Amanda Everitt: Find out the sign names for the Greek Gods!

Posted on November 20, 2015

How many times have you struggled with signing the names of things you know little about?

The Greek Gods for one? If you knew that Dionysus was the god of wine and entertainment you might have described him as a bearded fella in a white robe, holding a wine glass. He might be followed by a procession of wild female followers and horse like satyrs.

The Greek have thousands of years of history behind them. They have no need to elaborate when they are signing the name of their Gods. To them, Dionysus is signed as WREATH-ON-HEAD, DRINKING.

See below:

Last summer, I met deaf archaeologist Dimitra Kokevi-Fotiou who guided me around the Parthenon in Athens.

Dimitra was kind enough to do a video showing us the names of the Greek Gods in their splendour. I marvelled at the grace of Apollo’s lyre harp, or how Dimitra’s hands demonstrated the folds of Aphrodite’s robe flowing down the body.

These signs are unique to Dimitra and Greece. While I am not suggesting we adopt these signs as our own, it certainly gives us a window in how the passing of time has informed these signs.

These signs are embedded in Greek culture. It has taken time for these signs to spread throughout the community, and some use them, others may not.

In BSL, Queen Victoria has been given the same sign as the sign for Victory. Most of us fingerspell David Cameron’s initials instead of giving him a proper sign name. We have been a little more creative with Prince Charles, cupping our hands behind our ears to resemble the size of his ears.

This is not an article on BSL linguistics, but perhaps new BSL signs need time to emerge. Perhaps we need to know more about the people or ideas they represent before we can enter into the natural experimental process of sign language creation.

But the way the Conservatives are going, perhaps it is best to stick to fingerspelling David Cameron’s initials.

PS: if anyone has noticed any awesome signs of celebrities widely in use, please do share them on Limping Chicken!

The Greek Gods in a nutshell – see if you can spot how these roles are shown in sign language.

Zeus The king of the gods, also had a thunderbolt as a weapon
Hera The goddess of weddings and marriage.
Athena Goddess of war and wisdom. Wears a fin like helmet.
Poseidon God of the sea and earthquakes has a trident as a weapon.
Hestia Goddess of the hearth and the home
Demeter God of agriculture
Ares God of war and violence
Hephaestus God of fire / metalworking with blacksmith tools
Hermes God of travel, commerce, communication and language
Apollo God of music, arts and the sun
Artemis Goddess of the Hunt/The moon
Dionysus God of wine, revelry and entertainment
Aphrodite Goddess of love, beauty, desire and pleasure.

Note: The Romans had similar gods, but with different names and slightly different roles!

By Amanda Everitt – views are her own. To read more about sign language, literacy and technology check out Amanda’s blog here or follow @playbyeye

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