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American Sign Language: "pencil"

Historical note: Waaaaay back in the old days, us old folks used to use something called "pencils" to write on something called "paper."

I sign PENCIL by forming my hand into a handshape that looks like I'm holding a pencil in my right hand.  I start the sign holding my hand near my mouth. Then I bring my right hand down near the palm of my left hand and make a writing movement across the palm and fingers of the left hand. So, this sign is loosely based on the concept of licking the pencil lead and then writing. (In the old days, apparently, people used to lick the lead to get pencils to write better. Don't try this at home folks.)  Note:  You don't actually lick anything in this sign, the hand merely comes "near" the mouth.

PENCIL (version 1)
Form a handshape that looks as if you are holding a pencil between your thumb and index finger (on your dominant hand).  Hold that near your mouth -- then move the sign down to your non-dominant palm and do the sign "WRITE."
Why? In the old days it was common to lick the tip of a pencil before writing.
Yah, I know that seems weird or gross but hey -- I didn't invent the concept nor the sign. I just teach here.


This above version somewhat relies on context.  You could also just sign:  "YOU HAVE WRITE?" To mean, "Do you have something with which to write?" -- The assumption used to be that you were asking for a pencil or pen but I reckon these days that could mean a "stylus" as well.



There is a fairly common version of "pencil" that some people do that uses a "P" handshape.  Using the first letter of a word as the handshape for a sign is called "initialization").

PENCIL (version 2), (Also means "secretary.")
(This sign is considered by many to be Signed English -- but worth knowing since it is also a common sign for "secretary.")

Remember, the reason I think you should know this version of the sign for "pencil" is because it is a common version of SECRETARY

By the way, the concept of "PEN" is commonly just fingerspelled.

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

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