ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►
ASL Gloss Riddles:
"ASL Gloss Riddles are English labels for American Sign Language signs intentionally strung together in such a way as to require ingenuity and bilingual ASL/English competence to figure out the actual meaning of the sentence."
How to play:
1. Think of a sentence in ASL.
2. Think about the various common English labels or interpretations that exist for each of the signs in the sentence.
3. Choose and string together various labels in such a way as to make no sense in English but when signed into ASL someone familiar with ASL and Deaf culture will be able to figure out the meaning of the sentence. The sentence doesn’t have to be true. It just has to create a fairly clear meaning (when signed) to someone familiar with ASL.
Example of an “ASL gloss riddle”:
Hard: PUBLIC MOSES CAN’T, BEEN-to ABLE.
Medium: HEARING GLASSES CAN’T, TOUCH CAN.
Both riddles (above) can be interpreted as:
"People who can hear can't attend Gallaudet University -- but they can visit."
The sign for HEARING-culturally, can also mean:
HEARING-person, say, and "public" (as in a "public school" where the typical mode of instruction is speaking).
On a deeper note, actually "Hearing people" can indeed attend Gallaudet. It is common for Hearing people to participate in Gallaudet's "graduate programs" (post bachelors program). There also is another way Hearing people can attend Gallaudet (besides participating in a graduate program) -- which leads to another riddle:
HEARING CAN GLASSES HOW? H-U-G.
In this case it helps to know that the dashes between capital letters tends to indicate that the concept is being fingerspelled. Thus in this situation "H-U-G" is being fingerspelled.
The solution to that riddle is:
"People who can hear can attend Gallaudet University via the Hearing Undergraduate Program."
Another gloss riddle: "GROW-UP FINISH HIT EAR DROWN"
The answer to this particular gloss riddleis specifically:
The answer is not just about becoming deaf but rather working backward from the gloss to ask questions such as:
"Why are each of those signs in this gloss?"
"Why is the sign GROW-UP in this gloss?"
"Which version of DROWN would fit this sentence?"
"Does HIT have meanings other than a fist striking something?"
There are certainly various other ways to sign or communicate the concept of "late-deafened."
A gloss riddle isn't intended to be the only way to sign something, nor even the "best" way. Rather such riddles are good for amusement and a sense of PAH! when the person figures them out. Gloss riddles are also good discussion starters. This particular riddle came about when my wife and I were discussing how to sign late-deafened. We discussed some of the various approaches we've seen, including but not limited to:
Spell "late" then sign DEAF.
Spell "late" then sign BECOME DEAF
Sign LATE then sign DEAF
...and so forth. All of this was via messaging.
I sent her the gloss:
"GROW-UP FINISH HIT EAR DROWN"
-- and she was amused/pleased that she instantly knew what I meant -- so I figured I would share the "amusement" with the group.
Some signing notes for those of you who would like some expansion:
The sign GROW-UP-[raised/become-older/become-taller] is included in the gloss to indicate that we are not talking about congenital (with it at birth) deafness nor early childhood deafness. Another sign choice here could be ADULT-[tall/this-tall/a-grown-up]. Since there is a difference between a deaf adult and a late deafened person I chose to combine GROW-UP FINISH.
The sign HIT can also be glossed as POW or POW! -- and can mean such things as "got" in the sentence "I got sick."
The "A"-hand version of the sign that we sometimes gloss as DROWN has various meanings including deteriorate/drown/sink/sinking/go-down/lose and so forth. The sign is a good choice for sentences such as: "I'm losing my hearing." [I see that Belinda has recently posted the link to the specific version to which I'm referring.]
Again, don't get hung up on any particular "way" of signing the concept of "late-deafened." Keep in mind that even during the same conversation it is likely that the signing of the concept will evolve.
Early in the conversation you might see the concept put forth as fingerspelling of "L-A-T-E D-E-A-F-E-N-E-D" followed by an explanation such as:
HAPPEN DURING PERSON PRO-3-SELF-[third-person-pronoun] ADULT HIT-[impact/occur/pow/strike] DEAF.
As the conversation progresses the signing of the concept "late-deafened" may shorten to: "L-A-T-E_DEAF."
The (so called) right way to sign something is often different at the beginning of a conversation than it is at the end of a conversation.
Which brings up the point that suppose someone asks you, "How do you sign late-deafened?"
Perhaps part of the right answer is:
"How far along in the conversation are you?"
Notes: The term ASL Gloss Riddles” was probably coined by Dr. Bill (William G. Vicars, EdD) of ASLUniversity. He started using the term in 2018. ASL gloss riddles are not the same thing as "CODA talk" but the two do overlap somewhat in regard to aspects of bilingual / bimodal English/ASL usage. For more information on "Coda Talk" search for: "Orange Eyes: Bimodal Bilingualism in Hearing Adults from Deaf Families by Michele Bishop and Sherry Hicks"
* Want to help support ASL University? It's easy: DONATE (Thanks!)
* Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."
* Want even more ASL resources? Visit the "ASL Training Center!" (Subscription Extension of ASLU)
* Also check out Dr. Bill's channel: www.youtube.com/billvicars
You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars