Tuesday, May 11, 2010

To heck with the sign name someone hand me an advil

This is a post about how Deaf culture and mainstreaming has been a bit of a learning curve.

Topic- Sign Names and English Etiquette

At home when referring to his teachers my son will offer up a sign name and then fingerspell the last name of a teacher. I learn the sign name and move on.

At the deaf school the teachers had sign names often derived from their first name. One of his favorite teachers was named Alfred. His sign name was an A on the chest. His wife who was also a favorite was Lisa an L on the chest. A family sign name. I would use those signs as would my son when talking too or referring too them. This is polite in Deaf culture.

He had a teacher with long beautiful hair, her sign name was a P cascading down the hair. One teacher long ago had the sign name of turtle.

If we meet a deaf person we learn their whole name first and if we are friendly we learn the sign name.

Welcome to mainstream hearing teachers. Miss Tresvan, Mrs. Sacks, Mrs Mcmackin, Mr ...............

Well poo, we don't use that in our everyday conversations.

One day my son wanted to talk to a teacher after school about something cool in dance. We ran into the other dance teacher in the hall and he ran up excited asking,

"Do you know where Sacks is?"

"Sacks" (fingerspelled) is Mrs. Jackie Sacks' sign name. I made the mistake of literally interpreting "Sacks". The other teacher looked offended just a wee bit and replied,

"You are looking for MRS. Sacks?"

Me: " Yikes sorry that is a deaf thing"

Her not really getting my awkward response and still looking at Haddy, " She has a show tonight so she left and will be back one hour before curtain"

She was nice enough but I could tell she took my son's question as a bit rude. It was my fault because "Sacks" is a sign name in ASL if I were really a good interpreter I would have said, "Mrs. Sacks".

I trip, I fall, I get back up.


  1. Yeah, people are weird about names. Sometimes I don't know when it is appropriate to say 'Ms.' or 'Mrs.' or if I should go with a first name basis. To be safe I always use 'Ms.' or 'Mrs' unless I know the person well. But, if I don't know the person at all would I always use 'Mrs.'? What if she is not married? I know better than to risk using 'ma'am'. Guys are easy--you can use either 'Mr.' or you can say 'sir'.


  2. Recalling the sign names we had for teachers back in high school days...

    It was a school that used only fingerspelling, so the sign names were only used covertly!

    Not all were complimentary. One teacher was prone to cracking his jaw, so he was (*gloss*) jaw-open-wince-close-partway as if cracking a walnut.

    Another supervisor often tugged at her girdle, so she was tug-girdle. Some staff were imitated, so a certain housemother would be she-who-walks-with-nose-in-air.

    A math teacher who played with her false teeth would be signed using the tongue lolling out.

    If we fingerspelled a last name, it must have been because we liked that staffer. Most students had a sign name beginning with the initial letter of their name.