In a message dated 10/31/2012 8:53:40 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Dear Dr. Bill,
I just started to learn to ASL a couple of months ago, taking a
class at my community college. The other day someone asked me why I
decided to take ASL and what originally sparked my interest was my
dad. When I was growing up my dad got lung cancer which spread to
his throat and it effectively lead to him losing his ability to
speak and be understood he knew a little Lakota sign from growing up
on a reservation but a lot of our communication consisted of made up
hand gestures and lip reading, anyway in trying to explain this I
realized that I have no idea what the proper term for someone who is
hearing but can't speak is I'm assuming it's mute but I'm not sure
and I know that word isn't PC in the wrong context and I don't want
to insult anyone accidentally so I was wondering what the proper
term would be and what the corresponding sign would be.
We Deaf (and hard of hearing) people are not (as a general rule)
"mute" but your dad is indeed mute.
If someone gives you grief about using the term "mute" in regard to
your Dad, then you have two ways to go. You can either apologize and say you are sorry to
have "offended" them, or you can stand your ground and tell them
that your Dad (the one who is mute), prefers to be called by his
first name but if for whatever reason his physical condition needs
to be discussed he then chooses to label himself as "mute" and that
you care about what your Dad thinks and quite frankly you don't give
a fig what anybody else thinks but that if it will help the criticizer to feel better you'd be glad
to use the phrase "speech impaired" when around the criticizer and
"mute" when around your father and the rest of society.
[How's THAT for a run-on sentence?]
You could even follow up with, "But the fact is his speech is not
'impaired' it is freaking GONE and therefore the best
word in the English language to describe his condition is the word
Would you believe that in the Deaf Community some have decided to
RECLAIM the word mute!?!
While in general Deaf people are not "mute"
there are those within the Deaf Community who do NOT speak and with
quite some zealousness will stand up in front of a crowd and proudly
label themselves as Deaf MUTE!
Don't expect someone who isn't CURRENTLY connected to the culture to
But just as the Blacks reclaimed (for their own use) the "N" word,
and the Gays reclaimed the "Q" word, many (but not all) in the Deaf
Community have reclaimed the "M" word.
Dear Dr. Bill,
I've recently developed a disability that, among other things,
leaves me incapable of speech. I can, and frequently do, make non
speech sounds, and occasionally, with great effort and time (which
actually causes me pain), can manage simple words. I am a hearing
person, I just can't speak. I'm not much for being P.C., and I don't
much care what it's called. (I've labeled myself as mute in my
head), but I'm going to a psychiatrist starting in a month and I
don't know how to sign the word mute, or whatever I need to call it.
"I hate being mute. It's frustrating" is going to come up a lot. How
do I sign the word I need? Your dictionary only seems to have a
letter about the political ramifications of the word "mute" and not
the sign itself, and I can't seem to find the word anywhere else.
I want to thank you for your videos. I'm homebound because of my
disability so I can't take a class. I can't walk well, I have
seizures a lot, and I can't drive. I'm stuck at home. Since I can't
talk either, your website is such an amazing resource. It's really
helped me communicate my needs to my boyfriend. When my best friend
and her kid come over I can talk to them too. (She's been learning
and her son knows baby sign language). It feels good to be
understood by at least some people. I wouldn't be able to
communicate with anyone without you. Thank you for that.
The sign for "mute" is to move a palm-back "A"-handshape backwards
to your lips:
The sign for "MUTE" means you can't talk using your voice.
[Or choose not to]