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ere are some jokes that are commonly found in Deaf Culture.  For many years, jokes were passed down “orally”, but are now starting to be written down.  Sometimes they’re told slightly differently, and usually the jokes adapt and change to include the latest technical advances and such, but the gist is always the same.  Have fun perusing…


A young Deaf couple is taking a road trip.  As the night wears on, they both start falling asleep as they are driving.  Suddenly, the woman notices a motel ahead.  The couple decide to stay the night at the motel, a little string of buildings where the rooms look all the same.  Just as they are getting ready for bed, the woman starts feeling terrible.  She has a really upset stomach, and she can’t get to sleep.  “There’s a 7-11 across the way.”  The man tells her.  “I’ll run really quick and buy you some antacid.”  When he gets back to the motel, the man realizes that he has no idea which room his wife is sleeping in.  What does he do?  He gets back into his car and starts honking the horn like crazy.  All the lights in the motel go on, except for one room.  He opens the door and hands his wife the medicine, as the hearing people outside all get really cranky. 


A woman gets on a train, takes a seat near the window and waits for the train to start moving.  As it moves, she crosses herself like a catholic nun.  A few minutes later, she crosses herself again.  As the train keeps going faster and faster, she crosses herself sooner, and then faster and faster, until her hands are moving frantically across her body.  Why?  The telephone wires going by outside the window look like crucifixes. 


A Deaf man is driving along when he sees a hitchhiker along the side of the road.  He picks the hearing man up, and they drive off.  The Deaf man has a lead foot, and soon they’re speeding down the highway as fast as can be.  They zip right by a cop, who immediately pulls them over.  The Deaf man rolls down his window and gestures to the cop “I’m deaf, I can’t hear you.”  The cop thinks about things for a minute, then lets the man go on his way.  The deaf man keeps his speed reasonable for a while, but pretty soon he’s zipping along the highway again.  He gets pulled over twice more, and every time the cop just lets him go free.  Pretty soon, the Deaf man gets sleepy.  He pulls over the car and asks the hitchhiker to drive for a while.  The hitchhiker gets into the driver’s seat, and he has a lead foot too.  He speeds past another cop, and as he’s getting pulled over, he thinks ‘what should I do?’  He looked at the Deaf man sleeping in the passenger seat and thought, ‘If I pretend to be deaf, maybe I won’t get a ticket.”  The hitchhiker rolled down his window and gestured to the cop. “I’m deaf, I can’t hear you.”   “That’s OK.”  The cop signed back.  “I’m a CODA.  I speak ASL fluently.”



There is a deaf man waiting on the road next to the train station.  The gates are down, the lights are flashing, but there is no sign of a train and he has been waiting for a long time.  The deaf man decides to go inside the station and see the station master.  He storms in, and writes on a piece of paper “Please But.”  The station master is very confused.  (it’s funnier in ASL, because the sign for But looks like open the gate. This one doesn’t translate well in print.) 


 There is a terrible fire in an apartment building down town.  A mother and baby are trapped on the top floor as the flames are rising higher.  There are tons of Firefighters on the ground outside with a net, pleading with the mother to throw her baby down to them and then jump herself.  They don’t have much time left.  “I can’t throw my baby down to you.”  She yells back at them.  “How do I know he’ll be safe!?!”  “Don’t worry.”  one of the firemen tells her.  “I used to play football.  I’ll catch your baby for sure.”  The mother drops the baby, and the football player slides through the crowd to make a spectacular catch.  As the crowd goes wild, the football player spikes the baby on the ground like he just made a touchdown, and goes strutting off. 


A lumberjack is in the forest, cutting down trees.  As he yells “Timber!”  each tree falls to the ground.  Suddenly, he gets to one tree that will not budge when he yells “Timber!”  He yells at it several more times, but it still won’t budge.  It’s a really nice tree, so he decides to bring out a tree doctor to see what’s the matter with it.  “Oh.  Your tree is deaf.”  The tree doctor tells him.  “Here,  the doctor said as he handed him a sign with the word timber written on it.  “Try this.”  The lumberjack showed the tree the sign and it fell over like the others. 


