gesture code Language in Tales of Justice | World Anvil

gesture code

Written by Jarissa

Because the "subjects" would be drawn from several cultures around the world, and because the Hybrid Series Minion Project would involve long periods of biomechatronic and genetic modifications to the subjects, Project Director Michael Wyndham directed team member Lana Shire to create a partial visual language, using gestures and animalistic body language, that would have just enough flexibility to communicate instructions or report results. Much as Ms Shire excelled at learning languages, she had never developed an interest in creating them. She cudgeled together a pidgin by writing down a list of necessary terms. She picked a consistent verb-framing language as her guideline and then randomly chose individual gestures from every "sign language" on which she could find any database at all.

The result reads unfortunately like "Tarzan Speak" stereotypes, which probably reflects the fact that "subjects" in the Project were not viewed as "people"; but it got the job done.

The prototype subject team promptly expanded the original pidgin they were taught, creating subjective and ambiguous conditions such as "maybe" or "more-or-less" along with a healthy dose of invective and some slang.

Writing System

The gesture code does not have an alphabet. Nothing can be spelled out. To have that much flexibility in the pidgin would support a dangerous amount of independent thinking among the subjects.


Most Hybrid Minion subjects do not even admit to being able to read text beyond a very basic level, because too much intelligence leads to being seen as a threat.

Geographical Distribution

Exclusively intended for use by Infinity Inc employees and the Hybrid Minion Series subjects, some escapees have taught it to their associates. I would estimate no more than 200 speakers worldwide.


A verb can be the entire sentence. Subject is often implied in the way that the verb is performed. In most cases it defaults to "I", "you", or a previously established and not present other. If a subject is established in one sentence, that subject maintains as the third option until the converser makes a point of specifying another. Example:

"Red-Diamond want brown metal," Feral said slowly. "Not know why. Not know which. Other metal not refuse, but brown metal target. Want masks," she added, using slang for 'metahumans'. "All masks prey. Some assign. Some Red-Diamond cuts."

The first subject offered for the third category is someone named "Red-Diamond"; he is the one who does not refuse other metal, he is the one who wants metahumans. In the middle, Feral skips the pronoun "I" to mean "I do not know why" and "I do not know which". Her audience understands when she means herself from contextual clues of how she signs the "not know" verb. When Feral switches the third party subject to be "all masks" for two sentences, she then has to specify "Red-Diamond" again for the final sentence.

Pluralization consists of repeating the noun in rapid succession: "human-human" means either "humans" or "people", "tree-tree" means "trees" or "forest", "coat-coat" means "doctors", probably specifically Infinity Inc employees. If a number is used, the noun will not be pluralized ("five device" needs no pluralization, "device FIVE" with emphasis on the number means the fifth device).

Emotional context is heavily laden in every part of the language, because body language is a part of each word. A converser who puts effort into being emotionally neutral is warning that there is a reason to be extremely careful.

The gesture code mostly does not have tense (past, present, perfect/imperfect, future). It does permit order of occurrence, it has words for "before" and "later/after" and "yesterday" and "tomorrow" and "long ago" and so forth, but its only real tense besides now is the unique case of "been", past-continuous state of existence for indeterminate long time. The user of the gesture code can describe something like "tiger been eat Cheetos every day same schedule two week", or "target been make no noise after bang noise": the first case describes something that has consistently occurred on a repeating basis, the second case describes a continuing condition noted since a prior event. There's no equivalent for future-continuous because, frankly, the original expanders of the gesture code into a language did not believe the future could ever be predicted with any surety, except in discrete and isolated chunks ("trainer gonna catch you" yes, "we gonna stay together forever" not a communicable concept). Such discussions require voice usage.

The verb "do" exists but is limited to the meaning "perform an action"; it cannot appear in a compound verb like "do not use" or for emphasis such as "I do understand you".

The verb "to be" does not exist; therefore, am/is/are/was/were should be skipped when translating. For that matter, neither do the verbs "exist" and "think". One can describe sensory observations ("Feral see one guard five device two door") and one can use "imagine" to describe direct deductions ("Feral imagine guard have alarm") but one cannot get more abstract ("Feral thinks a guard is behind the door" is not possible, for example; it would have to be "Feral imagine guard behind door" and that only works if Feral has a good reason to deduce that a guard would be in such a place).

The modal verbs (can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would) and their negative variations do not exist. A Hybrid either does as directed or fails to do as directed. Hybrids do not discuss their capacity to obey an instruction.

No etiquette words (please, thank, welcome, honorofics gendered or not, sorry/apologize, excuse/pardon) exist in the language. Rude words, however, certainly exist!



