The ILY is a sign from American Sign Language which, as a gesture, has moved into the mainstream. Seen primarily in the United States and other Americanized countries, the sign originated among deaf schoolchildren using American Sign Language to create a sign from a combination of the signs for the letters I, L and Y (I Love You).
The sign is an informal expression of any of several positive feelings, ranging from general esteem to love, for the recipient of the sign. A similar-looking but unrelated variation (thumb toward the palm rather than thumb extended) appears in heavy metal music culture as a "devil's horns" hand-sign.
Deaf Heritage dates the origin of the ILY to 1905. However, resident students of deaf schools from the early 20th century do not recall seeing the sign anywhere until the 1970s.
The sign received significant media exposure with Richard Dawson's use of the ILY in his signoff from each episode of the Family Feud, which he hosted from 1976 to 1985. Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter reportedly picked it up from a group of Deaf supporters in the Midwest and, in 1977, during his Inauguration Day parade, flashed the ILY to a group of Deaf people on the sidewalk.
Popular 80s professional wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka would frequently flash the ILY sign with both hands during his matches and interviews, including while standing on the top rope before delivering his finishing move "Superfly Splash".
This sign has been popularized by the comicbook character Spider-Man, who uses the gesture to activate a button on his palm to fire his signature web attacks. The makers of Spider-Man intended this to be a humorous reference to the sign's actual meaning.
- "Sign Language: I Love You". American Sign Language University.
- Deaf Heritage
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