Returning Citizen on ASL sign for Quarantine

ASL Sign for Quarantine

What sign do you use for “quarantine”? Deaf returning citizen, Jason, discusses why a certain commonly used sign does not accurately describe what “quarantine” means, and how it can be triggering for people who have actually experienced being imprisoned. .

Jason is standing in front of a red brick building with a black door, signing his story.

ASL Semantics – Quarantine vs. Jail

During the coronavirus outbreak, I have noticed the semantics of some words and gestures, such as the sign for “quarantine” (shows sign using both hands in the 2-shape, facing the signer, while touching the back of the right 2-hand onto the left 2-hand). This sign means “jail” and (shows same sign using both hands in 4-hand shape) and this sign means “prison”.

Are “jail” and “quarantine” the same? No. Jail comes from an old French word, “jaiole”, which means “cage”, and an old Latin word, “gabiola”, which also means “cage”. Does “quarantine” mean “cage”? 

While you are in jail, can you go out grocery shopping, do your errands, and then go back to jail? Obviously not. While you are quarantined, you can. There’s no cage. There’s a difference. 

My Feelings as a Returning Citizen

I was once imprisoned 25 years ago for 4 ½ months. Now I’m a returning citizen. This means someone who should be regarded in a positive light, empowered, and given encouragement and support in seeing what potential they have in their second chance at life, all of which are important. Instead, returning citizens get an onslaught of negativity, verbal attacks, put-downs, contempt, judgement, and outright rejection. That is not a solution. 

A More Appropriate and Less Triggering ASL Sign

A better sign for “quarantine” is “stay home” (shows right hand signing “stay”, moving to position under left hand which is in 5-position facing down like a roof, and “home”; also shows both hands signing “stay” and “home”) These are better signs to use than “prison” (shows both hands using the 2-shape as described above), which can be triggering.

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