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August 11, 2010 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I hope I don't offend by asking, but somebody has to:

What's the point?
posted by heyethan at 4:27 PM on August 11, 2010

The most sophisticated rendering of a Black Eyed Peas song to date.
posted by yoyoceramic at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2010

What's the point?

I don't understand the question.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

What's the point?

once again Who Framed Rodger Rabbit ? is the guide to all human knowledge:

EDDIE: You mean you could've escaped at any time?

ROGER: No not any time. Only when it was funny.
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Personally, I escaped before it got funny. Did it actually get funny?
posted by graventy at 4:34 PM on August 11, 2010

At first I thought they were at a dance or some other smallish group event and I thought it was cool that they had an interpreter.

But then I realized they were at a live concert, and I too kind of wonder what the point is? Why would you go to a live concert if you can't hear the music and you can't watch the band because you are looking at the interpreter?

It was fun to watch though. I like how she "danced" the lyrics to convey the rhythm of the song.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:41 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keeping deaf fans rockin' from the Seattle Times about ASL interpreters at rock shows.
posted by vespabelle at 4:42 PM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

See, this is one of those things that seems like a pretty weak and thin post, but if you do a quick Google on the lady's name -- Pam Parham -- you find that she does this sort of thing all the time, like, even for a living possibly, and does seminars and stuff (PDF) on the subject:

The growing popularity of interpreted performances - that is, theatrical or musical productions with sign language interpreters involved in the performance – likewise points to a measure of acceptance among the Deaf community of participation in mainstream literary traditions. And yet, careful examination of the ways in which these traditions are created and the resultant linguistic objects and their performances give us further evidence for independent aesthetic judgments which are made by the translation supervisors, directors and performers.

In conclusion, nifty.

P.S. I would love to see her interpretation of the Alanis Morissette version.
posted by Gator at 4:48 PM on August 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

Keeping deaf fans rockin' from the Seattle Times about ASL interpreters at rock shows.

Hey, that's JoAnna! My partner is good friends with her from back when he was a sign language interpreter in DC. She's awesome.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:48 PM on August 11, 2010

Why would you go to a live concert if you can't hear the music and you can't watch the band because you are looking at the interpreter?

Deaf people can enjoy music - most deafness isn't absolute, and if it is you can often sense the music vibrations if not make out the words. Deaf people feeling music is processed in the same part of the brain as hearing people so it's likely the same sensation.

My son's school has a hearing impairment unit and those kids like their music. I really enjoyed the video, she caught the mood pretty good.
posted by shinybaum at 4:50 PM on August 11, 2010 [10 favorites]

This is a public service. It's important that the hearing impaired get to hate bad music, too.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's really bright in there, for a concert.
posted by penduluum at 4:52 PM on August 11, 2010

I like the girls who are like, "I need to get her autograph!" "I know, right?"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:54 PM on August 11, 2010

Re: Your Brains, including appropriate costuming.
posted by Jeanne at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks, shinybaum. I didn't think about non-total deafness, and I had no idea about the brain thing. That's amazing.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2010

That is, the Alanis Morrissette version, for anyone still interested. Last try.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:12 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doesn't anybody flag the posts down here?
posted by CynicalKnight at 5:27 PM on August 11, 2010

It seems some people can look at a thing and simply not see the joy.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:34 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was in an ASL chorus for a year in fifth grade. We were called "The Signers of the Times."
posted by lumensimus at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

This makes me realize how little I understand about the way deaf people process language. Does rhyming and rhythm make sense to deaf folks? One can sign rhythmically (see all videos above), but what about reading the text a poem? Is there an equivalent of rhyming in sign language? Would a native English speaker who's lost their hearing vocalize an English translation when they see a sign, and thus get a rhyme? I have such a strong association between words I read and the way they sound that it's hard to imagine processing language as purely visual communication.

