Making a “O” sign with your hands (as the cheerleaders above are doing) seems only natural as a universal gesture among University of Oregon athletes and fans. It’s simple, it literally is your recognizable logo – it’s the “Hook ‘em Horns” of Oregon. But there’s a downside that’s not readily apparent…at least not to those without an understanding of sign language. Several Oregon players, though, do have some sign language knowledge, so they could tell you this:
[I]n sign language, the fans are saying — screaming, really — the word vagina. Twenty-nine players on the team are enrolled in the university’s American Sign Language program. Their teacher delights in telling them the true meaning of the sign when they form a spade-shaped “O” with their hands.
So we guess that if you form an “O” well enough (i.e. round enough), you might be in the clear – though there’d probably still be some confusion, since the ASL sign for the letter “o” is made with only one hand. And if you do this? Forget it. That’s a vagina all the way.
And that’s why Johanna Larson, the instructor for one of those football-player-heavy sign language classes at Oregon, told The New York Times, “We’re trying to spread the word to make the ‘O’ more of a rounded shape.” At least they’ll have some help from the team. We’ll say this – when the Pac-12 briefly tried to get Oregon players to stop making the “O” this year, there were way more issues with the symbol than they realized.