D for Deaf


As bloggers, what do we do? Well, we write. Now me – writing, fighting and fixing machines – that’s about all there is. Kissing Jack and performing honey-dos for my wife are squeezed into the mix, somewhere.

In this era of Internet access – where anybody with a keyboard can be another Steinbeck – things like spelling, grammar and usage tend to be given a pass. I often see language that would make an English teacher cringe. In fact, I’m often guilty of it myself. Nevertheless, convention dictates that we give grammar and spelling our best effort.

An example would be the following sentence:

He was born Deaf, and his deafness has proven an asset rather than a liability.

Apparently, there are some rules regarding the capitalization of the word deaf. The upper case is used when referring to the Deaf as a culture, and the lower case is attached to the condition itself. This was a lesson for me, because when most hearing think of deafness, we think of it solely as a disability, similar to paraplegia or cleft palate. Deafness is both a condition and a culture.

When referring to the Deaf, sociologists use the upper case to classify the ethno-linguistic group, similar to American, Black or Jew. Someone afflicted with the inability to hear, but who became so later in life would not receive the big D.

Sign plays an important role in all this. As we’ve pointed out often, Sign – ASL and its many international counterparts – is a unique and identifiable language. As such, it not only commands linguistic classification, but sociological classification as well. For example, to be Italian means a lot more than simply speaking that particular language. Well, the same holds true for the Deaf.

And since we ‘B’loggers (a culture as well as a calling) – as a group – strive for excellence in our writing, we need to pay attention to when to use that big D.

This dish is Italian. Hungry yet? The image is courtesy of http://tastyplanner.com/recipes/lasagna–2



5 thoughts on “D for Deaf

  1. Oh, the Deaf/deaf thing. To my understanding, if do not use ASL pretty much exclusively and think in ASL you are not considered a part of the Deaf community. Felix is probably considered oral deaf. Certainly, although I use sign I can voice for myself and would be considered oral deaf, not Deaf.

    My teachers at Deaf Inc. may not even be from the Deaf community because many of them were raised as oral deaf and had as their primary language English –they were mainstreamed. There is a real pride among the Deaf that they think in ASL not English. Sometimes I think in ASL too, which can make for some interesting texts or oral communications.

    There are interesting resources on the topic. http://endora.wide.msu.edu/7.1/coverweb/portolano/deaf.htm

    One of the things I learned in cultural anthro and a few side trips into linguistics – language is the repository of culture. ASL is the repository of Deaf culture. It is a special, facial, body driven language using signs that may or may not relate to specific English words and it certainly has it’s own syntax and grammar.

    I love the power of the language.


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