Two men are watching birds on the telephone wire as they’re eating their lunch.  The birds on the left telephone wire are sitting quietly, but the birds on the right telephone wire keep jumping up and down.  The first man asks the second why he thinks this is.  “Oh,”  the second man replies.”  The wire on the right is a TTY line.”


There was a deaf woman who worked at a factory in Czechoslovakia.  She didn’t read or write, but she made a deal with the paymaster that when she picked up her paycheck every Friday, she could put down a thumb print instead of signing for it.  She went on this way for fifteen years, showing up every Friday at the exact same time.  One Friday, she didn’t show up at all.  The pay master was a little concerned, especially when she didn’t show up the Friday following, or the Friday after that.  He was really relieved when he saw her in line again a month later.  He gave her the check, but instead of giving him a thumb print, she gave him her index finger instead.  For months this went on, her showing up just like before, but giving him her index finger and not her thumb.  The paymaster wondered if she had hurt her thumb somehow.  It must have been badly hurt, he thought, to be unusable for so long.  One day, the curiosity became too much for him and he asked her what had happened.  “I just got married.”  she said.  “I had to change my last name.”


orn in 1905 in Galveston Texas, Leroy Colombo was the son of Italian immigrants.  At 7 years old he got sick with meningitis, which caused him to lose his hearing and also made him paralysed from the waist down.  His two brothers encouraged him to take up swimming as a way to strengthen his legs, and within a year Leroy was walking again.  More importantly, he discovered how much he loved being in the water.   When Leroy’s parents sent him to the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas, he hardly ever left the pool.  In his six years at school, Leroy broke several records for speed and distance.  While visiting his parents, he also made his first rescue on Galveston Beach.  He was only twelve years old.

After six years at the Texas School for the Deaf, Leroy went back to his parent’s house.  He started surfing on the local beaches, becoming one of the first people to surf in Galveston.  In 1923, Leroy joined the prestigious Toboggan Club, passing their entry test of swimming three straight hours without outside support or floating.  The same year he also became an official lifeguard, although he had been saving lives unofficially for some time.  When Leroy would notice a swimmer out too far, he would blow the whistle like crazy and pound his chest to let the swimmer know to come in.  His brothers owned a raft, seat, and umbrella rental business, and Leroy would also sometimes work a day or two for them, if they needed the help or were going on vacation.

Leroy was an amazing swimmer and the record books are full of stories about how great he was.  In 1927, he completed a 15 mile swim of the Gulf of Mexico in 11 hours.  Most of the other participants never even finished the race, dropping out either due to muscle cramps or jellyfish stings.  During a 10 mile race along the Mississippi river, he dislocated his arm at mile 8 and completed the race with one hand.  He didn’t win, but neither did the Olympic swimmer Johnny Weismuller of Tarzan fame, who was also competing.  He rescued two crew men from the water after a tugboat burst into flame, swimming underneath burning oil to save their lives.  Most importantly, Leroy saved over 900 lives in his career as a lifeguard, a number proudly enshrined in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Leroy wasn’t just great in the water.  He was well-known along the beach as a friendly guy with a great sense of humor.  He could read lips well and spoke clearly.  He would frequently roam the beaches alone, and he was quick to anger whenever anyone left a mess in the public facilities.  After he retired at the age of 62, he still went swimming every day.

After Leroy’s death in 1974, the citizens of Galveston erected a plaque along the sea wall in his honor.  The annual 5K run in Galveston is named after him, and there are numerous pictures of him tacked in lifeguard stations all along the beach.  Leroy is also frequently used as an example in anti-discrimination lawsuits when deaf people have been denied the right to become lifeguards due to their inability to hear people calling for help.  Though his accomplishments are many, Leroy’s greatest legacy is probably the 907 lives he saved from the blue waters of the Gulf.

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