SASL Newsletter - Fall 2018 Issue Issue 11 - Fall 2018 | Page 2

SASL Executive Board 2015 – 2018 President Samuel J. Supalla University of Arizona [email protected] Vice President Deirdre Schlehofer Rochester Institute of Technology [email protected] Recording Secretary / Newsletter Editor Andrew P. J. Byrne Framingham State University [email protected] Treasurer Harvey Nathanson Austin Community College [email protected] SASL Journal Editor-in-Chief Jody H. Cripps Towson University [email protected] Members-at-Large Russell Rosen CUNY – Staten Island [email protected] Gabriel Arellano Georgetown University [email protected] Ron Fenicle Montgomery College [email protected] By Andrew P. J. Byrne The Tall Tale Told in American Sign Language and Its Relevance for Deaf People and Society In the previous two issues, I wrote about folklore, one of the two main genres of American Sign Language (ASL) literature, and talked about multiple versions of the same work signed by different storytellers, such as The Hitchhiker. I also discussed the two works of self-defeating humor, Don’t Sign with Your Hands Full and Please But. For this issue, I will focus on the folkloristic sub-genre of tall tales. ASL has one good example of this sub-genre, which is The Deaf Miner and The Coal Miner. I need to first briefly describe what makes this a tall tale. Also known as windies, stretchers, yarns, whoppers, and lies (Siporin, 2000), “the tall tale is a comic fiction disguised as fact, deliberately exaggerated to the limits of credibility or beyond in order to reveal emotional truths, to awaken his audience, to exorcise fears, to define and bind a social group” (Brown, 1987, pp. 1-2). Furthermore, “the tall tale narrative qualifies as a type of hoax, for it pretends to be describing things as they really are, though its description actually distorts because of an outlandish use of figurative language” (Caron, 1986, p. 28). Produced by the San Francisco Public Library and signed by Byron B. Burnes in 1984, The Deaf Miner may be the earliest published recording of an ASL tall tale. Another version of the same work is The Coal Miner, which was produced by Sorenson Communications and signed by an unnamed storyteller in 2015. That The Deaf Miner and The Coal Miner have some differences in content is not surprising as the tale has been told and retold orally many times over the years. Variation is an expected phenomenon for oral storytelling in general. It is important to note that the tale's content suggests that its roots trace back to the early twentieth century. An English translation and a video of both versions are below: English Translation: The Deaf Miner There was this Deaf man in Montana who worked in the [copper] mines. He used to use an old flat iron to wake up every morning. That was his alarm clock. I don’t ____ (Continue on the next page) The Power of ASL 2 Fall 2018 – Issue 11