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American Sign Language:  "BS" (b_ll sh_t)



In a message dated 2/22/2010 11:07:14 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, kianemalia@ writes:
Hi Bill!
I have been teaching ASL classes for 28 years. I just found out that an ASL Instructor told the students about two different signs with different meanings . So I would like to ask you a question about a certain sign " B....t" a dirty word. I know there are two different signs for that word. The ASL instructor said that if you use " \''/ " it means dirty when you use this swearing word. Other sign like a fist like "b to s" it means oh its ridiculous. Is that correct?
I have lived in various states. I used different signs . For example: In California, some people sign " b to s" when I moved to Minnesota, they sign " \"/ " both signs mean the same thing.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Hello Diane,
Both the "horned" sign and the sign that uses the letters "B and S" are are swear words.
And you can use either sign as an exclamation of disgust or as a statement that you think something is "ridiculous."
The speed, intensity, movement path, and duration of the sign--plus your facial expressions are what determine the intended meaning of either sign.
As a hard of hearing fellow I am bilingual and am familiar with the fact that Hearing people say the individual letters "B" and "S" (without saying the full words) to mean that something is ridiculous. I recall very clearly over two decades ago I was hanging out with Connie Johnston (Deaf daughter of Ron Johnston who is also Deaf) and I signed the "B" to "S" version while voicing the individual letters "B" and "S." Connie was literally "shocked" that I had said a "swear word." Since she is d/Deaf (physically and culturally Deaf) she did not interpret my "sim/com" (simultaneously signed and voiced communication) as meaning "Oh that's ridiculous!" No. She interpreted it as meaning, "Oh that's b_ll sh_t!"  Note: both statements mean "that's ridiculous" -- but the second statement also happens to be swearing and offensive at least to some people.
Ah ha. Lesson learned:  The English statement "BS" doesn't translate to EITHER of the ASL signs.
The English statement "Oh BS!" (not b_ll sh_t, but rather the individual letters pronounced as "B" and "S") is properly expressed in ASL as the sign "SILLY/ridiculous" and/or the gesture/sign "Go on/get out of here" (which looks like a single forward to downward slap in the air).
--Dr. Bill

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