Anyway, cool that signers can attach lyrics to the thump thump thump. Though I'm not sure that the Black Eyed Peas are the best band for this treatment.
posted by domnit at 5:48 PM on August 11, 2010

What's the point?
posted by Brocktoon at 5:52 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

+10 style points.
posted by bwg at 5:56 PM on August 11, 2010

This makes me realize how little I understand about the way deaf people process language

Oliver Sacks wrote an interesting book about that. Of course he might have been debunked by actual deaf people but it was interesting all the same.
posted by shinybaum at 5:56 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whatever. Like, sign language is *so* 2005...
posted by mazola at 5:58 PM on August 11, 2010

I really like CaptainValor/Stephen Torrence's videos - he did the Re: Your Brains one that Jeanne linked above, and a lot of his videos have subtitles with the original lyrics and the gloss for the ASL (tragically, not Bohemian Rhapsody). The ones I'm really liking so far:

- I Feel Fantastic (Jonathan Coulton)
- Still Alive (Portal/Jonathan Coulton) (live w/out subtitles)
- Fireflies (Owl City)

Here's a video in which he talks about the process of translating. And now I'd better stop before I link all his videos.
posted by bettafish at 5:59 PM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

domnit - there was an question on the green about that several years ago.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:59 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I got to see the FSDB (FLorida School for the Deaf And Blind) Dance Troupe do their Christmas show the last two years and those kids rock out. The partially impaired kids get the beat pretty quickly; the more profoundly impaired kids watch and count. By performance time, they are a precision unit, and sooo much fun. They drag kids out of the audience (they perform at schools all over FLorida) and make them dance, too. By the end of the show, the whole audience is on its feet, waving hands in the air (signifies applause visually).

By the way, their football team is good, too. The visually impaired linemen rest a hand on the nearest sighted player and wait for the muscle twitch (at the snap) to allow them to plunge forward through the line and open it up for the ballcarrier. I've seen the Dragons play several times and never a false start or encroachment. Those guys do *not* jump offside.

BTW, Florida Deaf (as it's called around here) is where Ray Charles went to school.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:03 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school, our sports teams started playing a hearing impaired school in my junior year. Before our first game against them, we found out hey had cheerleaders. What's a deaf soccer team need cheerleaders for, we all asked. Their cheerleaders had signers and bass drum players. After about a minute with the drums, we found out how the deaf kids "heard" the cheerleaders. It's kinda the same with music and concerts.
posted by crataegus at 6:17 PM on August 11, 2010

Put a donk on it - this lady really works it
posted by madamjujujive at 7:26 PM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed that very much, after I turned the sound off.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:29 PM on August 11, 2010

This isn't ASL. This is PSE (pidgin sign English). Which is not to say that it's not still interesting and fun. My sign is rusty PSE with dreams of ASL. And I also like Torrence's stuff. It's nifty to watching if you are English-based, but again I can see the second language aspect.

Torrence's version of 'I Gotta Feeling.' Fun, great energy...but this is very English-based.

Here's a man who is Deaf of Deaf performing an ASL version of 'I Gotta Feeling.' One difference you'll see between his interpretation and Steven Torrence's is the sign he's using to convey 'do it.' He uses a sign that means approximately 'keep going/doing'. Steven Torrence is using the verb 'do.' It doesn't...make as much sense. Also the man's facial expressions are....they're Deaf, and that's really the only way I can describe it. It's the easiest way to tell between ASL and English, for me.

Here's zephyreros performing SexyBack at Gaulladet. I love his videos.

Here is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults--hearing) man doing an ASL interpretation of Regina Spektor's 'Fidelity.' He is also amazing. Truly amazing.

Here is another performance by comedians who are CODAs. I laughed so hard I cried. Because...hahahaha!!!
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:33 PM on August 11, 2010 [13 favorites]

FYI, if you read the comments, I believe zephyreros was born what would be called hard-of-hearing from an audiology standpoint, but he is culturally Deaf. He doesn't identify as hard-of-hearing (HOH), and that's what he's talking about.

In contrast, I am hearing and as I get older, I will become HOH, because I currently have post-language-acquisition unilateral hearing loss (and central auditory processing problems), and age is just speeding that on up.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:43 PM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Awesome videos, Uniformitarianism!
posted by bettafish at 8:06 PM on August 11, 2010


I could be chatty all night about song interpretation...I think what illustrates it best for me--at least when it comes to SEE (signed exact English), PSE and ASL--is a story that didn't actually happen to me but I'm gonna steal it and tell it anyway:

So, my friend happened to be wandering around our university's union and accidentally walked in on a jazz workshop that Wynton freakin' Marsalis was holding for our jazz band. I don't know how my friend managed not to get kicked out, but he was a lucky and found a seat and listened in. In the course of the workshop, Marsalis asked one of the senior students to perform and do some improv on trumpet. According to my friend, the man was very good and it was very complicated, lots of grace notes and flourishes, and my friend was impressed. (I personally am impressed that the student did not wee himself in terror, because that's what I would have done if I were in a workshop and Wynton freakin' Marsalis asked me to improvise for him.)

