Use it or LOSE it!

Some years back, I took lessons in American Sign Language.

I was fascinated by this concept-based language. I wanted to be able to brush aside the barriers that kept me from communicating with the Deaf neighbors in my community.

Now, there was a problem with this whole kumbaya attitude: if you don’t hang out with anybody whose native language is ASL, you don’t get a lot of practice outside the classroom. And if you don’t practice, you don’t remember your vocabulary or grammar.

I had a friend who kept me on my toes, but she’s elderly and I’m working and we just didn’t get our schedules to mesh for a long time.

So tonight, when another Deaf friend, a mutual acquaintance, recognized me in the grocery store, we struck up a conversation. Well, SHE struck up a conversation. I struck out every time I was “at bat.” It had been too long since I’d used my ASL.

My receptive skills are still OK. Expressive skills? Not so much.

My friend told me she wasn’t sure she recognized me because I’d lost weight. I tried telling her that yes, I’d lost a little. What I think I signed was, “Yes. Money I know.”

She shared her scare when she had to be hospitalized. I apologized for the hospital’s behavior.

But when I told her I’d recently spoken to our mutual friend and was disappointed that we couldn’t schedule lunch, I have to admit that I NEVER understood the term “poker face” until now.

Instead of signing my disappointment over lunch, I think I signed something about making our 80-something friend a lesbian.

The letter “L” is used for both “lunch” and “lesbian,” but the placement determines the meaning, and I picked Option B.

My friend didn’t bat an eye.

So now I’m home, thumbing through my ASL books and realizing just what folks mean when they say, “Use it lose it!”

Thank God and the heavenly choir that most Deaf people are used to the rest of us bastardizing their language!

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About Billie Noakes

The writer you want for crisp, clean copy.
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