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Cee Lo's 'Fuck You' in ASL
January 13, 2011 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Cee Lo's Fuck You in sign language. So much more uplifting than it sounds. (SLYT)

This is possibly already well-linked to elsewhere, but is too awesome to risk anyone in the world not having seen it. (via fabius)

Related previously.
posted by penguin pie (70 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
recalls a thing from Jimmy Fallon a couple of nights ago one his his hashtag jokes #worstlieIevertold..someone tweeted "Told my 5 year old nephew that giving the finger was sign language for Hello"
posted by timsteil at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loved this.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:59 AM on January 13, 2011


That's a lot more complex than the version I learned.
posted by Malor at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that was fun! Thanks for posting that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:12 PM on January 13, 2011


That was adorable.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2011


That was great. It reminds me of the segment in Pearl Jam's "Touring Band 2000" where Eddie draws attention to the ASL interpreter right before performing Given To Fly, and her performance/interpretation of that song and all its joy is a pure energy volcano.

I love seeing ASL interpreters at concerts, but usually don't want to be sitting where I can watch them, because I end up never looking at the band if I have all that poetry-in-motion within my sight lines. (Thank goodness the ASL section for the recent Roger Waters show I saw was all the way across the arena!)
posted by hippybear at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2011 [18 favorites]


That was great...I feel bad about having had such low expectations.
posted by aerotive at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2011


That was an awesome video and hippybear thanks for the link to the Pearl Jam segment, that was incredible as well.
posted by Inkoate at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2011


Pure awesome.

I do have a couple questions though. I am pretty ignorant of sign language in general. Is it a colloquial language? For example using the fingers under the chin to say "fuck you" actually mean that or is just a way of expressing general disenchantment? My other question is, does asl have the same degrees of meaning? To cite another example, there is a distinct difference between saying "I need to take a shit" and "I need to go poop". It would appear to someone who has no experience with signing that there are only so many words to make with 2 arms without having to spell out each letter?
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2011


Hopefully someone with more knowledge and expertise than me will weigh in, but yes, it's a fully-fledged language* in its own right, every bit as complex as any spoken/written form of language. Things like grammar and tone are expressed differently - it's not simply a way of visually representing each word in an English sentence - but are just as complex and expressive as in other languages. If you really think about it (or watch someone signing for any length of time) there are countless ways you can combine the fluid movements of your fingers/hands/arms. I have a friend who works in deaf education and I was recently out for a night in the pub with her colleagues. If I'd been in a room full of (for example) German speakers, I'd have just felt bored and excluded, but watching a room full of people communicating in BSL was captivating.

*or rather languages - different countries have their own - even British and American sign languages are very different, I believe.
posted by penguin pie at 12:52 PM on January 13, 2011


American Sign Language (and any other developed sign) is as complex as any spoken language. There's plenty of ways to say the same thing, and a rich variety of puns, nuances, etc. The visual / spatial mode in sign makes some things seem quite different, what's fascinating is that the underlying structural elements aren't that different from spoken language, just shifted to a different mode.

One particularly neat thing about ASL is how pronouns are placed on a stage around the speaker. You can seet his in the linked video around 0:35, where "fuck you" is to the left of the speaker and "fuck her too" is to the right. I don't sign, but my understanding is it's common for a speaker to place a pronoun in one spot and refer back to that spot over the span of minutes, disambiguating one "her" from another. I don't see that here, though, for instance at 1m50s and 2m25s the performer is turning the "you" into more of a Cee Lo video-style gesture. Sign performance is neat in how it mixes language and dance.
posted by Nelson at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for explaining that. I wish I didn't feel like and idiot for having to ask it.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2011


Such a great song, done with such joy. Awesome.
posted by bonehead at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"situated inside a swan-shaped paddle boat, smoothly navigating the lights at the end of your telescope. zoom in really close; you'll notice no tan lines. for the next four bars, i'm going to say it with hand signs."
posted by the aloha at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2011


She's totally cute. So delightfully sassy in her presentation. I also enjoyed her teacher's grins when the class broke out in shock-fun laughter.

Thanks for the smiles.
posted by nickyskye at 1:03 PM on January 13, 2011


Oh, thanks hippybear, that Pearl Jam one was great, too. I love how she indicated the generic vocalizing he was doing, and guitar strikes, and drum rolls and such.

