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Friday, May 26, 2023


by Paul Hostovsky

The name-sign for Ron DeSantis
in American Sign Language
is exactly the same as the sign 
for Satan, according to my deaf
informants at the Florida School
for the Deaf and the Blind
in St. Augustine. The etymology
of that name-sign may have something to do
with the visual similarity (deaf people 
are intensely visual, after all) between 
the letters in Satan and the letters in Santis, 
or it may have something to do 
with the similarity of their policies–
for example, their shared affinity
for burning, and also their preference
for darkness and the benighted 
over the light of day and the being fully 
awake. Bottom line, if you ever happen
to eavesdrop on some deaf people 
animatedly signing about Ron DeSantis,
it would be a forgivable and understandable mistake
if you thought they were talking about Satan,
because although they're not quite synonyms
they are unmistakably homonyms in ASL.

Paul Hostovsky makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. His newest book of poems is Pitching for the Apostates (forthcoming, Kelsay Books).