true biz ASL
Weekend Write-Off, Writing

Being the Verb

What that? she signed, pointing to one boy’s lunch tray.

Pizza, someone said.

What i-s that? she said. She fingerspelled emphatically, question-marked her eyebrows. Austin understood first. With a flash of recognition, he scrunched up his face and gave her a scolding finger wag.

I-s. Finger wag, he said.

Charlie was disappointed – so ‘is’ and ‘am’ and ‘are’ just . . . weren’t?

How could a language exist without so fundamental a concept? Perhaps, she thought grudingly, her mother and doctors were right about the limitations of signing. Could you have a real language without the notion of being?

true biz ASL

But Austin just pointed to Charlie’s hand, then made his own gesture, sweeping up from his stomach out into an arc across the room. Charlie copied the sign, but that didn’t seem to be what he wanted. She stared.

Me, said Austin, pointing to himself.

He patted his chest, then his arms, then held out his hands, flexed his fingers before her.

You, he said.

He took her by the wrists and held her own hands out before her. She looked down at her palms and understood – her being was implied, her potential thoughts and feelings coursing through her body, the names of everything she knew and those she didn’t yet, all in perpetual existence in her fingertips.


2 thoughts on “Being the Verb

  1. Danielle says:

    Wow, I never knew this about sign language. Reminds me of how in Swedish you wouldn’t use ‘is’ to describe an object’s placement, you would say it stays or is laid somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

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