In my life, I've been so taken with watching ASL that I ended up studying it, and I used in my work for a few years. I've lost most of it now, but it's still a beautiful thing to watch.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:04 PM on January 13, 2011


Is there anything cute hipster girls can't make better?

I noticed the sign for Ferrari was a generic "hands at ten and two on a steering wheel" gesture. Either Ferrari was the first auto manufacture to have their name translated into ASL or there's some artistic interpretation being taken.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:05 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perfect. It almost feels like the song was made FOR this video.
posted by naju at 1:09 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was great. It was expressive in two languages at once, and they were totally reinforcing each other.
posted by grimmelm at 1:13 PM on January 13, 2011


There's been an ASL version of a Cee-Lo song linked to on MeFi before. Looks like the video is gone, though.
posted by painquale at 1:14 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


BEST BEST BEST ASL video: Bohemian Rhapsody (I don't think I'm underselling it)
posted by jng at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most annoying are the ones by the guy who did those Miley Cyrus videos. As someone who took an ASL class years ago, I definitely appreciate how clearly he signs. But god, can you be any more cheerful???
posted by jng at 1:26 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heh - when I visited my girlfriend this xmas, we were listening to something, and the idea of Deaf Rap (though I guess it'd be more mute rap) came to me, and wondered if there's any movement for Deaf (Def?) Rap. I think it'd be cool, being able to use the subtleties and whatever else that sign language allows for (in the same way rap uses puns and witticisms).

The great thing is, if they did it right, even though us non sign-language users couldn't fully grok it, we could still appreciate some of it, in the same way I can appreciate foreign language rap for it's own rhythmic qualities.
posted by symbioid at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear, thanks for sharing that Pearl Jam clip. That was lovely.
posted by Kimberly at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2011


Ah, previously.
posted by jng at 1:35 PM on January 13, 2011


Awesome! Also worth a look - a sign language dictionary: http://www.spreadthesign.com/gb/
Only cataloguing European sign languages so far but endlessly interesting to someone who's as fascinated by sign languages as I am.

Full disclosure: my brother-in-law is one of the people working on this project.
posted by pyrex at 1:43 PM on January 13, 2011


I'd love to know why she gets such a big laugh for the "your little boyfriend" line around 1'20", when she does a little heart sign with both hands against her chest and her thumbs wiggling, I wonder if it's some kind of cleverly-constructed diminutive or slang.
posted by penguin pie at 1:56 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So "fuck" in ASL isn't the middle finger extended. I don't know if I should be disappointed or relieved.
posted by ymgve at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2011


I'm intrigued with the idea of signed comedy, and how it might vary from spoken comedy. Unfortunately, I know squat about signing. I am surprised to hear that Auslan (Australian sign language) has borrowed largely from Irish sign language, has dialects within it, and is distinct from 'signed English.' Look forward to watching this vid after work.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2011


For example using the fingers under the chin to say "fuck you" actually mean that or is just a way of expressing general disenchantment?

I think that's a universal sign, or at least common in many European countries.

Here is a link for an ASL dictionary. You can donate to them, too. Please do.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2011


That was great. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 2:52 PM on January 13, 2011


It would appear to someone who has no experience with signing that there are only so many words to make with 2 arms without having to spell out each letter?

This is a cool question. (I'm a linguistics grad student, so I have a skewed sense of what counts as a cool question, but bear with me.)

The answer is, there's a lot of "hidden detail" there — detail that those of us who don't speak ASL don't necessarily notice. For instance, a lot of these handshapes seem pretty damn similar to a non-signer. But for someone who speaks ASL, they're as clear and distinct as the difference between "P" and "T" in English. (And it can take years for a Deaf toddler to learn to make and recognize all those distinctions in handshape on the fly, just like it can take an English-speaking toddler years to get all their L's and R's and W's straight.)

