GAFFE: a social or diplomatic blunder, a noticeable mistake
When our children were little, we used sign language with them. I found the following signs especially useful:
Signing allowed us to understand our children’s needs before they could express themselves verbally. I think pre-verbal communication cut down on a lot of tantrums and frustration. Admittedly, they were more motivated to learn some signs than others. For example, I signed “milk” to Son every time he nursed for months before he made an attempt to imitate. I signed “cookie” precisely twice before he mastered it.
Signs remained helpful beyond the baby stage. To this day, I can silently remind my children to say “please” or “thank you.”
There are a variety of baby sign language books. Some are based on American Sign Language (ASL). Others contain made-up signs. When Son was young, my mom’s group hosted a guest speaker who taught American Sign Language to moms and babies. She shared a lot of great information and a few humorous anecdotes about sign-language gone wrong.
She emphasized the subtle – but important! – differences between signs. For example, orienting the left “S” hand down and you tap the right “S” fist twice on the back of the left hand is the sign for work. However tapping two “S” hands together heel-to-heel, one palm oriented up and the other oriented down, is an explicit sign for a particular sex act. Imagine the things that could go wrong if you were careless signing “mom is busy working.”
The guest speaker also talked about “made-up” signs that have a very different meaning in ASL. One of those signs comes up at preschool on a regular basis. Daughter’s preschool teacher leads the class in a version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with a combination of ASL and made-up signs. When she gets to “like a diamond…” she makes a diamond out of her thumbs and pointer fingers. ASL for “diamond” is a reference to the ring finger. Her made-up sign results in twenty children and their loving parents singing about a star that sparkles “like a vagina in the sky!”
I guess we won’t be invited to perform for the Michigan House of Representatives any time soon.