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Waffle, meet Splasher. Splasher, this is Waffle.
July 7, 2008 6:17 PM   Subscribe

"My name is a combination of 'take photo' and the letter 'C' for Charlie. How on earth do you pronounce that, you might ask. Well the answer is you don't. You sign it."
posted by The corpse in the library (45 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
If someone came up to you and introduced themselves like this: “Hello! I’m Secretive. Nice to meet you,” what would you think?

Exactly.
posted by furtive at 6:20 PM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


That was a funny article, thanks.
posted by interrobang at 6:22 PM on July 7, 2008


Wasn't there a Seinfeld episode about this?

Thanks for this, The corpse in the library.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:32 PM on July 7, 2008


That was really interesting.
But they're more nicknames within their social groups, no? It seems like the majority of them are given by drunk friends, so it's not like these people are going to go around introducing themselves as "bignose" or "virgin" or whatever.
posted by chococat at 6:41 PM on July 7, 2008


Oops, just saw your nicknames tag.
posted by chococat at 6:41 PM on July 7, 2008


this is something utterly wonderful which had no idea about. thankyou!
posted by es_de_bah at 6:47 PM on July 7, 2008


Good grief, it's like the internet, but with hands.
posted by boo_radley at 7:07 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


they're more nicknames within their social groups, no

My understanding is that they're not nicknames exactly, but shorthand - it's a lot easier to come up with a name sign than to fingerspell a name every time. I used to work with students from a school for the deaf every year. The first year, when I asked whether I should get a name sign, they informed me "You've already got one." The students had named me a name that consisted of the letter M, held up at the forehead to meld with the sign for "Moon" (my last name). They carried on naming everyone they met, swiftly and without any knowledge required on the unsuspecting non-sign-reader's part, and the names stuck.
posted by Miko at 7:07 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


chococat, it read to me like the names are used a little more widely than I would think a normal nickname would be, maybe more like a call-sign.

FTA: It came to a head when one day I saw an interpreter describing me as ‘Dribble’ during a work meeting.

Though I may be misinterpreting the writer's intent.

On preview, am I misconstruing this, Miko?
posted by lekvar at 7:09 PM on July 7, 2008


used a little more widely than I would think a normal nickname would be, maybe more like a call-sign.

No, that seems about right as far as my experience. Once you get a name, it seems that everyone (at least in that context - school, work, friends, what-have-you) calls you by that name. The last woman, Sasha, mentioned she had "several sign names" - one with her friends, and one a more "formal" sign name. I guess that might be kind of common.

Someone will arrive in this thread and write an elucidating treatise all about it, I'm sure!
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on July 7, 2008


I had a deaf professor once whose name was Drucilla and her sign name was to jab herself in the neck with two fingers like she got chomped by a vampire.
posted by The Straightener at 7:14 PM on July 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


What Miko said. My name is short enough - and more importantly, easy enough to fingerspell - that I don't have one yet, despite being deaf and having been part of the community for a few years. Maybe someday I will be given one.

But yeah, it's somewhere between a nickname and a hearing name - people will often introduce themselves with both names: "Hi, I'm S-P-I-F-F [pause, show signname]". You want the fingerspelled English name, because it's your formal name, and how someone can find you on Facebook, or in a phonebook or whatever. But fingerspelling is cumbersome, so your sign name is how people refer to you in the community. You might also list multiple signnames - perhaps you have one that was given to you at school, but your co-workers use a different one.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:19 PM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Anyway, to add a bit more: some sign names are initialized. Like Waffle in the video; his name is the sign for waffle, but with a J in there as well (I think - I don't know BSL, really). And often there are sort of generic-ish sign names; in ASL, you might sign someone's initial near the top of your head (if they're male) or on your chin/cheek (if they're female) as a sort of shorthand for someone who doesn't have a sign name. I.e., "Yeah, so I was talking to this guy, Joe [J-forehead]." And then, in that conversation, you can use J-forehead to refer to Joe. A lot of people also have similar sign names - "SMILE" or "LAUGH" with an initial are common, as are references to hair style or height, if those are particularly distinguishing features.

But the really neat ones are like the ones in this video - ones that describe something truly unique about a person's personality or whatever. I used one of those temporarily - my initial combined with the sign for "MISCHIEF" or "DEVILISH" - but it didn't stick, partly because it was a bit of an in-joke at an office I don't work at anymore, partly because it was given to me by an interpreter and not a Deaf person, and partly because of what the Dribble said - no one wants to be introduced that way. At least, not all the time ...
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:32 PM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was so disappointed to find out what "waffle" actually means in Brit.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:25 PM on July 7, 2008


That was great!

