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Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

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Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

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Living Loud: Lou Ferrigno – The Incredible Hulk of acting, bodybuilding, fitness training, and motivational speaking

Living Loud: Lou Ferrigno – The Incredible Hulk of acting, bodybuilding, fitness training, and motivational speaking

Deaf Culture   |  Monday, October 24, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Lou Ferrigno is an actor, retired professional bodybuilder, fitness trainer, motivational speaker, and deputy sheriff.1 He is most well-known for portraying The Incredible Hulk, but has been in over 35 movies and 65 television shows,4 won the bodybuilding titles of Mr. America and Mr. Universe (twice), and is a Guinness Book world record holder.1

Growing Up: Challenged by Hearing Loss

Lou Ferrigno as a child
Lou Ferrigno as a child. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Louis Jude “Lou” Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 9, 1951. Soon after he was born he suffered from a series of ear infections, which caused him to lose 75% of his hearing.1 This hearing loss was not diagnosed until Ferrigno was 3 years old and he began wearing hearing aids at age 4. The hearing aids only helped improve his hearing marginally. He learned to understand what others were saying by lipreading. He said because “aids weren’t as advanced in those days, I developed very defective speech. That was harder to deal with than the hearing loss, because people assumed I was dumb when they heard me talk. I had difficulty making myself understood. That’s why I didn’t talk much, just enough to get what I needed.” 3

He went to public school and said his dad “made sure that at home I spoke the best I could, and he never gave me special attention. He treated me as though I was normal and my brother and sister accepted me that way. Dad was determined that I be normal, even if I wasn’t. That’s why I had to work twice as hard at everything.” 3

He couldn’t hear when he was in class, but was too shy to ask any of his teachers if he could sit up front where he could hear and didn’t let anyone know about the problem. He tried to isolate himself from his classmates. 3 “They used to call me ‘deaf Louie,’ ‘deaf mute,’ because of my hearing and because of the way I sounded.”5 He was teased and bullied, sometimes resulting in schoolyard fights that he would lose.7

Getting Pumped Up: Inspired and Determined to Be Strong

He was skinny, small, and introverted.5 He turned to comic books for comfort. “I felt devastated and emotionally insecure. I would just read the comics and it would give me inspiration and hope.”7 Superman and The Incredible Hulk were his favorites. After pretending to be Superman by putting on a red blanket as a cape and jumping off of the second story of his apartment, he hit the cement hard and decided Superman wasn’t his favorite anymore.5 He thought of the Hulk as “the green Santa Claus” because of his instinct to protect the good.7 Ferrigno also liked the Hulk because he was obsessed with the feeling of being powerful.5 “I wanted to be so strong, so invincible so I could command the same power the Hulk does... and that’s how that connection began.”7 He then made it his mission to be strong as well.

Lou Ferrigno at bodybuilding competition
Lou Ferrigno at a bodybuilding competition with Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
At age 13 Ferrigno started weight training. Bodybuilder and Hercules star, Steve Reeves, was one of his role models.1 Before he could afford his own set of barbells, he made one out of a broomstick and cement weights.2 Ferrigno won his first major bodybuilding titles as Mr. America and Mr. Universe in 1973, at the age of 21. His Mr. Universe title was, and still is to this day, a Guinness Book World record for the youngest person to win the Mr. Universe title. Ferrigno competed for the Mr. Olympia competition in 1974 and got second place.1

Ferrigno worked throughout his early bodybuilding career as a sheet metal worker in a Brooklyn factory. He did not enjoy this dangerous work. He left after a friend and co-worker accidentally cut off his hand. Ferrigno left the competition circuit for a period that included a brief stint as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. However, he had never played football and was cut after two games.1

Living a Childhood Dream: Becoming The Incredible Hulk

In 1977 television producers started to seek the right person to portray the larger-than-life comic book superhero, “The Incredible Hulk.” They were interested in Ferrigno for the part because he was the biggest professional bodybuilder at that time with his 6’5”, 285 lb. frame. When Ferrigno heard about the role he said, “It’s mine,” and wanted the part more than anything.5 He auditioned for the part of the green-skinned Goliath and he won it over another well-known bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.1

