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A flick is a slight, but perceptible, forward and back movement that is produced to differentiate like-handshapes or to emphasize a handshape by over-articulation.

The Flick Rule

When the same handshape occurs more than once in succession at the side placement, a flick is used to distinguish them.

When cueing words like loves, craft, and horse, the same handshape occurs more than once at the side. A flick is produced between the two occurrences of that handshape to make sure that both are clear to the receiver.

6sd 2s ‘ 2s

Above, an apostrophe ( ‘ ) has been used in the cue notation to represent where a flick would be present.

Historically, flicks have not much instructional time in introductory Cued Speech classes. Even in professionally produced materials and videos, flicks are given only a few seconds of attention and examples are limited to words like those offered above. 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.

Which handshapes can 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. Let’s look at some more examples of the flick.

Beginning of Words
Flicks are not limited to the ends of words. We may need to cue at the beginning of words like the name Schwartz. Depending on your pronunciation of the following vowel, you may need to flick:

/sh_ woh r_ t_ s_/
6s ‘ 6sf 3s 5s 3s

Even though a side movement follows, the second occurrence of handshape 6 would not be distinguished without a flick. Note: If you pronounce Schwartz as /sh_ waw r_ t_ s_/, you do not need to flick, because the hand moves to the chin. Here the vowel placement determines whether the two occurrences of handshape 6 happen at the side in succession.

The key issue here is making sure that every cue is seen clearly. In words like coke, pop, Mom, and knob, there is no need to flick because a vowel occurs between the two occurrences of the same handshape. Try cueing those word in a mirror. You should see both occurrences of the handshapes. So, there is no need to flick between them. Remember, 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 (/j/ goes to the chin)

skim milk - no flick (/m/ 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.

lift it
/li f_ ti t/
6t 5s 5t 5s

A flick can also occur in the middle of a word or at word boundaries. Examine the following examples:

/ray n_ boh/
3s5t 4s ‘ 4sf

/f_ la sh_ lie t_/
5s 6t 6s ‘ 6s5t 5s

fourth grade
/foh r_ th_ g_ ray d_/
5sf 3s 7s ‘ 7s 3c5t 1s

his crimes
/hi z_ k_ rie m_ z_/
3t 2s ‘ 2s 3s5t 5s 2s

Read the following sentence. How might this appear to a deaf cue reader if the flick were omitted?

His crimes are infamous.

If the flick (which occurs between the words his and crimes) is not used, the sentence might be confused as follows:

His rhymes are infamous.

Want to see how well you can spot the flick? Try this flick quiz.

HELPFUL HINT: If you have a wandering side placement, you may not feel the need to flick. Working on a more consistent side placement may help you in your flick practice!