Monday, February 18, 2008

The Power of Words...Which Language? A Response to Karen Mayes' Dad

Just downed another yogurt and banana, because I will maintain my new body at least until I have to get into that dress for the wedding! And now, the Italian construction workers cheer when I walk by instead of the normal once-over. Although, don't lose your pants...the toothless Italian construction workers are NOTHING like those muscular sweaty-hot American ones. Damn. Anyway, I almost did not make it home in one piece today because as I tried to pass a VERY slow-moving car, I almost crashed head-on into an oncoming van...almost, but not quite, so here I am still alive and typing like a madwoman. Why are there only 24 hours in a day? DING. Jordan's pizza is ready. The child eats pasta with ricotta, pizza or chicken fingers, not the best diet, but since I so do not "cook" in the kitchen...

Moving on...

Karen Mayes left me a comment her dad sent her yesterday, and when dads send comments, they must be addressed, especially this whopper (note: I will separate it into paragraphs for the commenter who complained):

"I read the blog from the woman living in Italy with her CI son. I enjoyed it very much. Somewhat related, I have been listening to lectures on great novels and today the professor was talking about how useless words are. They are horrible representations of what we see, feel, think and indeed say. What exactly do the words honor, faith, melancholy, blue, beautiful, upset, lovingly etc. etc. mean?

People, hearing and I assume deaf, will argue along the lines, "You said (fill in the blank) which tells me you mean (fill in the blank). Answer, "I said (fill in the blank) but not with that inflection you just used which changes what I meant." A recent book was written by a woman and the title was something along "Are You Wearing That Dress?" a question asked of a daughter by her mother. You can have a lot of fun with that question depending in what context the question was asked, the relationship between the mother and daughter and the different inflections used in the asking. Maybe it is a simple question or maybe it is a criticism. Words mean what ever we say they mean. They are always contextual and suffer from different interpretations. But words are wonderful and can paint beautiful pictures.

The professor talks about a scene in a Faulkner novel where the character goes out at night to take a drink from the bucket of water with a dipper and says he scatters the stars with the dipper, bringing alive the image of the reflection of the stars in the bucket but also eluding to the idea of the Bid Dipper and Little Dipper scattering the night stars.

Might be an area you might want to open to discussion with your group. I assume there are misinterpretation in ASL as well as the hearing world. It would be productive to see how people can learn not only how to hear each other but how to listen to what each is trying to say with the inadequate tools of words and signs.

One last thought. Scientist use the term "sensory probes" when discussing our senses. Touch, hearing, sight, smell are all sensory probes used to navigate our environment. What do you call deaf or sightless animals??? Lunch.. Many people do not like the idea but we too are animals and if we do not have the full use of all our senses we are at an disadvantage to compete. You will not wind up as someone else's lunch, but deafness is a disadvantage.

Seems reasonable to me one would want to improve his or her completive position, by getting an education, staying healthy, using a wheel chair if crippled, Braille if blind and maybe a cochlear implant if deaf. I plan on getting a hearing aide when my hearing falters. I do not plan on joining my local ASL group to discover my deaf heritage. Do you think I would be a happier, more complete person if I had joined some German Society when I was young to get in touch with my German heritage? I think it is wonderful that there is a support group to turn to that gives the history of the deaf and sense of pride the ASL groups intend to offer. But limit their appeal by requiring conformity..."

KM's Dad...POWERFUL WORDS that cover a variety of arguments. First of all, I love words, playing with words, sending subliminal messages and subliminally transmitting my thoughts to anyone who wants to understand. Paotie does that in his blog and that's why I enjoy reading his posts. Mishka and Aidan blog in a more straightforward passionate manner and oftentimes use text, quotes and research to support their words. My knowledge of Italian has only improved my take on English and the combination of the two languages enables me to make my points in a more specific manner. Italian is a culturally rich language full of euphemisms, idioms and words that really know how to specifically reflect an emotion, it's a very Romantic language.(interruption: Jordan and Simone just got home. Saturday night Jordan taught Simone the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star song on his guitar and Simone is now playing it. Beautiful. I'm imagining my son playing for the ladies around a beach campfire, he is the type.) I can only imagine how ASL and English play together when the individual has total visual and auditory access.

