also see: STOP

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