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This Is What the Words Selfie, Photobomb, and Screenshot Look Like in Sign Language

·National Correspondent, Technology
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ASL Internet style (Via Andrew Strasser for Hopes & Fears)

The Internet is a breeding ground for new slang, a place where Web-born terms like bae, twerk, and YOLO have been canonized by institutions like Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Online Dictionary. But how does the American Sign Language community decide on a standard depiction for these terms?

According to a report from Mike Sheffield for the website Hopes & Fears, “There is no ‘official’ ASL website, as the government has yet to make one, leaving only a few grassroots sites to fill the void.”

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As a result, the signs for terms like “SMH” or “photobomb” are homegrown from individual deaf communities and then hotly debated on forums like Bill Vicar’s technology-enhanced ASL instruction site, Lifeprint. It often takes much longer for these terms to be solidly agreed upon, and even then there remain a few intense dissenters.

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In the cases of coming up with signs for brands like Instagram or the messaging app Glide, different suggestions are thrown around for months on online forums. It’s very difficult to reach a consensus without a representative from the company in question stepping in, according to ASL artist, actor, and educator Douglas Ridloff.

“In terms of Instagram, I still see quite a bit of variety regarding the sign usage, we haven’t seen a consensus yet,” Ridloff told Sheffield. “I think there are several reasons why. For instance, the CEO from Glide got involved and it was really key that he was a part of that collaboration in coming up with one definitive sign. When it comes to Instagram, a representative has yet to be involved in that process, so no consensus has been reached and thus it will take longer to come to a consensus. There isn’t an official canon or anything. It’s a small community.”

Did you read that, Kevin Systrom?

The entire article is fascinating and worth your time. Check out more Internet slang as depicted in ASL over at Hopes & Fears.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her.