Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Signs for the Deaf, and Misheard Lyrics
I went to a presentation by the new postgraduate students today, in which they were introducing their various research topics. One was looking at dialects of British Sign Language, which sounds really fascinating. I was struck by his example of the different signs that are used in various parts of the UK for the number six. For example this is what it looks like in Bristol, London and a place he called "up North" (apologies if I've got any of this wrong):

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Bristol

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London

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Up North

Bristol looks like an iconic representation of the Arabic numeral 6; Up North is simply six fingers held aloft. I'm not sure what the system is in London, but I'm guessing that it's something analogous to tally marks, with the fist meaning one group of five, and the finger adding one to that. What are the proper semiotic terms for these differences, I wonder?

Also, very tangentially, Hunter Davies was talking about the Beatles on the radio the other day, as is his wont, and mentioned a story that was new to me, though probably not to others. Apparently when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a hit in the States - their first hit, in fact - Bob Dylan heard it and misheard the line "I can't hide" as "I get high" (which is actually quite easy if you hear it in isolation). From this he assumed that the Beatles were all taking drugs, and so naturally offered them some when they eventually met. They meanwhile had never partaken, but quickly got a taste for it after that, opening the way for "Strawberry Fields", "A Day in the Life", etc. And all because of a mondegreen!

It's a nice story, anyway.

Meanwhile I've been trying to write my next Madoka post, but am finding it hard to keep everything I want to say sufficiently separate and within bounds. Basically I want to write a book on the subject, in fact. Oh well, I think I shall do something short(ish) and sweet on genre, which will clear the way for another one on structure, and at least one other that I have in mind. Watch this space.

Fascinating!

"Mondegreen" is a very special sort of weed.

Nine

I have been thinking a lot about sign language, as my mother is rather deaf, and I am already beginning to lose my hearing. This rather dismays me, as I was already wondering if I would need to learn ESL or French, or whether one would follow easily from the other!
It also reminds me that counting on fingers in China is very different, (perhaps in Japan, too?) and so maybe the people didn't begin to count until after settling in Asia...which seems probable. Although if there is so much variation in one smallish island?

One of the things the student is going to be researching is whether advent of technologies such as Facetime and Skype are going to help standardize these languages, but I doubt whether they will, any more than the invention of the telephone and radio eliminated accents (though many expected them to).

Interesting stuff about sign language. My son is currently studying to get certificated, and his discussions of the language are fascinating.

Neat - thanks for the cross-comparison.
The sign language institute at Bristol has a free app with BSL signs which I've found very useful. (At the time I was looking, the only good free app for that purpose!)

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