An individual's name is unique to them; there are no duplications, even when the current holder of a name ceases to be among the population. Individual employees of Infinity Inc never manage to establish what their own name is going to be; it's always a compound word or a pantomime describing what the Hybrid Minions perceive as that individual's most distinguishing trait. Simon Arkangel's name was the gesture for "Corporate", performed very precisely and with completely unsimulated terror. A behavioral specialist's name might be a compound indicating the red jacket of his corporate division, followed by mimicking the particular way he folds his hands during an interrogation session.
Every Hybrid Minion has two names, a formal name assigned by the Design Team and a shorthand variation (sometimes referred to as their "working persona". Example: Silverwing's formal name is light-star because of the way light sources glint off his metallic skin. (No one but employees ever used this sign.) His shorthand variation was simply "Star", a gesture originally intended to mean a flashing light on a control panel (that word, in turn, absolutely never used in that sense; it meant the Hybrid with the shiny skin, nothing else).
Most Hybrids had a third variation, usually the same signs as the shorthand variation but either performed in a different order or performed with the emphasis in a different spot, to differentiate the core person from the working persona. For example, Puma's formal name is armor-yellow-cat; his shorthand name or "working persona" is armor-cat because he is meant to be the tank in a fight, to draw threats and attention his way and withstand the majority of the enemy's attacks; away from corporate supervision, emphasis suddenly focused on "armor" to the point that the sign "cat" was signed vaguely, because David personally thought of himself as "big and tough" rather than thinking of himself as feline.



I/me/my/mine/myself : point to center of own chest
you/your/yours/yourself : point to individual(s) addressed
target : On first use, draw a circle to one side or another of conversational area; sign indicators for individuals and/or things, then draw a line into that circle. OR: use entire hand to draw a circle around the view of the intended individuals and/or things. Could be translated as "they/them/these/those" since the entire English set of third-person pronouns (he/she/it/they/et cetera) do not exist.

species : certain words or adjective-noun combinations are used as pronouns in the way that some languages use honorifics. This originally developed out of the need to differentiate between an Alpha Hybrid as a person who thinks, versus an Alpha Hybrid who functions as an instinct-driven animal. Sometimes these pronouns do not translate very well, or make much sense outside the language itself.


Common phrases

Need instruction. : Converser (and possibly the converser's peers) either require direction on a piece of a task, or need further details on their goals, or want something bewildering explained to them. This phrase can sometimes be the only warning that a Hybrid Minion is worried about a real chance of failure.
_ (insert pronoun) instruction. : The subject of the phrase will give instructions or an explanation to whichever party the swinging fingers move toward (unless the intent is "you instruct me", in which case the fingers don't point anywhere but the hands drift downward during the course of the sign).
gesture description:
need : (a more urgently performed version of "want") Start with hands next to each other about a foot away from the middle of the ribcage, palms up, fingers flat and not necessarily touching but certainly not splayed out. Claws should be extended if possible. With a very sharp, rigid motion, bring hands closer to the user until heels almost touch the body in a smooth gesture; fingers curl inward like they're digging into something and ripping it toward the user. Thumbs generally stay in one position for the entire move. (The more violent and swift the gesture, the stronger the need portrayed.)
instruction : V on both hands, crossed so 2nd fingertips touch in front of open mouth; hands swing forward as if opening saloon doors while mouth closes

No get. : (I/We) do not understand.
gesture description:
curl hand in loose fist, bring up near corner of forehead. Flick finger (USUALLY THE INDEX FINGER, DAVID!) a few times; in mid-flick, hand moves a small distance away from forehead while rotating away. ("Get" meaning "(I/We) understand." is the same gesture without rotating the hand or moving it away from the forehead.) Sign is very similar to the U.S. sign language "understand" but performed in front of middle of forehead instead of to the side, with the rotate away added for negation. It's meant to evoke flicking a mental light switch.

yammer : too much talking / none of that information was worth paying attention to
This gesture, depending on speed of performance and context, can also be translated as "blah, blah, blah". It is never a polite word. At its absolute best, it suggests a lot of communication that was not understood, which may be why the prototype unit only signed the proper name "Timber Wolf" (yammer-wolf) when they were yelling at the team's controller.
gesture description:
With one hand raised, bend all fingers at the base knuckle to touch fingerprint areas to the thumb. Quickly open and close the gap, mimicking a mouth on a puppet. Bonus points for finishing the gesture with a dismissive open-handed swipe downward, as if knocking the words away. CoH


