"Deef" Pride - A Deaf Look at the English Language

Have you ever noticed that English is the most complicated language in the world? I like to think I have a reasonably good grasp of it, but there’s just so much I don’t understand.

When I was at Gallaudet University, a good score on a placement exam got me into the Honors English program. This made my friends think I actually understood the language. I didn’t.

“Hey, Mark,” said a friend struggling with his grammar worksheet. “Could you explain all these rules about adverbs, prepositions, and all this other stuff?” He pointed to his homework assignment. I took one look at it and shrugged. “No clue,” I said.

“How could you possibly not know?” my friend asked. “You’re in Honors English!”

“I don’t know what a preposition is,” I insisted. “All I know is some guy told me you’re not supposed to end a sentence with one. I’d ask him to clarify, but I don’t know where he’s at.” My buddy rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Honestly, folks, I still don’t understand English. Especially when it comes to pronunciation. I mean, think about it: if deaf is pronounced “deff” and leaf is pronounced “leef,” why isn’t a leaf leff or a deaf guy deef? And since the plural of leaf is “leaves,” why don’t we call a gathering of deaf people “deaves”? Who made these rules, and what was he drinking?

Even harder for a deaf guy is the way some letters go silent. I actually used to pronounce the “P” in “psychology.” I once told a friend I admired movie star Michelle “Pih-feiffer” Pfieffer. So if psychology is pronounced “sychology” and Pfeiffer is pronounced “Feiffer,” does that make me a fan of the Hiladelphia Hillies? Speaking of baseball, what’s up with Major Leegoo, uh, League? I just don’t get it.

If anything, I greatly appreciate having ASL in my life. After years of tripping over my tongue (yes, I grew up predominantly oral), I can now communicate in a language that gets right to the point. Beautiful, entertaining, clearly understood, and no messed-up rules that make no sense whatsoever.

That’s enough of that. Me and a bunch of deaves are going to the deef club tonight. Care to join us?