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Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'

Bat Goddess 07 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM
Sleepy Rosie 07 Dec 08 - 05:21 PM
Bat Goddess 07 Dec 08 - 07:35 PM
semi-submersible 08 Dec 08 - 03:13 PM
Bat Goddess 08 Dec 08 - 07:13 PM
Bat Goddess 08 Dec 08 - 07:42 PM
CapriUni 08 Dec 08 - 11:56 PM
Northerner 09 Dec 08 - 07:19 AM
Bat Goddess 09 Dec 08 - 08:17 AM
katlaughing 09 Dec 08 - 10:32 AM
Bat Goddess 09 Dec 08 - 02:16 PM
CapriUni 09 Dec 08 - 05:39 PM
semi-submersible 09 Dec 08 - 07:58 PM
CapriUni 09 Dec 08 - 10:18 PM
Mysha 10 Dec 08 - 12:18 PM
EBarnacle 10 Dec 08 - 02:29 PM
semi-submersible 10 Dec 08 - 04:46 PM
Bat Goddess 11 Dec 08 - 10:03 AM
Mysha 11 Dec 08 - 05:19 PM
Bat Goddess 11 Dec 08 - 08:52 PM
Mysha 21 Dec 08 - 08:44 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 07 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM

Last night at a local gathering with both music and story telling, one person retold the classic "The Pope and the Rabbi" story involving a silent debate (as neither understood the other's language) wherein if the Rabbi lost the argument, the Jewish inhabitants of Rome would have to leave.

The teller was unfamiliar with the story "The Professor of Signs" from Katharine Briggs' book, "British Folktales" about a silent debate between a foreign professor and a one-eyed miller disguised as a student at Cambridge.

This is one of those universal stories -- I've copies of a number of other versions of the Pope and Rabbi Silent Debate stories -- including Santa Singh and Banta Singh, the Pope and the Mulluh, the Pope and the Pakistani, and a Comanche version with the Pope and Standing Bear.

There's probably a Sufi version somewhere in our books of Nasrudin stories, too. I'll have to look for it one of these days.

What I can't as yet find is a "modern" version of a silent debate that didn't involve either a pope/bishop or professor/rustic that I either received as an email (but what did I file it under?!?) or heard (probably at The Press Room after a session -- I remember discussing the versions of the story with someone maybe 15 or 20 years ago).

Anybody know of any similar more or less contemporary stories?!?

Thanks!

Linn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 07 Dec 08 - 05:21 PM

Well I've seen a lot of extremely noisy debate where people weren't listening or understanding each other.

It's an aside I know, but do you know what the purpose or 'meaning' of such a universal tale is? If there is one of course.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 07 Dec 08 - 07:35 PM

For those unfamiliar with the story --

The Pope And The Rabbi
                     
Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy . There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He'd       have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy ; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.
      
The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a "silent" debate.
      
On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger. Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple.
      
With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy .
      
Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.
      
The Pope said, "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue."
      
Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won. "I haven't a clue," the rabbi said. "First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy , so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here. And then what?" asked a woman. "Who knows?" said the rabbi. "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: semi-submersible
Date: 08 Dec 08 - 03:13 PM

It rings a bell, vaguely, but I can't place it. Good luck, Linn.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 08 Dec 08 - 07:13 PM

The other story line (meaning not the Pope and some ethnic group whom he wants to move) is from Katharine Briggs' book "British Folk Tales" and called "The Professor of Signs".

A professor was coming to examine the students at Cambridge and, after they played a prank on him by disguising scholars as road men and answering his questions in Greek and Latin...

The professor thought to himself: "This must be a learned place, since the very roadmen talk Latin and Greek. I must hit on some other subject to examine the students in."

So, when he got to Cambridge, he announced that he would test them in the Language of Signs. At this there was great consternation in the University, and none was more distressed than the best scholar of then all, a poor, one-eyed student, who had hoped for preferment from this examination. Whilst the others were preparing themselves, he wandered gloomily along the banks of the Cam, where he met a friend of his, a one-eyed miller, who asked why he was so sad. The student told him everything, and the miller suggested that HE should try his luck, for he was a hardy fellow, and feared nothing, and since the test was to be silent, his speech would not betray him. They changed clothes, and the student waited anxiously outside the Examination Hall.

At first all was silent, but presently there was a great burst of applause, and the miller came slipping out. "Here, change quickly," he said, "they say I've won." The student pulled on his gown, and got into the Hall just in time to hear the Professor explaining.

"It was remarkable," he said. "Never would I have believed that a man could follow every turn of my thought. First I held up an apple, to signify by the apple Mankind had fallen. But quick as thought he held up a piece of bread, to show that by the Bread of Life we were all redeemed. Then I held up one finger, to show there is but one God, but he held up two, to signify that we must not forget Christ, so I held up three, to remind him of the Trinity, and he very quickly clenched his fist, to show that three are yet one. He never faltered nor mistook, and richly deserves the Prize."

