Wednesday, August 12, 2015
A sign of the times
One challenge Gallego faces is translating metaphorical concepts from songs without compromising the whimsical nature of the lyrics. To navigate these intricacies, Gallego will often employ what she calls “indicating verbs:” she’ll mix two signs concurrently — one with her hands, and the other through her movement — to get an idea across.
For instance, in “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix A Lot pontificates, “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got some buns.” When signing “anaconda,” Gallego combines the hand sign for “snake” with a sweeping motion that connotes she is referring to a penis. “I’m signing the snake, but visually, it looks like a big schlong,” she says, “and the audience gets it.”
Similarly, Gallego can’t just flash the sign for “butt” (literally, a simple finger point to the exterior); she has to symbolize that Sir Mix A Lot is referring to particularly voluptuous posteriors. Instead, she draws the shape — a gigantic, large-bootied silhouette — with her hands in the air. “You have to add action and movement to express his true lyric,” she says.
Gallego rarely signs the exact words a performer is saying. Instead, she’ll relate the concepts behind the lyrics. This is because literal interpretations more often than not confuse people (ie. for the phrase, “bear with me,” some interpreters flash the sign for the animal).
I would have never thought this was a real thing. I find it fascinating to watch (warning—you might not want to play this while at work due to language—but it's being signed, so you shouldn't really need the volume, should you? As an alternative, try watching a classic Michael Jackson song being signed).