Sign language relies on stereotypes, many of which are no longer socially acceptable. But deaf Britons say it’s discrimination to change signs that use a hooked nose for Jews, a limp wrist for gays and slant eyes for the Chinese. Others say the new sign for gay is offensive too.
Critics labelled the move as silly yesterday, saying that the producers were interfering with “deaf culture.”
Polly Smith, the acting chairperson of the British Council for Disabled People, said that the changes were a form of discrimination.
“The programme makers at Channel 4 are interfering with deaf people’s language, culture and view of society, and that is a form of discrimination,” she said.
. . . The sign for “Indian” is now a mime of the triangular shape of the subcontinent; “Chinese” is the right hand travelling from the signer’s heart across his chest horizontally, then down towards his hip, mimicking the tunic worn in China; and the sign for “gay” is an upright thumb on one hand in the palm of the other, wobbling from side to side.
. . . Other signs that have been accused of being politically incorrect – such as the sign for German, which is a fist held to the forehead with a finger pointing straight up, mimicking the shape of a Prussian spiked helmet – are widely used. The sign for disabled, in which a finger on each hand depicts a limping movement, is used by some deaf people.
This is British Sign Language, but there are similar problems in American Sign Language.