Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pig Anus

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.


Andrea said...

As a deaf person, I get that "your sign language is beautiful" line All. The. Time. From hearing people who know nothing about it. I never know how to respond because, on one hand, I know they're just being nice, but on the other hand I also know they aren't using the same criteria to judge the beauty of my/our signs as a Deaf person would use. I have been there at times when hearing people praised really lousy sign language interpreters for "doing so well" (er, how are THEY going to judge?) I guess they just think that anyone moving their hands is pretty or something, maybe because most hearing Americans are so constrained in how they use their hands that our signs seem more striking to them or something. I always respond politely (because, after all, I know it IS meant well) but often feel at a loss.

So I laughed at this story because it felt like the tables were turned back on the hearing people, even if they didn't know it! :-)

Andrea said...

In an unrelated matter:

Dave, have you heard anything of the Doug Bahl case in the US? The deaf community is in outrage about it. I'm feeling angry, sad, and helpless, and also feeling more afraid of what would happen to me if I ever had the wrong kind of encounter with the wrong police (i.e., police ignorant of how to communicate with deaf people).

More details at and also at

Are there good programs in place for training Canadian police in how to deal with people who are deaf ... or who have mental retardation, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, mental illnesses, or other commonly misunderstood disabilities? Could you picture this kind of incident happening in Canada?

Andrea (Disability, poverty, and human rights in developing countries)" (ADA Restoration Act and other disability advocacy in the US)

Sally said...

I will direct Bloggingmone, a professional interpretting signer, to this page.

Unknown said...

ahhhhhh yes...i get it.

I got it from my mother who used to speak to us in french.

"ferme~la bushe" (sp?)


fair-may la-boosh

beautiful to hear...unless you know it means.....



and from the other side of the coin, back before molly, before signing, before it Easter they had a community of people sit in the front pews during Mass...and sign the hymms.

The Allelujahs WERE beautiful to was the combination of people rejoicing the season.

I've always remembered that Mass with fondness, and took it as a token of what was in store for always look for the beauty in each soul, in each pair of hands.


n. said...

as an amateur polyglot, i will say that i think all languages are beautiful in their own way; you just have to get to know them to find it... i was impressed, the one time i got a chance to see Deaf theatre, by the combinations of and sometimes fine line between mime and actual word-signs (can i say that? i know there is some stigma to the idea that Sign is mime. i don't mean that, cos i know it isn't. i mean how the mime, i guess, helps the meaning of the words)... there is something great about being able to make an ugly word look as ugly as it means.

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Sometimes fear factory it's incredible disturbing I hate all that they do.This is to much for me.

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I like to go to some bars with my friends and take a cup, or just a beer, I really like your story because I feel that I have lived the same things in my life, I really like, I think that you are a so good blogger and your performance in the post was wonderful!