Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Evidence That Deaf People Are Just Messing With Us

Yesterday we had our Retro Super Bowl Party, to relive that glorious day when the Colts won the Super Bowl. It was a lot of fun and I can't wait for the season to start. However, while I was previewing the DVDs to make sure they worked, I noticed something crazy during Billy Joel's performance of the National Anthem during Super Bowl XLI.

Marlee Matlin gets the honor of being the Sign Language Interpreter for the National Anthem. If you watch the YouTube video below, it would seem that deaf people use the same sign for "glare," "bombs bursting," and "air." Pay attention around the 45 second mark and you'll see what I'm talking about. It's pretty bad (but keep reading, it gets worse).

When I was searching for the above clip, I came across another interesting one. This next YouTube video shows "Jason" signing at the same time as Marlee during the Super Bowl. He uses different signs. Pay close attention at the 55 second mark for his interpretation of "rockets red glare." Seriously? (but keep reading, it gets worse)

I finally found this last video of "samantha" signing the entire anthem. She seems to confirm Marlee's interpretation of "red glare" (35 second mark), but then she goes nuts on "bombs bursting." Check it out.

So I am thoroughly confused. Apparently, when you're signing the National Anthem, you're free to do whatever the heck you want for "and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air..." One of these days, I'll put my own interpretation up on YouTube.

I'm convinced that deaf people are just messing with us for fun. Really they all just know how to read lips.


mike said...

Different interpreters, different outcomes.

As I recall, the dropping of the second Atom Bomb on Nagasaki has been attributed to a translator who said that the Japanese government would deliberately ignore the bombing of Hiroshima rather than the more moderate communication drafted by the government.

Arthur said...

Now that's messed up. Babel.

Anonymous said...

Let me preface this comment with this, I am a nationally certified sign language interpreter and have been in the field for more than 14 years. You are correct in your claim that the signs are different. What you fail to realize is that people are different. You as a hearing person speak English yet you may choose different words from your neighbor or friens when describing something. I have analyzed the three video snipets and this is what I see: Marlee is signing the generally accepted sign for "bursting" as in a bomb bursting in the air. Her choice of the sign is appropriate in the fact that it describes the action as well as incorporates the noun. Jason (who I might add is also a nationally certified interpreter - and a native ASL user - he grew up signing) is demonstrating the action of the cannons shooting out the bombs. If the video taper had stayed with Jason just a few seconds longer you too would see him signing "bursting" as Marlee did. It is clear to me that Samantha is someone who just prior to that videotaping learned sign language. She too uses the sign "bursting" but she does it incorrectly - as if she is throwing the bombs and they shatter differently. That is my take on it. Remember this, if you are interested in learning sign language be prepared to learn not only signs, but the grammar, syntac and culture that go behind the language. Show the three video tapes to anyone who is Deaf and they will easily be able to understand. Ask them which video tape they prefer - my guess is they will say Jasons. Thank you for your time.
Your friendly Certified Interpreter / Transliterator (CI/CT)

Arthur said...

CI/CT- Thanks for taking the time to comment. I had no idea so much went into signing. I just assumed there was some kind of sign-dictionary and everyone used the same sign for every word. That's why it was weird to see so many variations.

I still think Marlee made a mistake with using that same bursting sign three times in a row. I could be (and probably am) mistaken, but that just can't be right.

Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to comment. That helps explain much here.

Chief Tim said...

How did that lady find your blog?? I'm so amazed by the power of blog/google. So, I'm trying my hardest to find the poem...I can't believe I don't know where its at. I hope its not in my old car that recently got impounded. oops

Anonymous said...


I'm glad I could be of service. I feel strongly when it comes to Deaf/Hard of Hearing people. They are just like you and me. I always want to inform those who may not know much about the Deaf way of life. You are not the only person to think that there is one sign for every English word. This may surprise you but there is not one sign language for world. Each country has their own sign language.

As to how I came across your blog, I am a member of several professional interpreting organizations and someone from one of them emailed me your blog. I felt compelled to respond.

It's been a pleasure chatting with you. Take Care.

Brian said...


How did you know that person was a "she"?


Your blog is getting ever so popular. I bet soon the president will be posting comments here.


I don't think you answered the original question. Why is Marlee using the same sign for three totally different (sounding and meaning) words? The fact that there are multiple ways to sign one word shouldn't imply that you can use the same sign for multiple words. Since you are certified and seem to know so much about these particular signers (is that the right word?), I thought you should be able to clarify this...

George W. said...

Brian- I just wanted to leave a quick comment to say that I already read Arthur's blog on a daily basis, I just never leave comments.

Arthur said...

George- Thanks for finally commenting, it means a lot.

Brian- I don't think our CI/CT friend will be back, but I agree that it is still confusing as to whether or not Marlee just messed up, or if you can actually do that?

Tim- How did you know it was a she?

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

Yeah... how did you know I was a she? You're right by the way.

I didn't think I would be back, but then I was showing my husband you're blog and saw that others had commented, couldn't resist (smile).

I'm sorry that I didn't clear things up before. The sign that Marlee used is both a Noun AND a Verb. The beginning of the sign starts off with two closed fists (sort of one on top of the other). This represents the word 'bomb'. That signed alone really means nothing until it 'bursts'. At that point you can voice the following list of words (including but not limited to) landmine, bomb, nuclear bomb, explode(ing), detonate, etc... As to why Marlee signs it three times, that has to do with the pace of the song. Bombs bursting in air - is sung fairly slowly, while the speed of the sign is quick. It would look funny if you sang the words but only signed it once. Not to mention the fact that the word bombs is plural which requires atleast 2 burstings. I hope that clears everything up. Nice chatting.


Brian said...

That's good enough for me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

As a deaf person, I was very frustrated to read this article. American Sign Language is a full language with its own grammar, syntax, etc. It's as different from English as, say, Japanese. The signs equal concepts, not words. You sign what you *mean.* For example, RUN has many signs depending on what you mean (the car is running, I will run a race, there's a run in my stocking, my nose is running). At the same time, if a concept is similar, the signs may be, too. I don't want to go into details, but ASL and English are completely different. It's not just "English on the hands."

I'm sure you meant it as a joke, but your comment that all deaf people can lipread is absurd. I am totally deaf and couldn't even lipread *myself* in the mirror! Now, that's bad. If you can't sign, be prepared to write.