The scholar was delighted, but he wondered very much how the poor miller had gained such knowledge, so, as soon as he could slip away from the congratulations of his friends, he went to ask the miller's side of the disputation.

"He was a quarrelsome old fellow," said the miller, "but I gave as good as I got. First he scrabbled in his pocket, and he took out a green apple, and shook it under my nose, as much as to say he'd throw it at my head if I didn't watch out. So I felt in my pocket, but all I could find was an old bit of crust, so I shoved that under his nose, as much as to say, 'You throw the apple, and I'll throw the crust.' With that, he put away the apple, and poked his finger at me, as much as to say, 'I'll thrust out your eye!' So I poked my two fingers at him, to say, 'If you do, I'll put out your two!' Then he scrabbled at me with his three fingers, to show he'd scratch my face. And I wasn't going to stand for that, so I doubled up me fist and shook it at him, to show I'd knock him down. And at that he clapped me on the back, and said I'd won."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 08 Dec 08 - 07:42 PM

What I'm looking for is a more contemporary story/joke of misinterpreted signs.

Anyone?!?

Linn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: CapriUni
Date: 08 Dec 08 - 11:56 PM

I can't think of any, off the top of my head, but now that I know the genre, I'll keep my eyes open.

(and refresh this thread).

I can think of a couple of jokes in American Sign Language, about Hearing and Deaf people misunderstanding each other... But that's not the same thing

(and I'm not sure how to translate the one I'm thinking of into written words.)


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Northerner
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 07:19 AM

A good story. When I went on the workshop in Bleddfa a few years ago one of the other students has selected this story to tell. A good choice - it's amusing and is short.   I haven't heard any other versions of it though.


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 08:17 AM

I think I may have heard the contemporary version (misunderstood signs) from TTTTTTom Clark after the Press Room session many years ago.

CapriUni -- I'd be interested in the misunderstanding stories -- they're related in some way, I'm sure!

Linn


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 10:32 AM

I was not familiar with this one, Linn, thanks for posting both versions. I am curious, have any of them every involved women?

CapriUni, you should write a new contemporary one!!


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 02:16 PM

No, no women. Not even in the contemporary one (despite not being able to wrap my brain around whatever it was about).

Linn


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: CapriUni
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 05:39 PM

Okay, Linn.

The joke was composed to be told in American Sign Language, so I don't know if writing it will work, but I'll write it out as I remember it:

There was once a young man who was Deaf,* who was still working his way through learning English. Anyway, he loved sailing on small boats, and one day he was sailing down a narrow tributary, and came to a drawbridge. But the drawbidge keeper had fallen asleep on the job. So the young man pulled his boat up to the shore, tied it up, then climbed the stairs to the bridge keeper's office and knocked on the door.

Eventually the keeper woke up, but the Deaf young man couldn't speak clearly enough to make himself understood, and the keeper couldn't understand sign.

So the young man wrote out a short note in English and handed it to him.

But when the keeper read the note, all he could do was scratch his head and shrug.

The note read: "Please but"




I tried to Search for an image of the ASL sign for "but", so you could see the punchline. But "but" is such a common word, it's always disregarded in searches. ... In ASL, the sign for "but" is to start with two crossed index fingers, and then to open them in one swift motion...


*(that is, born and raised in the Deaf culture, as opposed to simply being deaf as in unable to hear)

So it's a story about misinterprated signs between different languages, but it's not a debate...


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: semi-submersible
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 07:58 PM

Here are a couple of ASL sign vocabularies which have it. Click "B" in the alphabet then scroll to find "but." (Both pages use frames.)

Michigan State University gives a Quicktime video of a person signing, face and all

ASL University (online) uses a series of photos to illustrate signs for "but" and "different"


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: CapriUni
Date: 09 Dec 08 - 10:18 PM

Thanks, Semi-submersible!


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Mysha
Date: 10 Dec 08 - 12:18 PM

Hi,

I'm not all that fond of these stories. Having thought it over, I'm not all that fond of the win-or-lose bit. I don't know all that many of these, in fact, the only one I know is the pilgrims and the robbers, but that one does show the genre doesn't actually need such a device. Of course, as both interpret according to their own nature, the robbers still have the worse of it. I wonder whether they could be made equal. Easy if you make both of them loose, I guess.


It was Friday afternoon, and the Skulls were moving towards their weekend hang-out: The chairs outside Piper's Tourist Bar and Coffee. Through the week, they graciously allowed tourists to sit there, but from twelve o'clock Fridays to Mondays it was theirs. It was therefore a bit of a surprise when they turned the last corner, to see an elderly lady sitting in front of Piper's. Still, they had all been taught, somewhere in their pasts, to show some respect to their elders, so Roy as their leader walked up to her to give her a chance to walk away unmolested, while the others waited around the corner for his return.