Multiply all those handshapes by the number of possible positions, hand and arm movements, and so on, and you've got many thousands of possible signs. And then shifts in body posture, facial expression, mouth and eyebrow movements and so on are all meaningful too — though they correspond more closely to things like word order and tone of voice in English than they do to individual English words. So yeah, the upshot is that it's possible for ASL to have a really big (and rich and nuanced) vocabulary, even though you wouldn't necessarily expect a manual language to offer that many possibilities.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:17 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fabulous. Sent it to my son, whose girlfriend is deaf.

They're seventeen, okay? Get off my back!
posted by misha at 3:19 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm always super stoked when sign interpreters come translate for shows I've worked on. The most fun is listening to them figure out how they are going to translate Shakespeare.
posted by Uncle at 3:22 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I noticed the sign for Ferrari was a generic "hands at ten and two on a steering wheel" gesture. Either Ferrari was the first auto manufacture to have their name translated into ASL or there's some artistic interpretation being taken.

Well, if you look closely, it kinda looks like she's motioning with her thumbs to indicate she's using steering wheel paddle shifts - not exclusively a Ferrari feature, but one often found on their models.
posted by i less than three nsima at 3:22 PM on January 13, 2011


Mute the first video, might have to pause one or the other for a split second if the videos don't load simultaneously:

http://youtubedoubler.com/?video1=http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DTJKA8us6k4k&start1=24&video2=http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3Dpc0mxOXbWIU&start2=14&authorName=Not+Sure
posted by kenotron at 3:50 PM on January 13, 2011


more youtube ASL recommendations, not mentioned upthread (I think):

There's AllyASL (Ironic, TikTok, song w/gloss how-to); though she's not a super-frequent updater, she's got a large backlog of interpreted songs. I was so bummed when her account was yanked for featuring UMG & Warner's music; fortunately the Electronic Frontier Foundation intervened on her behalf and was able to convince all it was fair use.

User ewittborg has many amazing ASL songs on youtube: Handlebars, Fidelty, Heartless

tiffanythill: Halo, Firework, Say Something

New Shit has been feaured on a metafilter thread before, I think. He interpreted Crazy as well.

Actor Russell Harvard's ASL I Gotta Feeling was awesome (and I'm not a big Black Eyed Peas fan)--the crowd got up & danced at the end...but it was pulled by UMG. But there's other uploaded songs on his youtube uploads page; he's also the only one of these ASL song performers who is deaf.
posted by neda at 4:27 PM on January 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the 'fuck you' sign, but I liked it even more when she did it two-handed.

Emphatic, and I just learned how to swear in yet another language. Awesome!
posted by bwg at 4:32 PM on January 13, 2011


My favorite part is the O, O, O.
posted by danb at 4:58 PM on January 13, 2011


Also previously related
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 5:27 PM on January 13, 2011


When I was in charge of a hospital interpretation program, I learned a coupla things about ASL. First I learned how to tell someone that my pocket is talking. Second, ASL is actually based on French sign language, and therefore more closely related to French than to English.
posted by jeoc at 5:53 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love ASL. I wish I was better at it.

I learned a new way to swear!
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:22 PM on January 13, 2011


I would have expected the sign for "fuck you" to be a middle finger. Instead she seemed to be using the New York Italian sign for "Vaffanculo".
posted by mike3k at 8:27 PM on January 13, 2011


That was awesome, and also I think I'm in love with that beautiful translator now. Translating into ASL while dancing and keeping a straight face and expressing a lot of sexy personality...yeah.

*Ahem*

On a somewhat related note, here's a vid of the same song with Japanese translation written over the top. Among other things, it's interesting 'cause "Fuck you" is translated into different Japanese expressions during the course of the song. Fun if you're into that sort of thing...
posted by dubitable at 9:14 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, if you look closely, it kinda looks like she's motioning with her thumbs to indicate she's using steering wheel paddle shifts - not exclusively a Ferrari feature, but one often found on their models.

If that is actually the level of sophisticated subtlety that is indicating to people that she is specifically talking about a Ferrari then ASL is even more awesome than I thought.

Of course regardless, ASL is awesome.
posted by dubitable at 9:18 PM on January 13, 2011


So "fuck" in ASL isn't the middle finger extended. I don't know if I should be disappointed or relieved.

Well, it is (er. Purists may argue that it is a loan word, but it certainly is used in that sense, beyond the purely gestural way hearing people use it). But there's plenty of obscenity out there; it's not a one-to-one relationship.

