Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Cross Cross Code

Navigating my way out of the car park at the Exalted Seat of Learning last week, as I turned into the autumnally leafy lane lined with honey-coloured stone buildings (OK, past the Gala Casino and into the Street of a 1000 Kebab Shops), a young gentleman stepped off the kerb directly into the path of my vehicle. Out of a simple desire not to have to dislodge 9 stone of greasy, sullen youth from out of my wheel arches, I honked the horn and hit the brake. According to the Highway Code the purpose of the horn is to "warn other road users of your presence” and this was genuinely how I intended it. There seemed to be, however, a breakdown in communication.

The message left my side as "There is, in my opinion, a strong possibility of my vehicle injuring your person and I am sounding this auditory warning device to alert you to your imminent peril". It must have arrived at his side in the form of the worst possible insult, comprehensively covering all the topics of family, heritage, employment prospects, and taste in clothes and music, all couched in perfect Jafaican. Accordingly, he stopped dead in front of my car and "flipped the bird", before huffing off about his business.

I managed to quell my mounting fury by doing what I do best - turning any topic to that of British Sign Language. How interesting that the handshape formed by the extension of the middle finger from the closed fist has for many years been completely neutral in BSL, appearing in signs like Holiday, Lazy and Pretend. However, it is not a legal handshape in American Sign Language because of its insulting connotations. Apparently though, British Deaf people are now starting to shun this "rude" handshape and use alternatives.

Perhaps that guy was just trying to tell me in halting, incorrect British Sign Language that, thanks to my saving his life, he will now be able to enjoy a lovely Christmas holiday.

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