Handwriting: Val's Shorthand Suggestions

Sandy Fleming sandy at SCOTSTEXT.ORG
Mon Dec 22 19:56:38 UTC 2008

Hi Val!

> Following that idea that the fingers are more important than the base,  
> then the flat hand with five fingers would just be five spokes for  
> five fingers and the base shape would not be written...essentially,  
> the Shorthand would become the cursive form of sw handwriting  
> maybe...this was an idea proposed by Dr. Karen van Hoek, who used the  
> Shorthand as her SW Handwriting system and loved it...

I've tried writing with these "shorthand" suggestions and I too, love
it! This seems to bring the feel of SignWriting much closer to the feel
of writing rather than drawing to me. The signs are written more simply
so that once I've written one a few times it becomes much easier to
write it again without having to think about how it's made.

I've attached an attempt at writing a brief anecdote that runs in my
family. Since it's not "phonetic" as SignWriting usually is and it's in
BSL, you may have some difficulty with it, so I'll go through it here.

The larger sign on the left says "elephant", which is my title for the

Sign-for-sign, it then goes like this:

aLongTimeAgo Scotland h-a-w-i-c-k | cousin me | andUncle me | street
justWalkingAlong || circus carnivalComingTowardsThem
bothWatchingItGoingBy finish || uncle askChild elephant didYouSee? ||
cousinLooksUpAtHim elephant what? ||

Or in English:

A long time ago in Hawick in Scotland my cousin and uncle were walking
along the street when a circus carnival came by. They watched it passing
and when it was gone my uncle asked my cousin, "Did you see the
elephant?" He said, "What elephant?"

Some notes on the writing:

elephant: the handshape here is a full "C" without the palm drawn. I
hope this is clear enough for someone who's used to it.

h-a-w-i-c-k: When signing with someone at a bar I noticed how she was
holding her drink in one hand and doing two-handed fingerspelling with
her free hand only. It occurred to me that you often see this and it
might be a good way of writing two-handed fingerspelling in a simpler
way that still makes sense to native BSLers. Combining this with Val's
suggestion of not writing the palms, this is the result. I've sometimes
written both hands when that emphasises the connection with the Latin
letter, as for "K" in this word.

andUncle: the single head nod which sometimes means "and" I've written
without the arrowhead. I've been doing this for a long time for head
nods and shakes.

street: I perhaps wrote this sign too quickly as it's a bit out of
shape! it's two "American-H" hands written with the palms because the
orientation is unusual so I felt it had to be indicated.

justWalkingAlong: I've missed out the arrowheads again, this time for
the "relaxed pout" on the mouth indicating that the walk is "as normal".
The half-arrowhead is horizontal, but if I'd been more careful it would
have been diagonal!

circus: I hope this is clear, it's supposed to be twisting three curved
fingers (thumb, index and middle) about the nose like a clown nose.

carnivalComingTowardsUs: again, I wrote the palms because I felt the
orientation was unusual.

bothWatchingItGoingBy: for a while now I've just repeated arrowheads to
indicate repeated movements, so this arrow is swept through three times,
in BSL indicating an activity that went on for some time.

finish: the two little lines are thumbs; the arrows are supposed to be
moving upwards but I didn't draw them doubled; I didn't worry so much
about clarity because this sign is used very frequently and couldn't be
mistaken for anything else.

what: again, I've missed the arrowheads as this shaking from side to
side movement should be clear enough to BSLers.

Will everybody be able to see this? What's best to submit graphics in,

Sandy Fleming

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