ASL Polar Express Shows Off Developing Language Skills

Rejoice! Shaylee, the daughter of ASL Nook’s Sheena McFeely and Manny Johnson, is back with a new ASL Christmas story. We've been watching her storytelling skills develop for a few years now. When she was 4, we cooed over her version of The Night Before Christmas. The next year she made our hearts grow three sizes with How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Then last year we laughed and shouted out with glee at the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Though ASL is in many ways different from spoken language, when it comes to the timeline of natural childhood language acquisition, it is almost exactly the same. (Shaylee's parents are Deaf signers, so her environment is an ideal one for this process to unfold.) At 4, we saw her get comfortable with grammatical concepts like topic/comment structure. At 5, she expertly navigated the expression of character perspective. At 6, her understanding of narrator voice was solid. Now, with this performance of The Polar Express, we can see an impressive mastery of ever more subtle and complex aspects of storytelling, like prosody.

Prosody refers to rhythm and voice intonation in spoken language. For sign, there is no vocal intonation, but there are prosodic features like blinks, eye gaze, body shifts, and the tension and speed of signs. Because there is so much vocabulary in common among Christmas stories, we can take a look at prosody development by comparing the same signs from Shaylee now with three years ago.

For example, note the difference between "Santa gets on his sleigh" then and now. The first has a cute, babyish "tone of voice." The second has a mature, narrator tone.

The articulation of the sign itself on the hands is crisper, neater, and, with regard to narration, more intentional. The same can be seen in the change to "very old" in the last few years.

Thanks again, Shaylee! For sharing your holiday spirit with us, and for showing us the marvel of language acquisition in action.

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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