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SUBWAY: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "subway"

To sign "subway," slide the "Y" hand back and forward underneath the "flat" hand as if showing a subway car moving underground.  Note: This version also works well to refer to "Subway" sandwich shops.




Sample sentence: YOUR CITY HAVE SUBWAY? (Is there a subway in your city?)



SUBWAY (version 2)


SUBWAY (version 3)  (NOT recommended)

Note:  I use a double movement for subway.  In the CL:3 version above, I'm aiming the "subway" train toward my elbow. Compare this version of the sign "SUBWAY" to the sign for "GARAGE."   The palm orientation is different for GARAGE (the index and middle fingers points forward).



An associate writes:

Is there a logical reason that 'subway' is signed with a dominant Y hand shape instead of a 3 hand shape that is used to sign many other vehicles and the activity of vehicles?
Perhaps subway uses a Y hand shape because the term 'subway' refers to  a full transportation 'system' (not a particular vehicle)?  Train and airplane do not use the 3 hand shape either.


Here are my thoughts:
1.  The "Y" handshape is associated with things that are long, extended, or distended: BIG-WORD, HIPPOPOTAMUS-[Y-hand-version], and OBESE-PERSON-WADDLING.  Subways are "long."

2.  Garages have ceilings.  To sign GARAGE we show a car driving under a ceiling (with a double movement).  That movement is forward, back, forward.  Generally when showing movement we do so either "forward and back" or "side-to-side."  Since the forward and back movement under a ceiling (surface) movement has already been used for GARAGE, That leaves us with a side to side movement available to use for SUBWAY. 

Subway tracks and train tracks can accommodate movement in either direction.  It would be awkward to use a 3-handshape in a side-to-side movement to show the orientation of the train.  The "vehicle" classifier indicates a front of the vehicle and back of the vehicle.  The Y-handshape classifier does not. We cannot say that the thumb is the front and the pinkie is the back.  Thus the Y-hand is free to move side to side while at the same time representing the concept of forward and backward movement of a subway.

Regarding the sign for "train."  While the basic TRAIN sign uses "H" hands -- if you decide to show how that train is positioned or moving you can indeed use a "classifier 3" handshape for the locomotive (engine) car of the train. Non-engine cars are typically shown via a classifier-C or a flat-hand.
- Dr. Bill


A Youtube commenter, Esther Burridge, commented: "Subway was taught to me differently here, Montréal, a city with one. It's a flat b (straight closed flat hand) going under the left hand, perpendicular." (1/18/2019)





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