A New Geo-Sign

How do you sign the word ‘geocache’?

It’s a pretty common question on Groundspeak’s forums and now It’s Not About The Numbers has an answer – at least for Kiwi cachers.

Yesterday, local organisation Deaf Aotearoa sent this video showing its newly-created ‘geocache’ sign in response to our query.


According to spokeswoman Kathryn Heard: “This sign has been developed by combining other signs i.e. location/targeting (GPS) and games, so simply put, it says ‘location-based games’.”

INATN’s quest began last month when Victoria University released the first multi-media database of New Zealand Sign Language, featuring some 4000 signs.

I learnt to fingerspell as a child, thanks to After School TV show host Ollie Olsen who signed off at the end of each episode and the fact I lost the use of my voice for three weeks from a drug allergy. Nobody could understand what I was trying to sign but at least I felt like I was getting a say in Walker family life.

Over the years I’ve picked up and then forgotten actual words but my interest in sign language remains strong. When the NZSL Online website went live on June 24, the first word I looked for was ‘geocache’ – naturally. Nothing …

I then emailed David McKee, the director of Victoria University’s Deaf Studies Research Unit, who confirmed the term’s absence from the new bilingual e-dictionary. “No, you will need a few signs – HIDE, LOOK-FOR, USEORIENTEERING or something like that for geocaching.”

After seeing Deaf Aotearoa’s video, McKee said although it was not “a recognised sign within the deaf community” yet, “if this sign spreads and is used widely”, it could be put through a validation process for possible inclusion in the NZSL dictionary.

A similar problem exists in the United States, with no term officially recorded in any American Sign Language database. Regular users, of course, have come up with their own solutions over the years – from experience in the field or via Groundspeak’s forums.

Virginia resident Nighthawk700 says he and his wife use two methods when they talk about geocaching – “either just signing the letters ‘G-C’, or I mimic holding my GPS and sweeping it around, as if looking for the cache”.

Texan husband-and-wife team DeafDillos also fingerspell ‘G’ and ‘C’ as it’s “easy and quick”, but add: “You need to spell ‘geocaching’ initially then use ‘GC’ in a continuing conversation if the other person does not know about GC. Sometimes, we use a sign like you’re holding the GPSr while scanning right to left to right in reference to geocaching. The sign for GPSr is just holding the traditional GPSr in a stationary postion.”

Oregon’s TheBeanTeam says his friend – who goes by the nickname Deaf Dude – created his own sign for their geo-outings. “It is a variation of the sign for ‘hide’, which combines the signs for ‘secret’ and ‘under’. He uses the ‘C’ hand with the ‘under’ sign, instead of the ‘A’ hand from the word ‘secret’. The ‘C’, of course, stands for cache. We use it for describing a particular cache and for geocaching in general, based on the context of the sentence.”

Cindy Millard Meadows told Facebook’s Deaf Geocaching group that since she began caching with her husband in 2005, she’s adopted yet another option. “I use the letter ‘G’, then bend my index finger with thumb slightly upward & sway/swing side by side (horizontal) like you’re holding a GPS. That’s ‘geocaching’.”

Others still have suggested the trademark ‘sideways L’ sign used by Groundspeak founder Jeremy Irish, though it has been repeatedly pointed out this actually means ‘lesbian’.

*How do geocachers elsewhere in the world cope with this dilemma? Let us know below.

1 comment

  1. Zainab

    my sister and I fingerspell G + C too! We also sign G C and person for ‘geocachers’ 🙂

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