They had all gone out to a bar for a couple of drinks and to gossip and share time for each other. Most were deaf, some were hearing, but sign was the mode of communication. Talk flew thick and fast. Every member of the group was a fan of the television show 'Fear Factor' and the talk turned to the events on the show the previous evening.
The woman telling me this story could barely suppress a grin as she told me of her night out with friends. She was attending a conference I was giving in Almonte and had come up just before afternoon break had ended. Before break I was emphasizing how the subject of the workshop 'The Ethics of Touch' was even more important to me now that I was in a wheelchair. People touch me differently, talk to me differently, use different tones of voice with me. I had always known, intellectually, that people with disabilities were treated differently, but know I knew this in a different way. She approached me and said, "I can tell from your workshop that you like funny stories, let me tell you one."
As they talked about 'Fear Factor' and the things that the contestant had to do they were using sign and facial expressions to communicate how disgusting some of the things were. Signs like 'pig anus' and 'slime and muck' were used along with a grimace or a sick look. Sign language, like spoken language, communicates tones and shadings of words. I learned this when I worked with deaf kids for a few months. It's possible to sign 'stop' in a casual tone and it's possible to yell 'STOP' by deliving the sign with more speed and force along with a vein popping expression on the face. The group was laughing as they put as much meaning into 'pig anus' as it's possible to do. The woman telling me this story was obviously an accomplished signer. As she told the story she kept slipping into sign as she talked. It think I saw 'pig anus' three or four times - it's not pretty.
A woman approached them after determing that a few of the signers could hear, "I really don't want to bother you or interupt you," she began "I just want you all to know that I think your language is beautiful."
She had no idea why this statement sent the group into hysterics.