Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Offensive Hand Gestures

My 8-year-old son recently brought home his latest selection from the school library:

I could dedicate an entire post to the unconventional, inscrutable being that is my son. But not today.

Today, I'll share a few gems I discovered when I paged through this sign language treatise. Signing is tricky business. To express yourself clearly and quickly, using a minimum of manual effort, you sometimes rely a bit on stereotypes. It's like cultural shorthand, you see.

For instance, the sign for IRISH is also the sign for POTATO since, as we all know, that humble vegetable is the foundation of all Irish cuisine.

Likewise, the sign for ARGENTINA is the same as the sign for GUITAR, because . . .

. . . because?

Huh. Just because.

Moving on, the sign for JEWISH or HEBREW requires the speaker to run his fingers over his chin as if stroking an imaginary beard. Which I guess makes sense, as many Jewish men are bearded and quite . . . uhh . . . contemplative, studying the Torah and all. I guess.

See how this works? Cultural shorthand! Which is why the sign for JAPANESE or ASIAN requires the speaker to pull his eyelids lengthwise and -

Wait. That can't be right. Really - THAT. CAN'T. BE. RIGHT. Let's take another example.

To sign the word HOMOSEXUAL, you simply pinch your fingers together into "ballet hands" and mince your shoulders back and forth as you emulate an effeminate walk . . .

Oh, COME ON, deaf people. That's just not nice. Can't you substitute another word for 'homosexual'? Like "Broadway", for example? Or "Barry Manilow?"

Wait. Hold the phone. It appears that there IS a sign-language substitute for "homosexual". Based on this definition, the sign for "homosexual" is nearly identical and virtually indistinguishable from the sign for . . .


Oy vey, as my gay, potato-eating, guitar-strumming, squinty-eyed, Jewish friend Herschel might say.

I give up, deaf people. I give up.


Suzy said...

What year was that book published? Very uh...interesting? Scary?

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is... amazing. I guess people who have no hearing don't have to listen to the ACLU or politicians as they whine about sensitivity and political correctness.

You know what? Maybe we need to vote in only deaf people. It would change the world.

Anonymous said...

this is an interesting perspective on launguage and life. I guess no matter who you are you have to deal with some items which are ...Uh holeywood...or colorful..Yes colorful!

foolery said...

That book definitely got my potato up! I mean...

; )

scrappysue said...

i always wanted to learn sign language, but now maybe i'm not so sure!!!

parijat said...

What's the sign for lesbian..?

Some Call Me...Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Some Call Me...Tim said...

Zach certainly has an interesting taste in literature.

Anyway, now I know how to keep politically correct when "talking" to deaf people.

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