Receiving a name sign is an honor in Deaf culture. It’s a way to identify someone without fully spelling out their name using sign language. Name signs are often personal, and reflect the person’s character.
In 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump notoriously received a name sign emulating wind blowing through his hair. Now, the Deaf community is brainstorming possible name signs for President-elect Joe Biden.
One suggested name for Joe Biden is a C hand shape near the eye because he wears sunglasses.
Others have floated signs evoking Biden’s crooked smile.
Name signs are a unique aspect of Deaf culture that can help identify a person
“The reason you should get your name sign from a Deaf person skilled in ASL and active in the Deaf Community is because such individuals have enough experience to know if a potential name sign is grammatically correct and culturally acceptable,” wrote Lifeprint’s Bill Vicars in his article about name signs.
However, name signs that are acceptable in one region may not be acceptable in another. For example, Instagrammer @itscharmay pointed out that she didn’t agree with the suggested “sunglasses” name for Joe Biden because it’s a gang sign where she lives.
“We the BIPOC people completely disagree with that because where we come from, it feels so unsafe for us,” she said.
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Read more: A brief history of Black Deaf people in America
Meanwhile, @delightfullyincomparable asked her followers to help her think of other possible name signs for Joe Biden. She suggested a few name signs near the mouth, commenting on Biden’s tendency to smile.
“Plus, he also has a stuttering disability. So I thought, why not create a name sign relating to his mouth,” she wrote.
In response to the discussion sparked by @delightfullyincomparable, Mike Friess, who is Deaf and has known Joe Biden since he was three years old, weighed in.
Friess said he grew up with Biden’s sons and went to parties with them. He indicated that Biden smiled all the time, even when the topic was serious. He agreed that a sign about his smile suits him.
Ultimately, no single Deaf person will choose Biden’s name sign. It’s more likely that his name sign will emerge as a Deaf cultural consensus over time. It’s possible that Biden’s sign name will always vary by geographic location within the U.S. One Deaf community might favor fingerspelling B-I-D-E-N, while another may adapt an initialized smile sign. We’ll have to wait and see.