Life in progress

Jab – #AtoZ Challenge


My “J”-word is a bit of a stretch, but it’s the only way I could find to talk about an important subject without taking up another letter. So here we have “jab,” by which I really mean “point” and “poke.” Both actions are important in American Sign Language, more the former than the latter, however. Confused yet? I’ll explain.

Growing up we’re all told it’s rude to point. Pointing though, is an essential part of ASL vocabulary. You, me, he, she, and it, are all indicated by pointing. It took me a while to get over the ingrained sense of right and wrong; of needing to point but not wanting to. Now I do it all the time – and I get a lot of strange looks, particularly when Alex and I are out, pointing all over the place.

Poking, on the other hand, is a less-desirable way for a Deaf person to get someone’s attention. Alex loves to poke me with a sharply pointed finger, especially when he wants something he can’t have. Normally, a tap on the shoulder is used. Coming into physical contact with other people, even strangers, is natural in the signing world. It’s necessary. The other day in a coffee shop, I was watching a lady who I know is Deaf, trying to get through the line-up for the counter; she was on her way out. Her shoulder-taps were met with a mixture of surprise and, in one case, almost hostility. All she could do was smile and try to look friendly. The people in line had no way to know she was Deaf, and probably wondered why she didn’t just say, “excuse me,” like any civilized person would.

Alex is still small enough that he can get away with a lot of things in public. He smiles at people and they smile back. He touches them and it’s innocent; he’s still only a little above four feet tall. I’m not sure he’ll grow much more in height, but he’s bound one day to grow facial hair. When that happens, he’ll go from cute to uncivilized in the eyes of society. It’s difficult, even for a mom, to explain away.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.

Author: Linda G. Hill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

27 thoughts on “Jab – #AtoZ Challenge

  1. I think a tap on the shoulder is a perfectly polite way of attracting someone’s attention, whoever you are.
    People should just get over themselves and loosen up a bit, good grief.


  2. Not a stretch at all, great post!


  3. Very good word! I’m going to go back and read your previous letters and I’m also following you. I wrote about delicious Jersey Mike subs!


  4. what an interesting and helpful series Linda – I’ve gone back to the start to catch up.


  5. I’ve never considered the distinction between jabbing (/poking) and tapping – even though they two are obviously different, and a person could easily misinterpret the latter for the former, causing all sorts of trouble. One of those things that those of us who are not deaf easily take for granted, as I did without even considering it before – if a touch is misinterpreted, we can easily explain what was meant (in addition to not needing to use touch as often).


  6. Valid points made today Linda, as always 😊


  7. I’m familiar with the “shoulder tap.” A favorite customer of mine was deaf and he often brought friends with him, also deaf. I don’t know sign language, so we used to pass notes back and forth to each other. As simple as this was, I was surprised when he told me that most places of business couldn’t be bothered with our glide-and-slide notetaking communications. Apparently, people assumed that because he couldn’t hear, he also couldn’t write. Rediculous! πŸ™‚


    • Yep, the old ignorance still exists, that deaf equals dumb. So untrue. I’ll get to that later in the month. Thanks for sharing, Juli. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know a bit of basic sign language and it came in handy more than I was expecting when I used to work as a grocery store cashier. I loved being able to do some limited signing with our deaf customers, but the look of sheer gratitude I would get from so many of them for it, for even a simple signed “thank you”, just broke my heart. Too many times I’ve witnessed other people getting frustrated, dismissive or even hostile with a deaf person because they can’t communicate with them instantly; I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to deal with on a regular basis, and I always hated that my patience and clumsy attempts at signing were obviously viewed as the exception rather than the rule.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re helping to reinforce the think I keep trying to remember – maybe there’s a good reason why that person did that – I try…


  9. You are pointing out some great things in this challenge Linda. I appreciate you reminding us to be more considerate of our fellow man especially when they are no longer children πŸ™‚


    • Thanks, Niki. πŸ™‚ It’s hard to remember, when confronted with those who are different than us, that there’s someone in there who needs to be treated with the same kindness as everyone else. It’s not a judgement, it’s a fact. I’ve been as guilty of forgetting as anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes I think that people don’t even realize that people are different. The example that you gave of the lady in line. You can’t just look at someone and know they are deaf/Deaf. They likely just thought she was rude and inconsiderate. That makes it even more important to be kind and considerate of others because you just never know!


  10. Interesting Linda – I had never thought of it that way. You know when you described Deaf as a distinct culture the other day, I was intrigued and have started looking around for examples of how culture makes a difference. Do you follow Blog Woman!!! – Robyn Lawson? She is a First Nations woman whose latest post speaks loudly to culture. On reading it, it occurred to me that a lot of what she says transfers to the Deaf culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What about “Jugs”? I could write all day about jugs and the many things they are used for.
    Interpret at your own risk.


  12. Reblogged this on A Good Book is Hard to Find and commented:
    I for one am offended you didn’t choose the obvious choice for the letter J… Jason… -Jason
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.


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