What sign-language interpreters make of the likes of Lady Gaga and Bon Jovi

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 9:13 AM

The first question that interpreters get asked is, "But why would a deaf person go to a concert?" They think it's a silly question, but everyone asks it.

Going to a concert is partly about hearing the songs. It is equally about the costumes, the spectacle, the pulsing, the convulsing - the sticky, claustrophobic mass of humanity. When you consider this, it makes perfect sense that deaf people go to concerts.

But someone still needs to interpret the words.

In the upstairs computer room of her house in Riverdale, Traci Ison ponders the metaphorical question that freaky teens and worried parents have been asking for two years, but this time in a very literal way. How do you interpret Lady Gaga?

Here is the lyric:

"Come on now, this beat is sick. I wanna take a ride on your disco stick."

Here is the problem:

1. There is no ideal translation for the word "disco" in this circumstance.

2. The word Ison might normally sign for "stick" generally refers to what would snap off of a tree branch.

Thus, if the sentence is translated word-for-word from English to its corresponding signs, the resulting phrase could come across as something like, "I want to ride on the twig of John Travolta's dance moves."

Lady Gaga's "Love Game" is metaphorical, but exactly how metaphorical is it? Is the tone coy? Callous? Flirty? Dirty?

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