Beg for mercy or Come play! are the closest to a spoken phrase that could be attached to a particular whole-body gesture "word". It looks like someone demonstrating what an easy, open target he currently is to physical abuse, and carries a strong sense of deliberately-emphasized helplessness. It can mean "please take pity and do not harm me as you so easily could if you chose", it can mean "I am helpless before you" or "I give up/I do not resist", or it can mean "look at me, how can I possibly be a match for that?", and of course it can simply mean "let's spar" or "let's wrassle".
It can also absolutely be used sarcastically; check expression and kinesthetics and context for a fine-tuned translation. One example of a sarcastic translation would be "gee, you're so obviously going to kick my ass; bring it on and watch me fold", which probably results in immediate combat between communicator and target.
gesture description:
use hands and arms and even the movement of shoulders as well as the breathing muscles of her chest and stomach to spread wide, not looming or threatening but the exact opposite; hold pose at the position of clear (if not maximum) defenselessness


Command Words

Commands are the most important part of the pidgin, despite comprising less than a tenth of the total vocabulary. The entire purpose of the "gesture code project", of course, was to allow Infinity Inc employees (and, eventually, clients who lease these Hybrid Minions) to instruct the property on tasks and goals. Useful responses and peer coordination are the justification for the rest of the designed vocabulary.

(Contrary responses were the inspiration for many of the pidgin expansions created by the subjects themselves.)

Commands can be conditional, compound, and complex. Scout directs a Minion not only to go stealthfully look over the designated area, noting location of doors, enemies, subjects, and objects of interest; but also to come report on their findings. Hide can be immediate and intended to last until instructed otherwise, or combined with other commands such as guard (not to be confused with the noun "guard" which might mean a soldier or a lookout), or laden with conditions such as "Hide until night. Wait. See green window open. Go!" If something is going to be extremely complicated, it is best to have the Hybrid Minions each repeat the instructions back, and probably to have a Delta specifically responsible for organizing the other Minions.


Function words

yes : affirmation, confirmation, agreement, or even an "okay, sure, whatever" depending on how steadily it is performed and how tightly the fist is clenched
gesture description:
y-shaped fist nods toward audience

no : negation, denial, disagreement, or rejection depending on the direction and emphasis with which the gesture moves
gesture description:
first two fingers tap thumb (like ASL "no") at same time as hand is flicking sideways outward, like a tail flicking the subject away

maybe : almost any kind of uncertainty that can be expressed
gesture description: one flat hand, palm down, wiggles back and forth like a wobbling plate

and/plus : joins two ideas or items together. "And" seldom gets used, instead there's a comma-sized pause in a list even if the list is two items. Feral would consistently say "yellow-cat, leopard eat bird" instead of saying "yellow-cat and leopard eat bird".
gesture description:
a very small motion performed more or less in front of converser: sideways hand roughly in front of opposite upper arm, open in "claw" shape with fingers spread, moves toward its own side of body while closing fingers into pinched position.

or/but/instead : dividing up alternatives. Just like in real sign languages, "or" is mostly expressed with a bodyshift, leaning more to one side for first option and switching to other side for second option. Often the "maybe A. Maybe B." structure is used instead of saying "A or B".
gesture description:
On rare cases where sentence requires an explicit "or" (usually instructions}: make gun fingers with one hand, and the other index finger touches thumb tip and then index finger tip.


Question words

The "question words" (how, what, when, where, who, and why) do exist, are used often, and were almost all taken from American Sign Language. "How much" is a separate concept in that it is about measurements.

how much gesture description: one fist, back of hand toward ground, jumps up as fingers explode up and out like an explosion. For emphasis, sometimes both hands are used to do same sign repeatedly.



Jerk is an all-purpose epithet, also capable of being used in a pitying or affectionate context but mostly meaning "what you did was not what I wanted".
gesture description:
Palm parallel to the ground, she flicked all of her fingers sharply outward against her thumb as if flicking something away.


Stupid is an all-purpose adjective/adverb with a generally negative connotation, but it can be pitying or affectionate in the same sense as "goofy" depending on the context. Stupid can be a synonym for "undesired", "ignorant", "annoying", "objectionable", "unexpected", "frightening", "ludicrous", "confusing", and all sorts of other marginally-to-thoroughly negative qualities absolutely including the actual normal word "stupid" as in "dumb".
gesture description:
index finger and thumb like a somewhat triangular hole on her forehead just above her temple


Hush/Shut up! is the closest most conversers will get to telling one another to "cease making noise immediately". Even so, it's pretty rude. Also variously translated anywhere from "shut up" through "oh $epithet, not this nonsense again!" depending on enthusiasm and context.
gesture description:
Make a small, tight fist, with the back of the hand toward the viewer, about four inches in front of the user's mouth. Usually the arm is angled to the side as if holding up a two-way radio, not coming up from below as if holding up a detachable squeeze-microphone for same.

CoH If you once lived in Paragon City, then you are probably familiar with this particular sign.


Author's Notes

I have quite a bit more of this language elsewhere, with descriptions of the gestures and with important differences in how some concepts work versus in American English. I'm trying to include here only the critical parts for how the mind would work when functioning in this language. I would be delighted to expand if anyone is interested; just let me know. - J

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