Wise woman Mira Keras recently mentioned a unique strategy she came up for dealing with situations when either she, her husband or her young daughter Gogo are angry, inevitable in any close relationship. They silently “sign” a Sign Language expression for “angry”.

It’s a quick, effective signal that a fierce emotion is in play and that the angered person needs time and space to cool off before talking about it. It lets the other person know what’s going on, acknowledges the emotion (rather than squelching it). AND it gives the angry person space to decipher the reasons for anger, and diffuse the charge, rather than acting out or blowing up.



It’s amazing how such a simple action can cover so many bases at once, and navigate a healthy route for anger, per Artistotle’s wise view:

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.


To make the sign for angry, form one hand into a claw facing toward you, then move it downward.


You see a 7-second video of it here.

Here’s a slightly different version of “angry” from an American Sign Language Dictionary.

Thanks Mira!

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6 replies on “How to Signal ‘Angry’ Without Blowing Your Top

  1. Long ago in another career, one of my fellow panelists at an academic conference was a Jesuit whose paper was on his recent experience of translating The Tempest into American Sign Language and staging an entirely signed production. His video was fascinating. One of his main points (that stuck with me, anyway) was his growing realization that when you sign to another person your anger at them, your contempt for them, your insults towards them, you enact your own insults and anger and negativity upon your own body. He and the actors in the production who were new to signing saw this as a gateway to empathy. When you sign “a pox on you,” for instance, you mime a series of little pock-marks cratering your own face.

    This sign, for anger, strikes me the same way: notice that the claws face towards your own face, not the other’s. What a non-aggressive way to signal anger! I like it. Thank you!

  2. This is not the “Baby Sign Language” sign for ANGRY it is the American Sign Language Sign (well, one of many that can be inflected for more precise meaning). Categorizing it as “Baby Sign Language” instead of ASL delegitimizes all the work ASL linguists and Deaf people have done in the past 50 or so years to fight for ASL to be recognized as a language. I’m sure this was unintentional on your part, but makes an impact even when unintended.

  3. When I did a google search of “angry” in sign language, this one came up often as “baby sign language” with another set of gestures for ASL as “angry”. In fact I specifically also googled American Sign Language “Angry” and “dictionary” and still got another set of signs, here. There was no intent to offend or demean or delegitimize anything.

  4. Such a great observation. Thank you! The anger signal does have the effect of “enacting” the feeling on oneself, to more clearly grasp it.

  5. Hi Sally, thanks for your response. Like I said in my previous post, there are actually many signs for Angry in ASL, so I can understand you confusion after googling. Baby Sign Language is a bastardization and simplification of many ASL signs re-packaged and sold to mostly a hearing audience, which is unfortunate as it leads to these kinds of misunderstandings (among other wrongs, like parents with deaf children being scolded for signing with their babies, while parents with hearing children are encouraged to sign with them to encourage cognitive and linguistic development, but that’s an entirely different argument. More on that here, if you’re interested: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/parents-of-deaf-children-stuck-in-the-middle-of-an-argument/). As with any language, it is always helpful to seek out native speakers for linguistic and vocabulary questions. For ASL, this means making a concerted effort to seek out sources produced by Deaf people.

  6. This article may be a better representation of that rabbit trail argument, I mehttps://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/understanding-deafness-not-everyone-wants-to-be-fixed/278527/ntioned above

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