Profanity in American Sign Language

Sign languages are as expressive and systematic as spoken languages, and that includes taboo words. As Benjamin Bergen writes in What the F, ‘Signers use rules of grammar, some of them specific to profanity, just like speakers of spoken languages.’ There’s also great variation in how a given idea may be conveyed – not just between sign languages or their dialects but within them.

If Cory O’Brien’s terrific post on the middle finger in American Sign Language made you want to increase your rude repertoire in ASL, look no further. The video below features a host of signers demonstrating some favourite insults and profanities. It also shows how much fun swearing can be.

The video is produced by Cut, but the participants and crew are not listed, at least nowhere obvious.

7 thoughts on “Profanity in American Sign Language

  1. Jerry A Woodlief June 3, 2018 / 10:04 pm

    As a beginner I found the signs unclear and too fast. However I enjoyed the video. The sign and signed for bullshit was clear with explanation.


  2. Mallory March 23, 2019 / 4:37 am

    This was so amazing and I loved it!


  3. C o o l m a n May 1, 2019 / 3:05 am

    Love this video!

    What font is used in the actual video I like it a lot!


  4. Carol L Lewis October 16, 2020 / 9:27 pm

    What does it mean when your index finger and middle finger are cross and up while your thumb is over a bent ring finger and pinky finger? I have cuss word stickers and I don’t no what this means


    • Jax August 27, 2022 / 9:31 pm

      It means you have to go to the restroom from ehat I was told.


  5. Bill Custer December 11, 2020 / 4:31 am

    Your program was funny, very clear and understanding. It brought memories back to me that I had forgotten when I was a special ed teacher years ago. I use that sign language when people are driving crazy (don’t use the middle finger cause people know what you are saying and can be bigger idiots). Do something they don’t know and they won’t make things worse and you will still relieved. Thanks again!


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