I do agree with your question, "What exactly do the words honor, faith, melancholy, blue, beautiful, upset, lovingly etc. etc. mean?" Sometimes, we don't really even know ourselves the meanings of these words until we actually live them, and then, only by explaining the experience can we give meaning to such general terms. Explaining the experience in such a way as to give meaning to such words is art in and of itself...I think Aidan created art in her post, because she managed to convey her feelings using words that touched me. I don't have to agree with her, but I can appreciate the art in what she is saying.

"Words mean what ever we say they mean. They are always contextual and suffer from different interpretations." I agree with this statement, as well, but don't forget to add other factors...body language, eyes and the audience. If I write, "I'm unwrapping a lollipop" to my girlfriend (depending on the girlfriend) and if I say the same thing to a guy friend (doesn't matter which guy friend) interpretations may vary, also depending on how well the person knows my personality. If I say this to a certain person and add body language and serious eye contact, the statement assumes an entirely different meaning. For now, let's just stick to the written aspect, though. The same thing has occurred in our discussions about the word "Fix." Interpretations are not always about taking it from the source, rather, the audience plays an important role in "getting" what the author is saying. That audience has a variety of experiences behind the words that the author just may not have...and this is the response to your point: "It would be productive to see how people can learn not only how to hear each other but how to listen to what each is trying to say with the inadequate tools of words and signs."
"Many people do not like the idea, but we too are animals, and if we do not have the full use of all our senses we are at an disadvantage to compete." I am an animal, no debate there. In regard to the rest, being at a disadvantage to compete is directly related to your environment and your desire for competition. Hearing people are the majority, so if you live in that environment, deafness will be a disadvantage. I am certain that people who submerge themselves in the Deaf community have decided to live in an environment where they do not feel at a disadvantage...entirely. Reality would dictate that Deaf individuals still need to interact with a hearing world, but the "disadvantage" factor is all in the eye of the individual acknowledging or not acknowledging the sense of disadvantage.

As the hearing mom of a deaf child, I consider the disadvantage and wanting to give my son all the power of choice in the world to never feel totally limited by environmental factors, chose the cochlear implant. Ultimately, he will choose his least restrictive environment socially and economically...only time will tell.

And...last but not least:
"I think it is wonderful that there is a support group to turn to that gives the history of the deaf and sense of pride the ASL groups intend to offer. But limit their appeal by requiring conformity..."
In an ideal world there would be no conditions placed on people and ideals, but the world is composed of diverse experiences, emotions, and demands for validation. Those vague words that you were talking about are powerful enough to break the barriers, the only question is...which language do we use?


Karen Mayes said...

Wow... :o)

I just emailed to my father to check out your website.

Anonymous said...

That is luscious compliment!

Well done, girl!

White Ghost

Anonymous said...

Hey Jodi,

A couple of things:

First, watch the road! I enjoy your posts and want to continue doing so. A throng of American construction workers just breathed a huge sigh of relief that you're okay. :)

Second, I just can't resist the opportunity to put on my myth-buster hat, play some word games of my own, and re-define "conformity."

It was in the hearing world -- the one where so many hearing people ignorantly assume I can't possibly be happy unless I'm exactly like them--where I was under much pressure to conform.

It's in the Deaf world where I can belong, and effortlessly do so.

In the hearing world I didn't dare rock the boat because it was hard enough to keep up with everyone.

In the Deaf world, I've done some really crazy, out-of-this-world, insane stuff. Let me tell you right now that I'll never be president of the United States.

Old friends, ex-girlfriends, bartenders, farm animals, et cetera, would come crawling out of the woodwork with scandalous stories that would stop my campaign before it started.

And thats because ASL and the Deaf community give me an opportunity to express myself freely.

Nowadays I pretty much behave myself (I think). But I'll always be thankful to the Deaf community for allowing me to become a unique individual.

Just had to chip in my 2 cents because I love pointing out that the Deaf community strengthened me to the point where I actually function better in the hearing world -- which, ironically, is what the hearing world wanted in the first place.

Weird world, ain't it?

Keep up with the thoughtful posts, I love it :)

Best regards,

Dianrez said...

