Monday, April 20, 2009

Accidental ASL

Fifty years ago few hearing people knew American Sign Language unless they had deaf family members. Since then the linguists redefined 'language' so it doesn't have to be "spoken," and now thousands of people are taking ASL classes in college. Others are getting DVDs and trying to the learn that language over the internet and lots of hearing people are becoming fluent. That means something that wasn't a problem in the past can be one now.
Public Speakers often use gestures that mean things in Sign Language that may disturb or offend people in their audiences. Speakers who use those signs usually do so repeatedly. I'll try to describe the gestures and tell what they mean without using offensive language.
Holding both hands above the waist with palms up and fingers separated and slightly curved, then pulling the hands down refers to body parts used for nursing babies.
Holding hands below the waist with palms facing each other and the tips of the thumbs and fingers touching those on the opposite hand is very similar to the sign for female reproductive body parts.
People who understand either sign will be distracted from what speakers are saying if they see them.

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