The man finishes, and Marsalis nods and says 'That was very good. You've got real talent and I can see that. But I'm going to teach you something here about jazz that's very important, and when you understand this, you're going to be even better.'

So Marsalis picks up his own trumpet, and he plays one single long note, just one, and you gotta understand that this one note is just hanging in the air, bright and clean and clear and mesmerizing and no one is even breathing because this one note is that riveting--and suddenly he cuts it off just as cleanly and brightly and perfectly and the room is absolutely still, the audience sitting there dead quiet, mouths open, blown away by this one perfect note.

And Wynton Marsalis puts his trumpet down and he says ' in the silences.'

That story is how I think about ASL versus PSE. PSE can look really good--and to people who don't have much contact with visual languages, it often looks 'better' because the signing seems more complicated and usually contains more distinct 'words,' etc.

But when people use pure ASL, they're understanding and using 'the silences.'
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:57 PM on August 11, 2010 [18 favorites]

Thanks for posting, bettafish! Fireflies is one of my favorite songs!
posted by garnetgirl at 8:58 PM on August 11, 2010

The ASL translation for Miley Cyrus, Party In The USA is brilliant. Way better than the original.

Sean Forbes is a deaf singer, love the line 'deafer than def jam'. I was looking for an old hiphop song about cultural genocide of the US deaf community but google is failing me.
posted by shinybaum at 9:06 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why would you go to a live concert if you can't hear the music and you can't watch the band because you are looking at the interpreter?

Deaf people can enjoy music - most deafness isn't absolute, and if it is you can often sense the music vibrations if not make out the words. Deaf people feeling music is processed in the same part of the brain as hearing people so it's likely the same sensation.

On this note, Evelyn Glennie.
posted by el_lupino at 11:04 PM on August 11, 2010

August 2010
A video of Pam Parham performing a sign language version of "My Humps" becomes viral on the internet after being featured on Metafilter, Digg, Buzzfeed, and Neatorama. It is also a Facebook and Twitter sensation.

September 2010
Never one to let a pop culture blip pass by unexploited, decides to play off the popularity of the video by featuring ASL-style dancing in the video for the "Massive," a sneak-peak single from The Beginning, the follow-up album to The E.N.D.

The directors of the video, brothers Emmett and Brendan Malloy, hire Lucinda Hoefler, a young New York choreographer who happens to have a Deaf brother and is familiar with ASL. Hoefler convinces the Malloys to hire Pam Parham as a consultant to the video.

"Massive" features quick cuts of choreographed ASL-style dancing performed by numerous dancers. "Massive" isn't well-received, but the dancing strikes a chord with younger viewers, who upload step-by-step tutorials on YouTube.

October 2010
A video of a group of 17 junior high and high school students spontaneously performing the choreography from "Massive" in a Toronto bus station becomes another YouTube breakout video. After days of speculation, both Gawker and TechCrunch determine that the video is legit and not the fruits of a BEP viral marketing campaign.

Two weeks later, the video for Drake's "Fancy" is released. Also choreographed by Lucinda Hoefler with assistance from Pam Parham, the video features ASL-style dancing from beginning to end in one epic uninterrupted shot. "Fancy" becomes a "Single Ladies"-style phenomenon, triggering multiple recreations, translations, tutorials, demonstrations, and parodies across YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and College Humor.

November 2010

YouTube video of an elaborate group Halloween costume in Charlotte, North Carolina emerges, featuring revelers dressed as every single dancer from the Drake video performing the ASL-style dancing of the "Fancy" video at the city's annual Downtown Spookathon.

Drake appears on Conan O'Brien's TBS show in its second week. During the interview, he refers to the dance style as "sign dancing." Despite being not entirely accurate, the name sticks, though a few holdouts still refer to it as Sparkle Motion.

December 2010
Teenagers, many of them Deaf, begin releasing sign dancing translations of popular songs. ASL instructional videos on YouTube see a sharp rise in viewership.