The Incredible Hulk turning over a car.
The Incredible Hulk turning over a car. (Photo Credit: CBS, The Incredible Hulk, Season 2: Episode 3 "Ricky" [Originally Aired: October 6, 1978])
Ferrigno was a hulk in real life as well. He has told the story of moving a parked car out of its spot and onto the street so he could make room to park his Volkswagen.2 Another account happened while on set of The Incredible Hulk, where Ferrigno worked long, 16 hour days. He was supposed to flip a car with the aid of a steel cable lift, but it had broken. He was exhausted and annoyed about still being on set at 4 a.m. and didn’t want to wait for a new cable. He told them to start shooting and tilted the car up off the road and pushed it down the embankment, and that was a wrap for that shoot!7

Ferrigno continued playing the Hulk role until 1981. The Incredible Hulk was a huge ratings success and spawned several TV movies after the initial TV series completed. 1

After playing The Incredible Hulk for 5 years, Ferrigno went on to be in over 35 movies and 65 television shows. He followed in the steps of his role model Steve Reeves and starred in Hercules (1983). He has played himself in Surge of Power (2004), I Love You, Man (2009), and the CBS sitcom The King of Queens (2002-2007). He was a competitor on reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice (2012), where he raised $50,000 for his charity, the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has also been in multiple documentaries, including Pumping Iron (1977) and Stand Tall (1997). He has performed as the Hulk in 6 TV shows and voiced the Hulk in the movies The Incredible Hulk (2008), The Avengers (2012), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).4

Today: Still Focused on Health, Conquering Challenges, and Being a Real-Life Hero

Ferrigno family
The Ferrigno Family: "The First Family of Bodybuilding" (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Ferrigno is married to psychotherapist Carla Green, who also was his manager. She later became a personal trainer herself. They live in California and have three children – Shanna, Lou Jr., and Brent. Fitness has always been a family activity and now that their children are grown up, they are also involved in the health and fitness industry. They call themselves “The First Family of Bodybuilding.” Ferrigno has been a personal trainer for Michael Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Norris, and others. He continues to do private training, as does his children Lou Jr. and Shanna. Ferrigno believes the key to health is a balance between mind, body, and spirit. Together, he and his daughter Shanna started Ferrigno FIT – a brand and community focused on healthy living.1, 8

Ferrigno continues to be a motivational speaker and has been a spokesperson for the Better Hearing Institute for 25 years and a supporter of the Starkey Hearing Foundation. He tells others to try being the best of themselves in life, no matter what problems they might face along the way.2 He says his hearing loss presented him with a challenge in life and his journey has been filled with ups and downs, but you can’t be a quitter. “I believe the maxim that you only get out of life what you put into it. I found my courage to persevere because I don’t believe in defeat. I am a survivor, and I love challenges. I always say either yes or no, never maybe. And I don’t use the word hope. I either do it, or I don’t do it; I don’t hope to do it.”3

"I don’t use the word hope. I either do it, or I don’t do it; I don’t hope to do it."

  - Lou Ferrigno

Ferrigno on duty
Lou Ferrigno, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Deputy. (Photo Credit: Lou Ferrigno Website)
Ferrigno has joined forces with several law enforcement agencies, including becoming a reserve sheriff deputy for Los Angeles County, California in 2006, a volunteer member of the sheriff posse for Maricopa County, Arizona in 2010, and a reserve peace officer for the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s office in 2012. Ferrigno has dedicated 20 hours a month to the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s office since 2012. It’s not an honorary post. Ferrigno attended the police academy in southern California, is certified, and has police authority. Ferrigno said, “I'm very happy to be a real-life hero, protecting life and property.”6


  1. About Ferrigno. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  2. Borrelli, Anthony. (2010, April 22). ‘Hulk” motivates SUNY Cortland students: Strongman speaks to audience of 400 about his career, making most of what you have. Cortland Standard. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  3. Ferrigno, Ferrigno. (1981, February 9). No Longer Silenced by Hearing Loss, the Hulk Debuts in a Speaking Role. People Magazine. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  4. Filmography. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  5. Ferrigno Ferrigno. Oprah: Where are they now? Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  6. (2014, November 21). Ferrigno Ferrigno: Volunteer reserve SLO County sheriff's deputy. KSBY NBC 6. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  7. Pioneers of Television: Ferrigno Ferrigno. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved 10/17/2016 from
  8. ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Ferrigno Ferrigno on Marriage and Family [video]. Huffington Post. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from

Top Graphic Photo Source: Demolition Man. (2013, September 24). Lou Ferrigno: The Incredible Legend [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved 10/17/2016 from


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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Interpreter Q & A: Wearing a Brace While Interpreting

Interpreter Q & A: Wearing a Brace While Interpreting

Interpreter Tips   |  Thursday, October 13, 2016

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Dear BC,

I am currently wearing a brace on my wrist for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Today during a break the Deaf client came up to me and asked me to remove my brace because she found it distracting and it affected my clarity. She also said it made her feel guilty for having to make me work. What do you think I should have done?

