Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Poet Douglas Ridloff Responds to OY/YO in ASL


Hello, I’m Douglas Ridloff. I’m a Deaf Jewish Man. I first saw this piece near the Brooklyn Bridge. It literally grabbed my eye and pulled it right in. I thought it was badass and cool, and then I walked around it and realized it was even cooler, because I saw the flipside of “YO” to the “OY.” It’s a representation of New York, and therefore a representation of me, a New Yorker born and bred. And I hope to die here as a New Yorker, too. I feel that this represents the Deaf community, too, because our signs and our facial expressions are so bold that we draw the eyes of hearing people everywhere, just as this sculpture drew mine. There’s something about “YO!” and “OY!” that makes me think of the tendency of Deaf people to be so direct. If you gain weight someone might say, “you got fat, what happened?” Or if you were to make a mistake, someone might just say, “You idiot! Come on now!” We’re very blunt. “OY” and “YO” also has that reversibility to it. If you speak a sentence in English, you can’t then speak it backwards exactly. In sign language, you can. For example, diving off the diving board… See? In sign language, you can say that both forwards and backwards. Also, when I call my friends, all their names are “YO!” because if I need to call to them from afar, I just yell “YO!” and then they look my way. Maybe they use hearing aids. When I was growing up, everyone’s name was “YO.”

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