After months of pre-release hype, Tron Legacy opens to initially strong box office and a lukewarm reception from critics and moviegoers. The film is enormously lucky in one respect, however: one scene features a futuristic club scene where a form of tightly organized dancing is practiced. Unlike almost every "science fiction nightclub scene" in movie history, the club shots look appealing and modern, and teenagers get a glimpse of what a world in which every song had a canonical sign dancing translation would look like.

Michael Bublé throws in a few ASL words during his Super Bowl performance of the Star Spangled Banner. Though not sign dancing per se, the gestures are audibly appreciated by the crowd. Gawker predicts this marks the end of the sign dancing fad, but this doesn't prove to be the case. (The Saints beat the Giants in overtime.)

Other artists feature sign dancing in their music videos, and official sign dancing translations of songs begin appear on commercial artists' official YouTube channels. A few major labels attempt to monetize the translations. They fail.

The Disney Channel creates a very popular sign dancing TV show featuring sign dancing contests, fan-made translations, and official sign dancing routines for songs by Disney tween idols. Nickelodeon quickly follows suit.

So You Think You Can Dance, judged in part by Hoefler, crowns a sign dancing crew from Oakland as their winner. By the next season, all but two of the dance teams will be sign dancers. Step Up 4 The Sign is released and does poorly despite spectacular choreography.

The Deaf community is split on sign dancing: many feel that it's a good exposure for their culture, while others feel that it's a form of exploitation. Many of them find that their ASL knowledge offers them opportunities to teach classes, tutor dancers, and find work behind-the-scenes of the recording industry.

Like a seventh grader taking her first year of French, tweens and teenagers begin peppering their spoken conversations with ASL words and phrases. These are mostly emotion words and adjectives, and function much like emoticons, emphasizing or clarifying the speaker's tone.

Sign dancing revives the moribund music video industry, though music videos increasingly resemble sign dancing instructional videos. Sign dancing has begun infiltrating non-dance acts as well, with flashes of signing appearing in performance videos of a few notable indie bands, including Battles and Ratatat. It's not entirely clear if this is sincere or not.

Martyn Skia, the winner of 2012's American Idol, performs sign dancing during her winning performance. She receives a standing ovation and signed congratulations from judges Harry Connick Jr, Randy Jackson, and Christina Aguilera.

A popular commercial for the iPad 4G shows a FaceTime session with ten teenage girls practicing their sign dancing. (Chromium and Windows "iPad killers" are announced, expected in Q1 or Q2 2013). Lady Gaga, coming off the disappointing sales of her most recent album, performs a solo sign dancing routine on a bare, unadorned stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. The performance is supposed to strip away all artifice and show her raw natural talent; though the dancing and signing are impressive, Gawker correctly predicts that this is the final proof that the former trend-setter is now a trend-chaser.

Some members of the Deaf community become more vocal in denouncing sign dancing, saying that it's reducing their culture to a fad. A widely-emailed essay by Joel Johnson argues that sign dancing (as well as sign language) has transcended Deafness. He appears on Face The Nation and engages in a cordial back-and-forth with Pam Parham.

More and more ASL is finding its way into the language of teenagers, becoming a youth argot understandable by other teens and mostly incomprehensible to adults. The young are also discovering that a completely silent language has its advantages. Linguists are already beginning to compare it to polari and rhyming slang. MTV2's reboot of The OC features near-constant signing, and plotlines can often be followed with the show on mute. (Wags note the same was true of the original show as well.)

Sign dancing has become widespread in most nightclubs. Coolness is now determined not only by clothes and style but by knowledge of sign dancing routines for popular songs. Breaking the choreography of a sign dancing group by flubbing or forgetting part of the routine is a dreaded social faux pas.

Though daunting, there's also a sort of comfort in this, as well, particularly for awkward teenagers: go to any club, even one where you know no one, and--provided you know the steps--you can instantly become part of a large group, moving in time and experiencing the music together. Sign dancing offers both anonymity and communion. Some writers attempt to draw a connection between this phenomenon and larger conformist social trends. (These sorts of articles are to be expected during a Republican presidency.)

The long-anticipated grunge revival fizzles out almost immediately, eclipsed by a retro craze for 90s rave culture. Highly manic sign dancing is a common feature of these new raves, with the "translations" of the instrumental songs being interpretations of the mood and tones of the music as created by a new breed of artist: sign poets. "Clear," the Academy Award-nominated biopic of techno pioneer Juan Atkins, uses anachronistic sign dancing during many scenes set in the 80s, to the amusement and disdain of older viewers.

