The most usual pattern for a one-handed sign is HIPO, meaning Hand, Interaction, Path, Other. The Hand is always the first thing we write, but the other three things are written in whatever order the sign requires, and can be missed out or repeated.
For a two-handed sign, we do exactly the same thing for the passive hand, as well as the active hand. We write the two hands separated by an apostrophe. The passive hand comes first (whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, the passive hand always comes first):
u1’1ttor TRY/ATTEMPT (palm down, passive-hand index finger, active-hand index finger thumbside of hand touches thumbside of hand, active hand moves forward repeatedly).
The u at the start of the passive Hand here tells us that the passive hand is palm down and the 1 tells us that the index finger is extended. Then we have tt as the Interaction: the thumbside of the active hand touches the thumbside of the passive hand. And then we have the Path: o to say that the hand moves forward and r to say that this is repeated.
We try not to duplicate the same information in both hands. When the active hand part touches a part of the face, body, or passive hand, we consider the opposite part of the hand (in this case the blade), to be distant from the touched part. So in this case the fact that the passive palm is downwards means that the active palm is downwards too.
Something else that’s very important is that the passive hand doesn’t move, or if it does, it moves only to mimic the active hand in some way. Hippotext is designed to take advantage of this, so that we don’t normally write passive hand movements. Paths and Interactions are movements (the Interaction involves a movement of the hand towards the part of the body touched), so we normally write only the Hand on the passive part of the word. This is why we don’t write tt on the passive side in u1’1ttor.
Now let’s write a very similar sign:
‘u1jtt SAME (mirror sign, palms down, index finder handshapes move inwards until thumbsides of hands touch).
Here, we’ve written an apostrophe, but left out the passive hand. This means that the sign is symmetric, as if reflected in a mirror running down the middle of the body, in the way illustrated by the comedian Harry Worth in his BBC television series. As you see, the passive hand is merely mimicking the active hand: it doesn’t have a written movement of its own.
We can also write two apostrophes at the beginning of a word to indicate a cyclic or see-saw sign. These are signs where the passive hand mimics the active hand by staying on the opposite side of the mid-point between the hands:
”nbuvr BALANCE/JUDGEMENT (see-saw sign, palms up, flat hand, active hand moves down and up repeatedly).
The letter v written after something in Hippotext generally means to reverse the thing. So the movement is downwards, which reverses to upwards, then the r says that this repeats. So vr generally gives a wagging motion.
”wxoucr I SIGN TO YOU (cyclic sign, spread hand, curve forwards and downwards and continue to complete full circle, repeat).
As always, ou means that the hand moves forward and downwards in a smooth curve. Adding a c after this means that the hand keeps moving until it completes the circle which has been started by ou.
As an exercise, try reading or describing the following signs: ‘nwxojcr, ”aoucr.
— Sandy Fleming