When the video participants were signing their given names, I didn't recognize the letters as the ASL alphabet that I learned as a (non deaf) child. Does anyone know what/how they were signing in the video? Is there a more up-to-date ASL alphabet?
posted by peep at 8:39 PM on July 7, 2008


An old friend of mine dated a deaf guy and he gave me my sign name which actually makes no sense anymore. It's an A with the sign for "hair down to here." Although the sign was a bit more corrupted by actually mimicking the shape of my hair.

My daughter speaks a little bit of sign because she was born with a cleft lip and has a severe speech impediment. So, I pick up some here and there. I'd really like to learn more. It's literally a beautiful language.
posted by vertigo25 at 8:41 PM on July 7, 2008


This is so cool! I'll do mathowie:

The sign for "M" held against the forehead, followed by the sign for pancakes.
posted by brain cloud at 8:46 PM on July 7, 2008


Nicknames in sign, too! I'm struck that two of the sign names (Angela/Angel, Sands/Sand) are puns on their English origin. I'm not sure about BSL, but ASL is pretty far removed from English. I guess most signers also know written English and so cross-lingual puns aren't exceptional. Or is there something else about how sign is taught and proper names are spelled out?
posted by Nelson at 9:02 PM on July 7, 2008


Does anyone know what/how they were signing in the video? Is there a more up-to-date ASL alphabet?

It's a British story, and Spaceman Spiff remarked upthread about not being familiar with BSL, (and also Nelson, on preview) so I'd imagine that there are differences for sure.
posted by chococat at 9:22 PM on July 7, 2008


Does anyone know what/how they were signing in the video? Is there a more up-to-date ASL alphabet?

They were signing in British Sign Language (BSL), which I think has a different finger-spelling system than ASL.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:23 PM on July 7, 2008


Or, on preview, what chococat said.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:24 PM on July 7, 2008


Yeah, ASL is more genetically similar to the French Sign Language for historical reasons.

Also, all y'all hearing folks would have learned about Sign names as 8-year-olds if you had read the Babysitter's Club. Jessi's was a dancing J. Cause she was a ballerina. Yessiree.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:39 PM on July 7, 2008


Also, all y'all hearing folks would have learned about Sign names as 8-year-olds if you had read the Babysitter's Club.

Assuming we're not way, way older than you.
posted by chococat at 9:44 PM on July 7, 2008


When the video participants were signing their given names, I didn't recognize the letters as the ASL alphabet that I learned as a (non deaf) child. Does anyone know what/how they were signing in the video? Is there a more up-to-date ASL alphabet?

British Sign Language, which uses a two-handed alphabet. Many signed languages use some variant on either the BSL alphabet or the LSF (French Sign Language) one. ASL's is related to the LSF alphabet. BSL is related to Australian and New Zealand sign, but is as far from ASL as Spanish from English. That said, watching the video, I can pick out bits and pieces - but without the captions, I'd be completely lost.

This is so cool! I'll do mathowie:

The sign for "M" held against the forehead, followed by the sign for pancakes.


I know this is a joke, but it's worth pointing out anyway: name signs are given by culturally Deaf individuals. The more generic ones aren't held to that as strictly, but it's still something to become aware of, especially since it's easy to come up with an unintentional - and potentially offensive or embarrassing - meaning.

I'm struck that two of the sign names (Angela/Angel, Sands/Sand) are puns on their English origin. I'm not sure about BSL, but ASL is pretty far removed from English. I guess most signers also know written English and so cross-lingual puns aren't exceptional. Or is there something else about how sign is taught and proper names are spelled out?

BSL is likewise pretty far from English. But if you have a name - first or last - that either sounds like or is spelled like a word in English - then using some translation of that word isn't all that uncommon. Will ('future tense'), Hans ('hands'), and so on. The commonly used sign for Shakespeare involves gesturing like you're ... shaking a spear. The language itself is mostly not like this - there have been attempts to do soundalike/lookalike languages (the common example is using the sign for BUTTER and the one for FLY to mean BUTTERFLY), and they've generally been disastrously cumbersome. But for a name, which doesn't have to have a semantic meaning, this sort of pun is common. Also, as you guessed, most signers also know the written language of their region, and possibly the spoken one to some degree.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:48 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Assuming we're not way, way older than you.

Well, the BSC books introduced a Deaf character in 1988. If you were tennish when you read it, you would be thirtyish now...way, way older than thirty is how much?

I am arguing a silly point here, but I took a lot of crap for reading those books as a kid instead of something with arguably more literary value but less enjoyment, and it's nice to know I learned something from them other than late 80's-early 90's teen fashion tips.