The same year, baile funk goes mainstream, and sign poets from across cultures work together via Google Conspire to create accurate and popular translations of the songs.

Sign dancing has become just dancing. ASL is in widespread use by everyone under 25…schools, universities, and "coffee" shops feature near non-stop signing, and often seem eerily quiet.

The Democrats are back in power, and Bruce Springsteen is named the poet laureate of the United States. He declines the position.

Other forms of sign language have all but died out, preserved only as historical curiosities, and ASL has become the first truly universal global language…at least for people under the age of 35, who grew up with sign dancing. Older members of the world still struggle with signing, and a typically mean-spirited meme of the day features an elderly man struggling to sign with comically arthritic knuckles.

Many of the young discover that they're growing incapable--or perhaps just unwilling--to fully understand spoken language unadorned by ASL signifiers. They find spoken language as hard to parse for tone, meaning, and intention as plain text Instant Messaging was for their parents at the turn of the century.

The 4chan Charitable Trust raises an unprecedented amount of money to help them "troll malaria around the globe." In the media, aging members of Generation X are as mocked and reviled as the Boomers once were.

Most babies learn signing before they learn spoken language, and are able to communicate with their parents at a much younger age because of it. Many children communicate almost exclusively in ASL, peppering their conversations with monosyllabic words--"sad," "yay," "let's go"--to help convey their meaning.

Thanks to gene therapy, stem cell transplants, and nano-implants, both blindness and deafness is nearly eradicated in the First World, though there are members of the Deaf community who prefer to not have any procedures done. (They're not hassled about their decision…though 2040 is in many ways a much worse place than 2010, one thing is much better: the prevailing ethos of the time could be summed up as Live And Let Live. Or, less charitably: You Leave Me Alone And I'll Leave You Alone.)

Though increasingly rare, some conditions can't be treated, and there is a small group of people who will never hear or see, regardless of their decisions in the matter. Video of one of these groups--a handful of blind European teenagers attending the Berlin show of the Bonde do Role reunion tour--becomes a sensation on what used to be called the Internet.

Moved by the electropop music being pumped all around them but unable to see the 120,000-strong sign dance happening in the arena, the teenagers break off and begin to move their bodies in time with the music, slowly at first but soon with more and more abandon. It's not sign dancing, it's…something else, something based on rhythm and the beat instead of the story of the song. It's new and primal and powerful and teenagers around the world pull it up in their homes and attempt to recreate it. A young singer just got a great idea for his next music video.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:21 AM on August 12, 2010 [22 favorites]

"But then I realized they were at a live concert, and I too kind of wonder what the point is? Why would you go to a live concert if you can't hear the music and you can't watch the band because you are looking at the interpreter?"

You know, there are other reasons to do a thing, having nothing to do with how a thing is billed. And who are we to project our world view onto why something wouldn't be enjoyable for somebody else? Instead of pointing out what's missing, why don't we seek the answer in what's common, or what someone else is getting out of an experience that we're not?

Why does anybody go out, when you can cook at home? Why go to a show, when the songs are right there, in your music player? What's the point of going to a foreign film, if you must read the subtitles instead? What's the point of being around people, if you can't talk to any of them?

One thing - plucked out of an unquantifiable many - we have in common, Deaf or hearing, is the desire to be social.* To feel the energy of others and swim in it. To dance. To see a performance. To enjoy oneself in a public space with movement and chaos loosely aggregated around a palpable beat.

Maybe it's fun to watch the interpreter. I think it is. I'm not fluent in sign language, so why do I bother? But I know there's something there, something I'm missing out on. At the very least, there's an extra layer of meaning, a subtext, between the signer and the ASL speaker. That part, it is their song only. And I'm fascinated by it, even though I don't fully understand. It's not the point for me to. I can enjoy and appreciate it just the same.

*Another thing we have in common is fluency in a language - not the same languages, true, but full, rich languages just the same...languages with intonation, accent, syntax, morphology, metaphor, and all the other things we take for granted and simply assume only exist in speech space. I think it's important to point that out, because it's easy and dangerous to assume that ASL somehow lacks that richness and complexity. But to do so would, in reality, be saying something about the minds and brain capacity of Deaf persons. Which is of course, ridiculous. I'm not calling anybody out here, just pointing out the slippery slope, hoping nobody accidentally falls into it.

