The flick is a slight, but perceptible, forward and back movement that differentiates successive occurrences of the same handshape at the side placement (e.g., doves) or to emphasize a handshape by over-articulation.

Why do we flick?

When the same handshape occurs more than once in succession at the side placement, a flick is used so that each handshape can be seen by the receiver.

When cueing words like loves, craft, and horse, each word ends with two occurrences of the same handshape at the side placement. A flick is produced between the two occurrences of that handshape to make sure that both are clear to the receiver.


In the previous examples, an asterisk (*) has been used in the cue notation to represent where a flick would be present. In some cases, an apostrophe (')  is used. DailyCues uses an asterisk instead of an apostrophe to avoid confusion with the stress marks in our dictionary.


Which handshapes may require a flick? That's a trick question. Any one of the eight handshapes in the American Cued Speech system may need a flick depending on their context. Additionally, while previous examples of the flick occurred at the end of words, that is not always the case.

Beginning of Words

We may need to flick between handshapes at the beginning of words, as in the name Schwartz. Depending on your pronunciation of the following vowel, you may need to flick. Even though a side movement follows, the second occurrence of handshape 6 would not be distinguished without a flick. However, if you cue Schwartz with the chin placement, you do not need to flick because the hand moves away from the side placement. 

Flicks Within Words

A flick can occur in the middle of a word. Examine the following examples:

Flicks Between Words

Flicks not only occur in various positions within words. Flicks can also occur between words at word boundaries. Read the following sentence. How might this appear to a deaf cue reader if the flick were omitted?

His crimes are infamous.

Without the flick that occurs between his and crimes, the sentence might be confused as follows:

His rhymes are infamous.

Other examples of flicks at word boundaries include: 

  • fourth grade (not fourth raid)
  • these crows (not these rows)


The following are instances when a flick is not necessary.

A Vowel Occurs Between Like-Handshapes

Flicks make sure each occurrence of a handshape is seen clearly. In words like cokepopMom, and knob, there is no need to flick because a vowel occurs between the two occurrences of the same handshape. Each handshape is clearly visible. The first is established at the side and by returning to the side, the final consonant is established. A flick is needed when the same handshape must occur at the side in immediate succession. If a vowel (or another handshape) occurs between the like-handshapes, you do not need to flick.

  • Some fan - no flick (/f/ goes to the throat)
  • those - no flick (vowel occurs between the handshapes)
  • tooth gel - no flick (/ʤjjʤjjʤjj/ goes to the chin)
  • skim milk - no flick (/m/ for milk goes to the throat)

Likewise, a flick may disappear in connected discourse. The word lift would contain a flick, but the words lift it would not if they are spoken without a pause. In this example, the final /ttttttttt/ in lift moves away from the side placement to connect to the next word, it.


Historically, flicks have not always gotten much time in introductory Cued Speech classes. Even in professionally produced materials and videos, flicks are given little attention and examples are limited. However, flicks can occur in places other than at the ends of words. Further, flicks can occur between handshapes other than handshapes 2, 3, and 5. 


Handshape 1

camouflaged, guidepost

Handshape 2

doves, drives, grooves, halves, involves, knives, leaves, loves, moves, olives, saves, serves, themselves, thieves, truths

Handshape 3

disrupted, enforced, hoarse

Handshape 4

cornbread, rainbow, unknown

Handshape 5

comfortable, coughed, craft, harmful, left, rooftop, scuffed, soft, stuffed, laughed, sloughed

Handshape 6


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