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.