It couldn't have been much more than a minute before Roy was back, urging his fellow Skulls to go back the way they came. He told them the coppers could swarm in any moment. Further away he explained what had happened:
I told her she'd better move before something bad happened to her, but she just ignored me. So I shook her shoulder, to make her look at me. She did look at me, but then she held up two fingers, She said nothing, but the message was clear: If I were to lay a hand on her again, she'd cut it in two. Ha, but I could play cool too: While I shook my head, I mimicked her gesture, but then brought my hands together. She'd better not do that, because we stick together: She'd have the whole gang there. But then she changed it all: She reached into her clothes and silently showed me she was wired: One tough lady and wired; she was obviously a copper. I didn't want the wire to pick up more than it had, so with two fingers pointing down and circling, I silently asked her whether anything was happening here. She remained silent as well, of course, or the wire would have picked up that she spilled it, but she waved all around us, and I understood: Soon the whole place would be swarming with coppers. I walked back as cool as I could, but I guess this week we'd better hang-out some place else.

In the mean time, the elderly lady had stood up from her seat, switched off her music player, and removed her tiny earphones. Once her friend Emily had returned from the ladies room, she told her: "I don't think we should stay here, Em. A passer-by warned me about their coffee. I was listening to the music when he shook me by the shoulder. At first I though he wanted me to order, but I couldn't hear because of my music, so I just held up two finger to indicate I wasn't alone and was waiting for another person before ordering. As he wasn't the waiter, he looked a bit bewildered at that, but mimicking me, he gestured that I should not order two cups of coffee. I tried to switch of my music, so I could hear both of us talk, but sitting there, I couldn't find that tiny off-switch, so I pulled out the cord and top-edge of the player, to show I was listening to music. He understood, and rather than shouting over the music, which they might hear inside, he indicated with two circling fingers that you had to stir very hard to make coffee drinkable here. But there are all these chairs around us, I indicated; their coffee can't be that bad if they have that many chairs. But he walked away in a very speaking manner. Yes, he was right: everyone else seems to have left this establishment, Em, and we'd best leave too." And since one of the locals had warned them, Emily agreed wholeheartedly, and they too walked off.


Indeed, that's fairly easy to write. But is it possible to have both parties benefit from the encounter? That would make the story so much nicer.
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: EBarnacle
Date: 10 Dec 08 - 02:29 PM

That is clearly the most modern version of the story I have heard. It seems to be one of the universal themes.


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: semi-submersible
Date: 10 Dec 08 - 04:46 PM

In the Pope and the _____ versions, everybody does end up better off, don't you think?


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 11 Dec 08 - 10:03 AM

Thankyou, Mysha!!!

It's not the contemporary story I'm looking for (I think...) but it's definitely related to this type of story -- and I've added it to my collection.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Mysha
Date: 11 Dec 08 - 05:19 PM

Hi,

Semi, in the Pope &-versions, the Pope always (believes he) is bested. I was wondering whether you could have a version where both felt they had gained from the encounter.

EBarnacle, in the traditional versions, there always appears to be a religious theme. Maybe that's merely because of the prominence of symbolism in many religions, or maybe it's a characteristic of the very first version. But anyway, that theme appears to be universal.

Linn, it's definitely not the contemporary story you were looking for. This one was written yesterday by a P.H. van den Muijzenberg, who uses the nick 'Mysha'. (-:
BTW, it occurred to me that not everyone reading this might know the story of the pilgrims and the robbers. However, this is one of the occasions where owning a few thousands books is a disadvantage: I can't recall where I can find it. Could you tell it, here (assuming you know it)?

                                                                Mysha

Come to think of it; I'm not sure the theme would fit the hodja very well. It's, after all, what he says that characterises him. A silent debate probably wouldn't allow for that. There is a story about the hodja in debate with three Occidental monks, but it's really not silent.
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 11 Dec 08 - 08:52 PM

I'm not familiar with the story of the pilgrims and the robbers.

And I know full well the problem of having thousands of books -- with the database basically in my HEAD! (Gawd, my Inner Librarian has fits.)

I emailed TTTom Clark, the comedian friend who I remember as possibly telling a related story on stage about 15 years ago -- and, I think I discussed the universality of the theme with him at about the same time. Unfortunately he doesn't recall a story he may have told that is related to the silent debate story.

Sigh.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Storytelling: Examples of 'Silent Debate'
From: Mysha
Date: 21 Dec 08 - 08:44 PM

Hi,

I found the (a?) story about the Hodja. It doesn't seem all that characteristic, but here you go: Discussions in the Sand. Also three other slient debates, though not all unknown. How many does that make in your collection?

                                                                   Mysha


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