Dec 12, 2008

Filipino Sign Language

I didn't realize how funny certain Filipino-style nonverbal signals are to non-Filipinos until D pointed it out.

For example, I open my mouth to signal that I didn't hear him. The first time I did that, he looked very confused. And though he'd deny it, I'm pretty sure he stifled a chuckle in an effort to be respectful.

I certainly hope I haven't done that elsewhere in the States with anyone who wouldn't have understood. D said it looks like I'm using my mouth like a satellite receiver dish. He had jokingly asked me if I got better reception that way.

Here are some more nonverbal "words" that I have encountered back home:
  • Nod for yes - while drinking, eating or smoking. Literally, my friend had his glass to his mouth and nodded. No time wasted, no gaps in communication or drinking.
  • Mouth pointing - pucker lips in the direction you are pointing to. The degree of pucker and corresponding "mmm" sound is directly proportional to the distance of the object from you.
  • Two eyebrow raise - raise both eyebrows to say "hi". Two eyebrows raised a couple of times rapidly means "we have a secret agreement"
  • "Glowing" eyes - Make your eyes as big as possible and look mean. This is a signal for "warning" or "don't do it!!!" or "behave". Parents (like my grandpa) used this to make the kids behave especially in the presence of visitors when yelling or pinching are seen as distasteful.
  • The Sabong Numbers - cockfighters have an entire system of signals for numbers when betting. It is very important to know if you ever go gamble on roosters killing each other. You don't want to bet(and lose) P5000 when you really meant P500.
I'm pretty sure there are more. I've heard other cultures rub noses in greeting and that the "okay" sign in the US can mean "zero" or "loser" in other places. For now, in an effort to fit in, I consciously remember not to open my mouth wide if I don't hear something clearly. I can see how that might be weird.

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