Club-speak: Nightlife sign language
Thu, Sep 24, 2009 (midnight)
Illustration: Eric Larsen
UNSK, UNSK, UNSK. “I can’t hear you!” UNSK, UNSK, UNSK. “YOU NEED TO WHAT? YOU WANNA HUH?”
Sounds like another typical night out in Vegas. Someone is trying to shout something vital, or trivial, at you, though they should just give up. Is it another drink they want? Did they spot a hottie on the dance floor? Or are those eight Jäger bombs about to resurface? If only there was a way we could communicate without speaking. Oh, wait. There is!
Time to take a cue from the nightclubbing Deaf community, who, by the way, are often better dancers than hearing partiers. You may be surprised how much can be said with simple gestures, pointing and exaggerated facial expressions. Here are a few signs to help out in critical situations, especially since you were starting to slur your words anyway.
A few things to remember: If asking a yes/no question, as in “Do you want to have sex with me?” raise your eyebrows while signing. Curious about who wants a beverage (or any other who/what/where/when/why/how inquiry)? Squint your brows. When talking about someone else, it’s okay to point in American Sign Language, though the hearing world might think it’s rude, so be cautious.
DRINK/DRUNK* The thumb is tilted toward the mouth as if drinking from a bottle, while the pinkie is raised, much like sipping tea with grandma or your little sister. Tilt head back slightly and look plastered. Examples of possible uses: “Want a drink?” or “Wow, that guy is soooo drunk.”
VOMIT One hand with the palm toward the face is held over the mouth, cheeks puffed out and eyes bulging, much like what you’d do anyway before puking. Ex.: “I think I might vomit,” or “Dude. You gonna hurl?”
THE DJ AND/OR MUSIC SUCKS Cupping one or both hands over your ears like a DJ does with his headphones, simultaneously make the pained expression of hearing fingernails scratching a chalkboard. Ex.: “Yikes! Sir Sux-a-lot just trainwrecked while attempting a mash-up of Kid Cudi and Robin S.”
MONEY* Palm up, the thumb rubs over the fingers, as if touching money. Ex.: Reaching while signing “Do you have money? This is a comp but we still have to tip!” or “Hand me some cash for a drink,” while signing toward yourself.
GET LAID or SCREW YOU* Make a peace sign or “V” with each hand. The upturned V remains stationary, while the downturned V comes down repeatedly on the other to simulate the motions of legs getting busy. Ex: “Oh, man! I got laid in the restroom!” or “Screw you!” then point at the offender.
UGLY With arthritic hands positioned at the sides of your face, cross your eyes and hang your tongue out of the corner of your mouth. Ex.: “Your less-than-attractive looks are ruining my buzz.”
CUTE/SWEET* With the palm facing the body, the index and middle fingertips brush against your chin downward starting at the lips. Ex.: “Drink till she’s cute!” or “You’re sweet, but I’m still not going home with you.”
RESTROOM With your knees buckled together and hands holding yourself—picture a kindergartner about to piddle—perform this gesture while bouncing up and down before running off to the loo. Ex.: “I’m drunk and about to piss myself. I’m going to head to the restroom.”
DRIVE/DRIVING/DROVE/DRIVEN* Both hands grasp an imaginary steering wheel and turn it back and forth. Ex.: “You’re not driving. You’re drunk.” Or “I threw up on myself. You drive.”
*Indicates the sign is based on actual American Sign Language signs from the American Sign Language Dictionary by Martin L.A. Sternberg and Signing Naturally by Cheri Smith, Ken Mikos and Ella Mae Lentz.