I contemplated making a "you know how Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow? Well, ASL has ..." joke, but thought better of it.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:24 PM on January 13, 2011


I'd love to know why she gets such a big laugh for the "your little boyfriend" line around 1'20", when she does a little heart sign with both hands against her chest and her thumbs wiggling, I wonder if it's some kind of cleverly-constructed diminutive or slang.

Seems to be similar to the gesture listed for "valentine" on the asl dictionary site linked above.
posted by nzero at 9:27 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how, for example, lumberjack is something like "cutting down trees person."
posted by nzero at 9:30 PM on January 13, 2011


Ohhh it's "sweetheart."
posted by nzero at 9:33 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and bean bag is "chair with beans inside." What a fantastic expressive language.
posted by nzero at 9:35 PM on January 13, 2011


My favorite regional profanity is a sign meaning approximately 'Fuck You and Die' popular among Deaf/HOH kids where/when I grew up, which is to fingerspell 'f-u-c-k' while making the sign of the cross at the target of your ire. You snap your wrist hard at the 'K' and shift to the pointing index finger, punch your hand through the plane of the cross right in the center and point right at the victim.

It's sort of like this:

F
|
C----YOU!----K
|
U


Except I can't get the 3-D projection of the 'YOU' onscreen. Done properly and angrily enough (and if you're really pissed, the 'F' and 'U' are well higher and lower respectively than the usual 'sign space'), it's almost like having a whip cracked in your face.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:35 PM on January 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


I was hoping that this would be awesome like this guy's signing. She's cute and she puts a lot of feeling to the song, but my impression is* that it's probably an ASL class project.
*I took a couple years of ASL so I'm not great at it, but I know enough to follow along. Not pretending to be an expert, and hopefully someone else better versed can come in and comment as well.
Basically, her signing feels very "English" to me - ASL has its own word order and idioms, and translating word-for-word doesn't work very well. The best song interpreters manage to not rely too much on the English words, but transfer the English meaning into something that's equally aesthetically pleasing visually, as the song is aurally - if you check the gloss captions for CaptainValor's songs, you can get an idea of how the ASL signs don't transfer word-for-word into English.

She is a good performer (and dancer), but her translation isn't that good I think.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:37 AM on January 14, 2011


Well, I thought it was amazing, and she is too cute for words. Thanks for making my morning penguin pie!
posted by toastedbeagle at 6:31 AM on January 14, 2011


I really liked the video too, but agreed with Gordafarin. The translation feels too literal. As much as I joked about how annoying cheerful and upbeat CapitainValor is, watching his videos is really great for learning about how natural ASL usually flows. Make sure to turn on the captions.
posted by jng at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2011


my impression is* that it's probably an ASL class project.

It says in the caption of the film that that's what it is. I think for people totally unfamiliar with sign language, just seeing the way she combines signs, dance and general attitude is what makes it so enjoyable, but I can see that if you're an expert it might have less impact.

I've just been watching this, from neda's post, and it's such an education - watching it with a totally ignorant eye like mine, you think "This guy can't be signing the lyrics, there are too few specific movements", but when you read the comments, everyone praises him for using "proper" ASL instead of translating English. From what the commenters say, he's adding so much nuance and storytelling through specific movements, expressions, and so on, that it's a phenomenal ASL version of the song.

For example, one commenter praises him for:
how you used the remaining index´╗┐ finger to transition into showing how the chorus was a first person narrative.

Like I say, an education.
posted by penguin pie at 8:41 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting. The version of 'fuck' that I learned was two V-hands smacked together. (It's as satisfying to sign as the English word is to say.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:43 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can see the two Vs bumping sign for "sex" in this video, complete with a charmingly literal modification for anal sex. But that's a sign for sexual activity and Cee Lo's use of "fuck you' is a different meaning of "fuck" entirely. Again, ASL is not English, it's a totally different language, and there's no reason to expect one for one word translation to be meaningful.

Wikipedia's article on profanity in ASL claims the sign in the Cee-Lo video is more of a gesture than an abstract sign. I could believe that, since it looks pretty much exactly like a common European vulgar gesture. Wikipedia also notes a variety of other ways to convey "fuck off".

