Signing Up A Storm

Oct 30 2012 @ 6:15pm

Gawker calls Lydia Callis, the mayor's sign language translator, "New York City's Hurricane Crush." Joe Coscarelli pinpoints why she's such an Internet sensation (with Tumblr, YouTube and GIF paeans to prove it):

Unlike Bloomberg's own stilted Spanish, another highlight of the updates, Callis's signing is both lightning-fast and emotive, her animated face lighting up and contorting happily as she goes, not unlike a guitarist during a blistering solo.

Caitlin Wood explains why Callis is so expressive:

Facial expressions are a grammatical aspect of the language and can relay more information than the signs themselves. Many hearing people appeared to mistake her animated signing as being theatrical or over the top, when in reality she’s simply conveying the emotional tone of what’s being discussed.

Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of Ms. Callis’ vibrant signing with Bloomberg’s monotone delivery that made her interpreting appear so striking. Or maybe a weary city of millions was looking for any excuse to distract from the mood of impending doom and this particular interpreter was, as so many remarked, "hypnotizing." Or, maybe the majority of hearing Americans just aren’t that familiar with ASL so watching interpreting in real-time seemed incredibly novel. I’d say it’s a likely combination of all of those things.

Recent Dish discussion of signing here. Last year we ran a short thread called "Deafness As Ethnicity" – read it here, here and here.