Cussing in Sign Language

Another thing that kept us busy this summer: cussing in sign language.  I’ll explain.  When we found out a few months ago that June will have her trach for at least another year, Greg and I started learning more American Sign Language so we could teach June to communicate while she has her trach.  Some people with trachs are able to vocalize by getting air past the trach, up to the vocal cords.

Image: Airflow after tracheostomy. Diagram ©1995 Passy-Muir, Inc.

June cannot; she has a total scar tissue blockage above the trach, so air cannot reach the vocal cords. So in the meantime, especially during this critical age when expressive language is wired to develop, June can still learn to communicate using signs.We decided to learn true ASL, not just modified baby signs, because we don’t know how long June will need the trach ultimately.

So after a few weeks of watching Signing Time (that’s the BEST show!), Greg and I were reviewing signs we knew, and we kept stumbling over subtle differences- a slightly different sign placement, hand shape or gesture, and it means a completely different thing.  
“I thought this was ‘apple.'”
“No, you’re signing ‘Alex.’ This is ‘apple,’ A, on your cheek.”
“I thought that was ‘girl.'”
“No girl is A down the jawline.”
“But I thought that was ‘shy.'”
“No, ‘shy’ is down the cheek but with a C hand…”
We realized that as we learned more signs, eventually we would unknowingly sign something vulgar by forming an innocent sign incorrectly.  So, like responsible adults, we spent an evening watching YouTube and cussing at each other in sign language.  You know, so we know what signs not to do. Unless we need a laugh. It was pretty fun actually.

Signing is fun, period.  Rowan absolutely loves it (signing not cussing).  And we’ve been surprised at how frequently we use it.  We don’t need to attempt awkward, loud whispers when we need to communicate with each other across a crowded room or in a group setting.  We can communicate silently around sleeping children.  And we can secretly share our inside jokes and inappropriate comments in public.  Or during a movie.  Or around the kids.  At least until they are old enough to know all the signs we do- and by then they can join in the banter. 

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