(I've been holding off posting more because I don't speak sign and the last thing you need is an ignoramus like me quoting random bits of a language I don't speak. Do we really have no ASL fluent people on Metafilter?!)
posted by Nelson at 11:05 AM on January 14, 2011


Oh one more link, swearing in British Sign Language. Note that BSL is quite different from ASL, and neither are much like English. Some of the gestural and representational signs are similar ("wanker" seems to be a universal gesture) but then some are quite different too.
posted by Nelson at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2011


One of the chatrooms I hang out in online has a couple of deaf people who only speak ASL, and it's interesting to see how their syntax and stuff meshes with the incredibly small bit of what I know about ASL. It is truly a different language with its own syntax and everything.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2011


For what it's worth, asking whether the sign for "fuck" is a gesture or a word may be a little like asking whether ouch is a noise or an English word. Which is to say that I doubt it will have a single clear answer.

I mean, on the one hand, "ouch" is clearly borrowed from a set of ooh-ah-oof-ouch-oy-aiee-ack-ugh-type noises that people were already making long before modern English existed. On the other hand, it's one arbitrary noise out of that set that's been fixed as part of the language. Different languages have even made different arbitrary choices here — so there's a sense in which for instance you can say that ay is "Spanish for ouch." If it was "just" a noise, it wouldn't need to be translated. But then on the third hand you can imagine an English speaker making the noise ay! spontaneously when they stub their toe, and you wouldn't ask "Hey, dude, when did you learn Spanish?"...

So, yeah. It's complicated. And I suspect that that the situation with the "fuck" / "vaffanculo" sign in ASL may be complicated in an analogous way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2011


I'm wondering if my thinking is colored by the desire to avoid familiar (i.e., non-native ASL) signs. Regardless, she's definitely conveying the spirit of the song, which is the object of the exercise here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2011


That was wonderful. I showed it to my mother and she thought it was great too.
posted by NoraReed at 5:01 PM on January 14, 2011


Well, 'fuck' in the sign that you're discussing is...fucking. It's used in idioms as well, but...it's not the same as 'fuck' in English. I mean, you can say 'Fuck you" with K-hands or one K smacked on the palm of your hand and then point at the person you're insulting, but...I guess you're thinking as if the sign for 'fucking' equals the English all-purpose word 'fuck.' And they're not the same thing, really.

'Fuck you' the insult is not necessarily 'fuck you,' you know?
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:03 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Fuck you' the insult is not necessarily 'fuck you,' you know?

Oh yeah. People rarely mean it literally. That's why stuff like this is so interesting.

K-hands? Huh.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:39 PM on January 14, 2011


Yeah, K-handshape is how I learned. I've seen V-handshape consistently enough that I don't remember which one is 'correct.' Personally, I can't get over the association with the 'little bunny foo-foo' song from preschool if you use the V-handshape--to me it's not fucking, it's like bashing baby bunny heads together, which is neither explicit nor insulting, it's just terrible. So if K is wrong, I don't care--I'm sticking with how I learned in the first place. Funnily enough I have no trouble with V-handshape for indicating gaze, etc. Just that one sign and it totally evokes the DEATH OF BUNNIES. I'm sure that says something about my psyche.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:47 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I observe thee traveling across the village with the wench I favor; I proclaim "fornicate thou"!
posted by NoraReed at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2011


This is so awesome.

When I was a teenager, my best friend's boyfriend's brother was deaf. They taught me all the good swears. They were amused as hell when I would stutter when signing. I signed "fuck-fuck-fuck YOU" for months before they told me I was doing it wrong because they thought it was hilarious.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:25 PM on January 16, 2011


Another rendition of the same song. The guy had to take down the explicit version, but this one is still pretty good. Super-expressive. Gave me a new appreciation for the power of sign, no joke.

where does one go to learn ASL, anyway?

posted by pts at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2011


pts, I learned sign language at my local community college, but there is a deaf centre in the area, so that's likely why it was offered. Google "deaf services" in your location and ask them where you could learn to sign.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2011


The video is awesome.

The discussion here is also quite decidedly awesome, particularly when it evolved into the nuance of swearing, deaf or not.
posted by WalterMitty at 1:11 AM on January 25, 2011


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