Also, Uniformitarianism Now!'s comments here are excellent. Flagged as Fantastic.

posted by iamkimiam at 5:11 AM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


(looks around)

Sorry, flashback.
posted by solistrato at 7:01 AM on August 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

shinybaum pretty much nailed it... many deaf people are not 'absolutely' deaf. They not only feel the vibrations, but can often make out (or 'hear') the lower frequencies. Many deaf people laugh or vocalize in a very 'low' tone - it's what they 'hear'.

A friend of mine is a grad student at Gallaudet University here in DC (the deaf University). Before meeting him, I had the same mis-perceptions about deaf people and the deaf community in general. I didn't even know there WAS a deaf community.

So here's a slightly off-topic personal story. Hopefully this won't come across as insensitive, but rather as an admission that I was clueless as to the world of deaf people and the deaf community in general...

I went to Gallaudet to join my friend for lunch one day. He showed me around campus and we had lunch in the school food court. If you've never had the opportunity and want some exposure to what you 'think' is a different world, go have lunch at a deaf school.

Everyone and everything was as normal as could be - except for the fact that I was in some weird juxtaposition of being the only person in the room who couldn't understand what everyone was saying around me. Everyone there was deaf. EVERYONE... save me. The cashiers, the cooks, the dude mopping the floor, all the students and teachers. To the very last one of them, they were carrying on about their day, or conducting business - and I was totally lost. It really put me in their shoes - or at least how their shoes could be if they hadn't learned how to deal with being deaf and how to communicate. It was really an eye-opener to my insular little world, and I still feel honored for being given the chance to experience it.

My friend can read lips well, and can hear muted tones. He's taught me some basic sign language - so between my fumbling attempts, his lip-reading, and a natural ability between humans to figure out what someone of another language is trying to say we managed to carry on a decent conversation.

At one point during a lull in our conversation I noticed he was staring around the mostly silent yet extremely active food court. He was watching everyone else... and I realized he was EAVESDROPPING! I called him out on it, but he just said "sure, why not? If you don't want someone to know what you're saying, don't sign it." Interpretations of privacy in the deaf community are significantly different than what I'd ever experienced before. Even in a public setting, 'we' expect some degree of privacy - never thinking for a second that a person 20 yards away is listening to our conversation... but that's exactly what he was doing and no one gave it a second thought (as I eventually observed others doing the same to us).


I was caught off guard when a friend of his joined us at the table... he introduced us and I went through my usual 'nice to meet you' signing. I guess I did it passably enough, as she launched into a conversation with the two of us where I had no idea what she was saying. She didn't realize I was hearing, and didn't understand at first why I just stared at her. My friend signed to her that I was hearing and she just... stopped. She looked at him and mouthed/signed "I can't talk to him".

Huh? What? I looked her straight in the eye and told her I can read her lips, so yes she CAN talk to me. Kinda bitchy of me to be on her turf and demand she communicate with me I know... but that's how a person who's used to being able to communicate with anyone reacts when suddenly denied that presumably inherent right. I felt like the stupid American in a foreign country. So she smiled a little bit and tried. Bless her... she was truly a gracious person.

We managed to make some small talk back and forth, and I asked her if she liked to SCUBA dive as that's how my friend and I met. Side note... deaf people make unique and amazing SCUBA divers. I'm working on my DiveMaster certification, and you ain't seen nuthin' till you've seen a group of deaf people underwater talking up a storm about whatever they're looking at while everybody else is just shrugging their shoulders. Advantage Team Deaf!!!

Back to story... she looked at me like I'd slapped her. So I asked her again if she liked to SCUBA dive??? My friend started signing furiously and rapidly at her, then she looked at me, smiled a little smile, and laughed. Turns out the signing for 'SCUBA' ain't that far off from that for 'blow job'.
posted by matty at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Uniformitarianism Now!, thanks for the great clips and your awesome comments.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:59 PM on August 12, 2010

One of the things that struck me watching Russell Harvard's "I Gotta Feeling" is that he's using two different languages. He's signing and he's mouthing the words in English.

My ASL has 20 years of rust on it, but I remember how hard it was to sign and talk. Usually, I preferred to only sign, because the syntax, grammar and, well, feeling were so different in each. To be able to dance, sign and mouth in English...damn, that is impressive.
posted by QIbHom at 3:12 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

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