Metafilter: I am arguing a silly point here, but...
posted by Tesseractive at 9:58 PM on July 7, 2008


It's the same in Egypt. I had a close Egyptian friend who worked with a bunch of deaf people. He was pretty interesting...he basically was able to understand sign language, and rather than learn the whole language, which would have been too difficult, basically he winged it...and somehow the deaf people understood all of his more-or-less made up signs! In any case, one of the deaf men who worked in the shop was unfortunate to have a very wide gap in the front of his teeth...his "name" was pointing towards your teeth with your index finger and ring finger spread far apart. Poor guy.

When I was a kid I played Pierre in a performance of Really Rosie. For two of the performances they had signers (which was very distracting to a kid with ADD like me -- I missed a number of my cues while staring at the signers, and for some reason I never did get a part with that theater company again). Anyway, rather than spell out "Pierre" my name was the sign for the letter P, swooshed in some kind of French manner.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:06 PM on July 7, 2008


My signature would be the sign for J, held to the head, followed by the sign for Hobbes drinking coffee.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:07 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I missed a number of my cues while staring at the signers...Deathalicious, you should try being in a Sign-interpreted production of the Vagina Monologues. I think I can sign the letters of the alphabet, hello, thank you, and cunt.
posted by Tesseractive at 10:11 PM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks to everyone who pointed out that BSL was being signed, not ASL. Kind of a DURRR moment for me. I recognized a few of the other signs so it just threw me off when I didn't recognize the letters.
posted by peep at 10:27 PM on July 7, 2008


Also, all y'all hearing folks would have learned about Sign names as 8-year-olds if you had read the Babysitter's Club. Jessi's was a dancing J. Cause she was a ballerina. Yessiree.

Word. I also still think about the BSC every time I hear that someone has diabetes (omg, just like Stacy).

/derail
posted by naoko at 10:45 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


My son has a friend whose parents are both deaf. Our last name is Hope so his name in NZSL is fingers crossed with a little twist of the wrist (to indicate it's a name, not just the word). His friend always has his hair spiked with gel and his sign name is the back of one hand pressed to the forehead with fingers up to represent spiky hair. I'm trying to learn NZSL at the moment and so far all I can say is "good", "practice", "Korea", "Australia" (hands in front like a kangaroo) and "Say that again".
posted by tracicle at 10:58 PM on July 7, 2008


name signs are given by culturally Deaf individuals.

So is it possible to be culturally deaf, but still able to hear? Or to be clinically deaf, but culturally non-deaf?

And is there a reason why you capitalize the word 'deaf'?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:28 PM on July 7, 2008


The distinction as I understand it, in britain at least: deaf people have trouble hearing, Deaf people are part of the Deaf community. An example distinction is an old lady who's lost her hearing, and someone born deaf who goes to a Deaf school and has Deaf friends.

Interestingly, members of the Deaf community don't actually need to be deaf; children of Deaf people and people who attend Deaf schools, who speak the language and know are are part of the culture are often honourary Deaf people. Not all deaf people are Deaf, especially those who lose their hearing later in life.

As a general rule - if your primary language is signed, you're probably part of the Deaf community.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:53 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oops, I also forgot to mention that the rules and standards of behaviour of the Deaf community often differ from those of the hearing community, especially as a given Deaf community is bound by a common language (BSL, for example), not geography per se. Deaf people are not disabled, they're part of a minority language community instead. Most deaf people can actually hear a little, while hard of hearing people can hear quite a lot - generally, the distinction is if you primarily see yourself as part of the hearing community, and work with spoken language (with difficulty), or use sign language out of preference and use translators or lip reading etc to work with the hearing community.

Bear in mind, I'm not deaf or Deaf, but knew a couple of people that are, and this is how they described it to me. Also, you don't get to pick if you're Deaf or not, the rest of the community will decide for you.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:01 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I learned about name signs waaay back when a Deaf kid guest-starring on Zoom! explained them. His was his first initial and then the sign for "curly hair" (because his head was full of corkscrews). He didn't like his hair and he didn't like his sign name, but he was apparently stuck with both!
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:02 AM on July 8, 2008


Seeing the BSL was freaky for me. I sign PSE1 with my kids (older has Down Syndrome) and caught several signs but was perplexed by most, especially the finger spelling. Oddly enough, the BSL sign for angel is the ASL sign for butterfly.

My kids have home name signs, which are functional but not true name signs. I'm hoping some day that they will have real name signs, but that's not in my control. Home name signs are necessary to provide a quicker way to express a name than spelling. My daughter Alice is an ASL 'a' with the dom hand shaken to the side because she was a wiggly baby. My son Stuart is 'boy-S'.

Interestingly enough, my daughter gave name signs to pretty much every important person or physical therapist in her life. She named her main PT "ready-go", the coordinator "turtle" (she has a lot of turtles on her desk), and the equipment rep "gum" (his name is Tom and but she heard "gum"). I don't know how these fit culturally. Her PSA had several name signs - the first was "colors" then and 'n' swiped from center to the side, and then finally 'mouse'.

