Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to say Obama

Barack Obama is the president elect of the USA. It is impossible to have missed this. His name is on everybody's lips, the people of Kenia celebrated his election with a day off from work..

How do you say and write Barack Obama? பராக் ஒபாமா, บารัค โอบามา, बराक ओबामा, ဘာရတ်အိုဗားမာ and باراک اوباما are just a few examples how different this can be. On the SignWriting mailing list there is a discussion on how to sign Obama. To appreciate this, you have to know that normally the name of a person gets sign spelled, they do not have a sign. People who sign have a sign for themselves. People who are important to the Deaf community may get one as well.

Presidents of the USA are in their time known by a sign. These signs however need to be remembered and this is a generational thing. A sign for a person gets lost when that person is no longer talked about. Only George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have signs that are well known. Barack Obama does not have a universally known sign, this is because he has not impacted the Deaf community, so that is why he hasn't received a name sign.

Previous presidents like Ronald Reagan did have a well known sign but as sign language is not preserved by writing, these signs slowly but sureley get lost from the shared memory. It is writing that preserves the ideas the concepts of a culture. It is only SignWriting that has the potential to preserve the concepts and ideas of today for the people who will sign tomorrow.

In a Wikipedia for sign languages the signs of today will be preserved. The content of such a Wikipedia will include articles about what impacts the people of the Deaf community. It is funny because it makes me realise that the article of Valerie Sutton on the English language Wikipedia does not include her sign.

So how do many currently sign Obama? The logo for the Obama campaign is an O with a rainbow and that is why some of those name signs are an O hand and then the number 4 in a curve for the rainbow...it is "O with a rainbow" to match his logo... So the logo may influence the sign for him in time...
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