Painfully Compromised

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

Our primary function as interpreters is to facilitate communication. If your client feels that your brace was truly affecting her access to equal communication, then you have several choices:

  • You could have removed the brace.
  • You could have not removed the brace and offered to reschedule for another day with another interpreter.
  • You could have offered to call the referral agency to try to find a replacement for yourself for the remainder of the assignment.
  • Or you could both make the best of the situation.

You are the only person who knows your limits, and she is the only person who knows if she is satisfied. We as interpreters have to make sure that we are doing what is best not only for our clients (and our profession), but also for ourselves. It may mean admitting to yourself that you’re not at 100 percent right now and taking some time off until you recover.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

Over the past 25 years, I have had several interpreters who wore braces due to Carpal Tunnel or other injuries in their arms or shoulders. My response was that I judged these interpreters on the accuracy of the information. If that was there, then I would have no problem with it. However, if the interpreter’s expressions or movements indicated that he/she was in pain or having difficulty keeping up, I would also have said something. I would ask for a replacement until he/she is able to do the job fully again. I am acutely aware that interpreters are human beings and are not easily replaced. I try to show understanding and compassion by trying to work with the interpreter. In the long run, this effort pays off because a good and healthy interpreter is worth it.

What's your perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about Brenda  |  Articles by Brenda

Avoiding Stereotypes with Gender when Teaching Sign Language

Teaching Tips   |  Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By John Miller

We are constantly posting tips, facts, and learning resources related to sign language and Deaf culture on our Signing Savvy Facebook Page and Twitter @SigningSavvy. Occasionally we get questions about our posts and explain them further with a followup article. This article expands on one of our Parent/Teacher Quick Tip of the Day posts from Facebook, which is also often tied to our Sign of the Day.

Each day I look at Signing Savvy’s Sign of the Day and reflect on what might be a good tip or antidote to share related to that sign or topic. As an educator and administrator, my tips are often geared towards parents and teachers. When the Sign of the Day was BEAUTIFUL, I started thinking about a lesson I once did with my students about different descriptive words.  This lesson simply consisted of an activity where students would take adjectives written on index cards like strong, pretty, colorful, beautiful, smart, kind, interesting and associate them with pictures of people, animals or places.  The students would then have to use them in a complete sentence.

One student in particular was sure that only girls could be beautiful. The discussion led me to teaching a lesson about “girl words” and “boy words” (the student’s title, not mine). It was amazing to me how these young children who couldn’t hear and were just learning the language, had already developed a sense of what was “the norm” as far as words used to describe the different sexes.

Think of how often you hear the word beautiful used for little girls, but very seldom with little boys. Think of how often you hear the word tough or strong used for little boys, yet not for girls. As a father, I can say I want my daughter to be just as strong as she is beautiful, and I want my son to be tough just as much as I want him to have a gentleness about him.

The lesson also led us to discuss the signs for man and woman, and girl and boy etc… and how the location of the signs on the face/head can be thought of as sexist as well. In ASL, masculine roles such as boy, father, uncle and grandfather are located at the top portion of the head, while female roles, (girl, mother, grandmother) are signed at the bottom portion of the face.  This has been pointed out over the years by many as being sexiest and feeds the perception of men being the superior race to women.

It can be interesting yet important to have discussions on gender and to address stereotypes that can be found in sign language as well as life. Be careful as you address your students or children not to fall into this trap. Boys can be beautiful, sweet and kind just the same as girls can be smart and athletic and tough!


Here are some commercials that tackle gender stereotypes. These are great examples to check out and share with your students (the content of each video varies and would be appropriate for different age groups depending on the age and maturity of your students). Watching a video(s) with your students is a good way to start a lesson and engage a comprehensive discussion on gender stereotypes.