Her teachers/aides at school adopted their own school name signs. The teachers usually signed their initial by their forehead like the sign for 'teach'. I didn't have the heart to tell Susan that she named herself 'stupid'.
posted by plinth at 6:11 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


1Pidgin Signed English - ASL signs with English word order but none of the clumsy SEE endings. More like a kinesthetic highlighter to the spoken word for us.
posted by plinth at 6:17 AM on July 8, 2008


I think I can sign the letters of the alphabet, hello, thank you, and cunt.

Perfect. You're ready for your coming out party.
posted by rokusan at 6:36 AM on July 8, 2008


I had no idea BSL existed until I read these comments. Strange. So we can have accents that are mutually imcomprehensible even without speaking!
posted by tehloki at 8:11 AM on July 8, 2008


basically he winged it...and somehow the deaf people understood all of his more-or-less made up signs!

I worked a factory job with a guy named Frank and he had the same ability, I could randomly wiggle my fingers and he would know exactly what I was trying to convey. It's was actually pretty remarkable.

One story I love from that time of my life involved Frank: I was dating a girl with a form of cerebral palsy that affected her left hand. If she wasn't concentrating on controlling it, it would gently twist around, with her fingers stretching and contorting in a way that was not too dissimilar from signing. It wasn't terribly obvious and most people never paid attention, unless they had a reason to watch her hands. Since Franks primary form of communications involved doing exactly that, he noticed right away, and this led to a source of much amusement, he joked that he never figured that movements were a result of her condition, he just decided that she liked talking to herself.
posted by quin at 9:03 AM on July 8, 2008


the deaf people understood all of his more-or-less made up signs!

One thing I learned from the deaf students I worked with is that deaf people are fantastic communicators.
posted by Miko at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2008


I had no idea BSL existed until I read these comments. Strange. So we can have accents that are mutually imcomprehensible even without speaking!

Oh, it's more than an accent. BSL is a very different language from American Sign Language. ASL takes after French sign, I think at least in part because of the specific history of Gallaudet.

Of course there's "accent" in sign too. And regional variation. I'm just guessing the Australian sign for themselves is not mincing little kangaroo hands.

One thing I wish I'd done more research on back in my linguistics days; to what extent sign languages are more mutually comprehensible than spoken languages. Put me in Egypt and it would take me weeks to make any sense of the spoken language, but there's lots of stories like Deathalicious' about signers understanding each other relatively quickly, even speaking completely different sign languages. The limited linguistics stuff I read on this topic suggested that sign languages all tend to have similar grammar and word order even if completely different morphology. But it wasn't clear to me how true that was.

Sign is fascinating. Studying it in comparison to spoken languages allows us to separate how the brain processes language from how the brain processes sounds and motion.
posted by Nelson at 11:52 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


to what extent sign languages are more mutually comprehensible than spoken languages.

One of my favorite late-nite/drunk/stoned musings was that a unified sign language would be an ideal tool for translators and ambassadors and other people who needed to transcend local languages. Of course as with most things it seems to be a little more complex than that in reality.

This has turned into an awesome discussion on a culture that I never really put much thought into; thanks, everybody, for expanding my worldview.
posted by lekvar at 11:59 AM on July 8, 2008


Nelson and lekvar (and others) - you really need to read Talking Hands which is a study of a unique sign language and asks bigger picture questions of what makes a language a language. It is an utterly fascinating read from an intellectual standpoint.
posted by plinth at 12:48 PM on July 8, 2008


I worked for a theater for the deaf for 2 seasons, and it was really neat to learn about sign names. I'm pretty proud of mine, which is one of the unique, non-initialized sign names. I'll describe it:

Here's how I was given this name. My original sign name was a combination of "J", my first initial, and the sign for crazy, but it didn't really stick. They needed a sign name for me quickly because we were rehearsing an educational show and we needed to introduce ourselves. So we used the J-Crazy sign, but the deafies didn't really like it. So they kept looking for another sign name.

One of the deaf actors, whose name was "MJS" (very simple sign name), liked to play with signs the way hearing people like to play with words. He was very good at it. He noticed that I liked two particular signs - "cool", the colloquial sign here which is your thumb on your chest, all fingers extended and wiggling, eyebrows raised; and "I love you always", which is the "I love you" sign with the forefinger going in a circle (which indicates "forever"). He decided to blend these two signs together, and that became my new sign name. I thought it was supercool and started using that exclusively.

It's especially fun meeting new deaf people because it's such a different sign name, especially for a "hearie", that I get to explain it, and it gives me a little "deaf cred", so to speak.
posted by starvingartist at 8:19 PM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


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