The New York Times shared an important revelation out of Eugene, Ore. yesterday, and we wanted to pass it on because we are immature: the spade-shaped Oregon "O" that Ducks fans so enthusiastically make to show support for the team means "vagina" in American Sign Language.
We've learned this thanks to the fact that the majority of the football team's players are enrolled in the university's ASL class in order to fulfill their foreign language requirement. In total, 29 football players are in the class this year, and their professor reportedly "delights in telling them the true meaning of the sign when they form a spade-shaped 'O' with their hands." She says that in ASL, the motion itself is like "screaming" the word vagina.
The story is about much more than that fact, of course—it discusses the notion that football players only enroll in the course for an easy pass, and how their presence diversifies the class make-up—but this is definitely the main takeaway:
"I did the ‘O' once, and I never did it again," said LaMichael James, the team's star running back, who recently injured his right elbow. When discussing this, James spoke quietly so that those nearby would not hear. He would not make the sign. His elbow hurt, he demurred.
...as James learned from his teachers, there is not as much nuance in sign language. "If you're ugly, you're ugly," he said. "There's no, ‘She's all right,' like there is in English."
Which is why the spade-shaped "O" is so painfully awkward - to those who know sign language, there is no disguising its meaning. When Larson, a devoted Ducks fan, heard that James avoids making the sign, she was delighted.
"I'm so proud of him," she said. "We're trying to spread the word to make the ‘O' more of a rounded shape."
That's certainly an important cause.
The Oops in the ‘O' for Oregon [NY Times]