Drolz has hit it accurately. When one feels validated as a whole person, one is much more effective in whatever situation they face from then on.

The Hearing world is where I earn my living, do my business, shop, get my information and news, etc., but the Deaf community are my people, bless 'em and our allies.

Unknown said...

*smile* You are still here!!! I missed you...I must admit that the farm animals thing freaked me out a bit, but...boys will be boys:) Really amazing always! Jodi

VBnBama said...

you always give me such a visual (you're such a good writer w/your descriptions). I'm sure you'll get the double takes from the American's when you come back, teeth or no teeth!

Anonymous said...

Words are fun to think about. This comment of mine has nothing to do with ASL versus spoken language or vice versa, but rather my general love of words. Yes, words can have different meanings to different people and in different situations. For example: As my son was reading last night, he stopped several times to ask me the meaning of words he didn't know. "What does casually mean?" "Well son, it might mean the way the person is dressed or that the person is doing something in a way so as not to be noticed... I need to know the sentence." We do this pretty much every day when he reads. It can be very frustrating, but one thing holds true. With the right amount of other words, the meaning behind the first word can always be revealed. That's what I love. When someone says, "There are no words to describe it." I say, "Oh yes there are. You just haven't tried hard enough." That's the beauty of words. There is such power in them!

Anonymous said...

nice article! though your first paragraph paints yourself as a horny young wife to be while serving your son some pizza.

Anonymous said...

Drolz said it beautifully. We all love him. He is wonderful person. :o) Look at Drolz's son.. He is already proud that he is Deaf even though he lost his hearing very recently. It is because his father is proud that he is Deaf and is using American Sign Language. That's how his son follows his father's footstep. :o)

Please remember some deaf people are still in closet. You know how gay people are when they are in closet. They would get defense if someone say to them that they are gay. They will get angry or freak out. They are also in denial. Once they get out of the closet, they finally accept who they are and embrace gay. They were taught to be shame of their own identity. It is same thing for some deaf people.


Unknown said...

Anonymous about the horny young wife to be comment...guess I'll have to choose my words more carefully, or is that just my state of's all in the interpretation of who's reading...and who knows me. *smile* Jodi

Unknown said...

Val...Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks! smack for you and those kids! Jodi

Unknown said...

Hey Kristi,
Thanks for your comment, I need to chew around on that gay analogy thing and maybe talk to my sister about that...Cheers right back atcha, Jodi

Anonymous said...

haha jodi; its alright... it was enough to keep me reading from your horniness to your dad's comment. we are human :)

deaf in the closet? hmm.. interesting perspective. I actually would like to hear a more elaborate discussion on that kind of topic.

Divided said...

Jodi!!! Watch those crazy Italians. I nearly got run down in Rome when I drove up the wrong way...he he, it was me those crazy Italians had to watch out for. *grin* Glad you are still in one piece!
Drolz is on the money! It's what I mean when I say I feel "at home" with my own kind...just as the hearing people (no matter whether they learn or know ASL...they'll always have that sense of belonging to their community). Many of us don't see our deafness as a disadvantage at fact, I believe that we are more aware of our environment than our hearing counterparts because we are constantly using all of our senses. Yes, including the one that we lack, our hearing. If you think about it, we (the deaf) anticipate situation...for example, some say that the deaf drivers cannot hear sirens but we are always looking and we can see sirens before some hearing folks can hear them (especially, if the hearing folks have their radio blasting or chatting away on cell phone).

Samantha said...

I felt that your post was highly enlightening. It brought up some key areas that I've discussed on

Anonymous said...

Hey Jodi,

LOL thank you for your kind comments and by the way, I also loved your latest entry... pole dancing, tattooing women on their--dang, you have LIVED!!

Also... congrats on getting Cal Ripken's endorsement of your book! That's HUGE. As I mentioned before, my oldest son loves Cal and Bill's videos thanks to the captioning. We're rabid Phillies fans but Baltimore scored big points on this one!

And, um... about those farm animals... I've got to clear this up.

Actually, they were ZOO animals LOL... if anyone can correctly guess what I'm referring to, I'll personally do a pole dance of my own on a vlog. Hint: It happened at Gallaudet. To be continued! :)

Best regards,