Communicating Meaning

I have been hooked on this tv show called “Switched at Birth” on ABC Family. The premise of the show is that two families, from very different backgrounds, are bonded together because their babies were….you guessed it, switched at birth. The hospital gave the families the wrong babies. The families figured it out as their daughters were in the middle of their teenage lives. One daughter was born deaf. As both families get to know one another and press on through their conflicts, everyone learns how to communicate with one another.

The most prevalent use of communication comes through American Sign Language (ASL).

While I know only the alphabet and a few words, I have become enraptured by the expressiveness ASL captures…even though I am not familiar with the majority of the language.

The two expressions that have tapped something for me this week have been “I’m sorry” and “responsibility”.

To apologize, your right hand makes the sign for the letter ‘s’ (a fist with the thumb over the fingers) while moving in a small circular motion over your chest.

Responsibility uses both hands, bent-shaped like the sign for the letter ‘b’, which tap the top of one’s shoulder.

There’s something genuine, authentic, and heartfelt about the way these sentiments are shown.

Who came up with these though? Was that person genuine, authentic, and heartfelt? Not everyone uses these words to express them with the same meaning. How did the decision-makers of ASL choose the way these feelings were expressed?

Languages have been lost, changed, or modified over the years. The same words can mean different things to different people. The same words have different meanings from one language to the other.

Who gets this responsibility for deciding how words are expressed? Who gets to decide their meaning? I suppose it is both the giver and the receiver. Often, both individuals mean different things with the same word. And then, they are both left missing the communication of the meaning they couldn’t share.

How does this apply to tango? Who decides how we communicate? Is it in how we connect? How do we make the language ours? How do we interpret its meaning? How do we express its meaning?

No comments

Comments are closed.