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[Tidbits] Abbe de l'Epee


Abbe de l’Epee

Cheating! What was wrong with that? Didn’t the teacher realize the
effort and intellect required in order to become a good cheat? Did
he think that by mere dint of the fact that they cheated that this
meant they were unintelligent? Let me put forth this hypothesis. The
fact that they cheated only proved their superior intellect.

Case in point: They had gotten together … the lot of them … in
order to learn the manual alphabet. Just in case, they said. If
someone doesn’t know something … ask … and the answer will be
forthcoming. It didn’t much matter that this caused them to ease up
on their studies. They had back-up. The day of the test they were
prepared. Right hand at pen and paper. Left hand ready to spell. A
question came along. Petey knew the answer. He spelled it out.
C-H-A- R-L-E-M-A-G-N-E. Furious scribbling. Next question me lads and
lassies. How were they to know the teacher was an ardent admirer of
Abbe Charles-Michel de l’Epee.

Who invented sign language? Who created the Manual Alphabet? Hunh?
What did this have to do with French history? No one knew the
answer. The teacher called them all forward. You’ve been using his
alphabet to cheat. Tell me the name of the inventor … and you’ll
pass. They failed. The lot of them. Sadly … I was in that group. I
can spell out any word by hand. But don’t ask me who Charles the
Great was.

Which brings us to the Abbe Charles-Michel de l’Epee. There’s a
statue of him in Buffalo, New York at the St. Mary’s School for the
Deaf. It was he who invented sign language. In the 18th century he
had become inspired after visiting a home inhabited by two young
girls who did not speak because they were deaf. By 1754 he had set
up the first public school for the deaf in France.

Which brings us to Paul Flato … jeweler to the stars. The year …
circa 1938. He modeled 14 karat jeweled hand pins in sign language.
They became the rage. Katherine Hepburn wore them. Anita Loos wore
them. Harper’s Bazaar advertised them. They were charming. And they
were a useful teaching medium … should you ever have the need to

By a show of hands … who wants to see a set of gold Manual
Alphabet letters? I will present you with a set of three.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Tidbits Graphics … and then click on the link that says: Letters
… in order to view a rather interesting representation resulting
from the inventions of Charles-Michel de l’Epee.

Benjamin Mark