Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ironic Signs

Over my college career I have tried to take part in as many service experiences that I possibly can. Being that I love kids, I always tried to find the programs that offered a sort of interaction with kids. This semester I am volunteering at Maryland School for the Blind. The program that I will be involved in, is swim lessons with children who have autism. I found this service learning opportunity via my sign language professor. This experience will provide the children with some extra time practicing sign language while providing a form of communication in a casual setting.

After talking to my professor a bit about the program, she told me that the swim lessons mixed in with the sign language has resulted in some funny stories, one which I am going to try to re-tell (hopefully I don’t butcher it).One of the Loyola students from her fall semester had volunteered with MSB. The volunteer formed a tight relationship with the deaf community and earned their respect. One way for the deaf community to demonstrate their respect for a person is by giving the individual, a name sign. This is a special sign that will represent a person’s name (instead of finger spelling it every time) and this sign will stick with that individual for life.

Well my professor told me that the kids named one of her students with the sign that demonstrates brown hair, but with an extra gesture thrown in at the end. Being that kid gave her student that name, they didn’t realize that hair gets darker in the pool water. So the student has a gesture indicating a dark hair color, but she is blonde. So when she tells people her sign name, they think she is messing it up, indicating that her signing skills are not to par, and adding to the concept of a “dumb blonde”.

I found this story funny, in a sense of the irony found behind the name, and the contradiction it brings to the girl when she gives her name sign. But since the sign has stuck, that name sign will be with her for life, making people confused each time she does it. What I found amazing about this story was the idea that humor demonstrated a sense of communication. That even though the child may have seen her hair color in a different shade, the two individuals formed a bond that will stay with this volunteer for life.

Douglas stated “laughter and jokes, since they attack classification and hierarchy, are obviously apt symbols for expressing community” which I feel fits in perfectly with this experience at MSB. Laughter provided a bond, a relationship and a sense of understanding one another. Also I feel that as seen in Millman’s “Embarkation”, humor is found within the inability to correctly find the word of choice (when speaking in a different language), or even the inability to speak fluently as “My English it is not so remarkable” is stated a coupled of times within the story. This humor found in this quality of language is interesting. It is also seen all through out my sign language class when we learn a funny sign or have to make obscene motions or gestures, ones that we would think to assign the said word. Language in and of itself is a device for laughter.

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