Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

mardi 7 octobre 2008

Reclaiming The Deaf Term: HEARING, MOTHER FATHER DEAF

I’ve resisted the term CODA from the beginning, which is unlike me. I’m big on allowing members of a group to define their own identity and not to define them when I am not a member of the group. But the term that Americans have gleefully adopted to define those who are hearing with Deaf parents has always been jarring and wrong on some fundamental level for me.

The first thing that I was able to explain that was wrong was the addition of “adult” to “children of deaf.” I mean, what, are we trying to make sure people understand that they’re not children of children? Not children of senior citizens? Not children of rocks? What? I know they were trying to avoid confusion with the more common acronym “COD,” or Cash On Delivery. But it immediately struck me as ridiculous and still does.

Other than that, it still felt wrong. But I couldn’t explain why. I read Paul Preston’s book, Mother Father Deaf, and I realized, yesyesyes, that term feels so right. When I started signing it instead (or sometimes HEARING, MOTHER FATHER DEAF), it felt like the universe was smiling on me. I didn’t have the words to articulate why this felt so right, however, except that it was the “Deaf way.”

It’s been interesting to note the reactions I’ve received when signing it the old Deaf way rather than just fingerspelling CODA. If I had a nickel for every time someone replied, “Ohohoh, you mean CODA...” Others have given me a blank stare. Still others say, “RIGHT, CODA THAT.” *shrug* I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing, even if it somehow discombobulates those around me.

When I was reading Paddy Ladd’s weighty tome, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood, so I could see what the fuss was about, I was struck by the Britishism HMFD. Ladd explains that British Deaf people sign HEARING MOTHER FATHER DEAF, and they’ve made it into an acronym. The Deaf community there uses HMFD. That was like a homecoming for me. YES! HMFD! Yes!

I’ve been struggling for years to articulate just why I hate the term CODA so much, and I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m much closer than I was. For one thing, it bothers me that the old term wasn’t good enough for them. They had to reject the ASL phrase and turn to English to define themselves. To me, that is a wholesale repudiation of what makes them unique. I’m offended by that.

I know what I said is going to offend at least some of you. But I just had to get that out of my system. I really find the term CODA to be a denial of their heritage. They weren’t satisfied with the beautiful ASL phrase and they turned to the majority language, cobbled together an awkward, ridiculous, laughable acronym, and shoved it in our faces, getting offended when Deaf people didn’t immediately jump on the bandwagon. (Oh, yes. I remember some of them scolding me way back when.) No wonder so many of us caved. Again, I’m all for allowing people to define themselves, but this sticks in my craw.

And now to find that the Deaf community across the pond embraces the British Sign Language phrase, wow. That was liberating. I hope we can do the same here, even though I’m not optimistic. I plan to continue using the ASL phrase HEARING MOTHER FATHER DEAF, and I think I may start using HMFD in print.

I offer this not to cause controversy or hard feelings, but as food for thought, whether you agree or not.

6 Comments:

  • At 08:57, Blogger Dianrez said…

    That's interesting, and I agree about the "Deaf Adults" part of CODA.

    HMFD looks fine, but would sound awkward. The expression works, the problem is saying it as it lacks vowels and CODA just rolls off smoothly. Hemofad? Eeps. It could stand some work.

     
  • At 09:10, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Most hearing kids of deaf parents don't go around saying I'm "KODA" or "CODA," rather most will say, I'm hearing, mother father deaf.

    KODA is a term used for kids of deaf adults, usually used in organizational term. Likewise CODA "Children of deaf adult" which of course includes adult "children" of deaf adults.

    I agree, everyone should feel comfortable using whatever term they see fit.

    I'm a Hard of Hearing CODA

     
  • At 09:39, Blogger moi said…

    Dianrez,

    You raise an interesting point about how it would *sound*... my question is, why are we worrying about that? Forgive me if I sound arrogant or something (not my intention!), but it is a Deaf term, pertaining to members of the Deaf community, so in this instance, I don't really care about how it sounds. I strenuously object to mangling of the English language many times, but to me, that's a nonissue this time.

    Anonymous, thanks for weighing in. :) I realize it's become institutionalized now, in organizations and so on, but I wanted to express my opinion. Deaf ASL users have been saying CODA to describe HMFDs, so it has changed our language. I have also seen many HMFDs say "ME CODA," even though you're right in that many do also say "ME HEARING, MOTHER FATHER DEAF."

     
  • At 15:40, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    I'm Deaf and think this is brilliant!

    This reasoning is brilliant and spot-on, using *ASL* not English.

    I saw on another blog a video sort of going along your lines of thought.. why are acronyms signed 'in English' such as CODA, why is it FS c-o-d-a? Why not give it an ASL sign or ancronymize it using ASL handshapes..

     
  • At 20:03, Blogger Naomi said…

    As a Coda, I am offended by your opinion of what we call ourselves. I am part of two worlds, I use two languages, and I can choose whichever language I like to define myself by. The word Coda began as an English phrase, but morphed into an acronym that is languageless. When I introduce myself to a Deaf person, I tell them DAD DEAF, but when I am using English I use the word Coda. There is no language preference in this term because it has become an acronym, it is no longer English or ASL which is fitting for my existence between the two worlds.
    Also, I believe the term was intentionally chosen because of the word coda in music meaning to go back and repeat the ending a little differently.
    I do find it interesting that other countries use other terms that reflect their sign languages, but I wish that you would not impose your idea of which language I should show preference for when referring to my cultural group.
    I know that you did not mean for this to be controversial, but adding that caviat at the end of your thoughts does not mean that the entire idea is any less controversial or offensive, and I think it is important to show both points of view.

     
  • At 18:29, Blogger moi said…

    Naomi, thanks for weighing in. I apologize for not moderating your comment sooner - I didn't see it, not having logged in since before you left your comment.

     

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