Pantene Advertisement: Labels Against Women

This video is great to make students think about language and how words and labels are sometimes unfairly assigned based on gender. (Caption Note: There are no captions in this video, however, there is no talking in it, only written messages and background music.)

Always Commercial: Like a Girl

This video makes you think about the meaning behind sayings and how they can create unhealthy gender stereotypes. (Caption Note: Remember to turn the captions on for this video.)

Verizon Commercial: Inspire Her Mind

This video focuses on the words adults use when talking to girls and the messages they send. The video says instead of just telling a girl she is pretty, “Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant too.” (Caption Note: Remember to turn the captions on for this video.)

Time Magazine: One Login Campaign: #ILookLikeAnEngineer

This Time Magazine article: Female Engineers Are Using the Hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer To Tear Down Gender Stereotypes talks about a campaign that aims to redefine “what an engineer should look like.”

These videos would all be great resources to start discussions in your classroom about gender stereotypes. Good Luck! 

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Living Loud: Charles Jules Henry Nicolle - First Deaf Nobel Award Recipient

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Charles Jules Henry Nicolle was the first deaf Nobel Prize recipient. The Nobel Prize is awarded annually in Stockholm, Sweden and is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics. Nicolle received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

Charles Nicolle
Charles Nicolle at his microscope - the most famous photo of him. (Photo Credit: Henri Roussel [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Nicolle was born hearing, in Rouen, France, on September 21, 1866. His father was a physician, and so, in spite of a wide range of interests including history, literature, and philosophy, he followed his father’s footsteps and also became a doctor. His choice became a challenge as he experienced a progressive hearing loss, and by the age of 20 was deaf.

Nicolle became the Director of Pasteur Institute in Tunis, Tunisia in 1902. North Africa was a good place to study infectious diseases, including brucellosis, diphtheria, leprosy, malaria, measles, Mediterranean spotted fever, relapsing fever, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and typhus.

Typhus had been highly communicable and a frequently fatal disease. It devastated armies during wars and prisoners living under unsanitary conditions, it affected displaced populations suffering from famine, floods, and other natural disasters, and in general, it was a disease of poverty. Dr. Nicolle studied this disease for seven years, and discovered that lice were responsible for transmitting the disease. The discovery came about after he observed typhus patients spread the disease to others both inside and outside of the hospital, even their clothes seemed to spread the disease. The patients were no longer infectious after they had a hot bath and clean clothes. Controlling and eliminating lice meant controlling and eliminating typhus. For this life-saving discovery, Dr. Nicolle won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

"The disclosure of a new fact, the leap forward, the conquest over yesterday’s ignorance, is an act not of reason but of imagination, of intuition."

  - Charles Nicolle

Nicolle died in 1936 at the age of 69 in Tunis, where he was still a bacteriologist and Director of the Pasteur Institute. Both of his two sons, Marcelle and Pierre, followed in his footsteps and became well-known physicians. Nicolle has been honored on postage stamps in France, Tunis, and Guyana. He forever changed biomedical science and his discoveries helped to save millions of lives.

Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps
Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps from France, Tunisia (1952), and Guyana.
(Photo Credits: The Postage Stamp Collection Modern Medicine Foundations, Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, UTMB Health, Nobel Stamps)


  1. Schultz, M. and Morens, D. (2009, September). Charles-Jules-Henri Nicolle. Emerging Infectious Disease, 15(9). Retrieved 8/16/2016 from
  2. Charles Nicolle. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from
  3. Nobel Prize. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from


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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

Practice American Sign Language (ASL) With an ASL Expert Through Video Chat

Practice American Sign Language (ASL) With an ASL Expert Through Video Chat

Site News   |  Monday, September 19, 2016

By Jillian Winn

We’re excited to announce that we are launching a new service where you can practice American Sign Language (ASL) with an ASL expert through video chat. We are calling this new service Savvy Chat. All chats are one-on-one 30 minute sessions using video conferencing software online. You can practice your receptive and expressive ASL skills and/or get help with a specific aspect of ASL. 
To use Savvy Chat, you will need a webcam, high speed internet, and a device that will allow you to download and install the Zoom video conferencing software (you can use a Windows or Mac OS X computer, iPhone, or Android device). 
We are starting with a limited number of spots for roll out of Savvy Chat to see if there is interest in this service.

Schedule a time for a Savvy Chat before they all fill up!

If a lot of people are interested in Savvy Chat, we will add more availability in the future.


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