Hamilton in American Sign Language

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/23/hamilton-in-american-sign-lang.html

Okay, I am a UK person so I had to Google ‘Alexander Hamilton’ to see who he was. As I typed in ‘Alexander’ the options were…

  • Alexander
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Alexander the Great

From my non-US viewpoint, that doesn’t seem quite right, but I guess it is a breaking meme.


I’m not sure a broadway show that’s sold out for years to come is really a “breaking meme”.


Hah! Now, I look ignorant about Alexander Hamilton twice! My shame knows no bounds*.

  • which means it doesn’t start, either.

Yeah, not an online meme. It’s just a really good play, and i grew up in Latin America so my knowledge of the founding of the US is decent but my awareness of Alexander Hamilton was very minimal… and i love the musical. Obsessed even, i’ve been listening to it almost every day for a few months now.

I don’t know how enjoyable Hamilton would be in ASL. The play has songs where the lyrics are very quick and some characters sing on top of others constantly. But i’d love to get an opinion from someone that is good with ASL :slight_smile:


I was thinking about that this morning … there’s a lot of wordplay and double-meanings in the lyrics, and I’m not sure some of it would translate. For example, I notice she signs “sick” like “I feel sick”. But the line is “sitting in their own sick” so I feel like the sign for “vomit” would make more sense there.

I like when she fingerspells his whole name, the first time and then the last. I only wish my fingerspelling was that fast.

(Disclaimer: I am only adequate at ASL, and I’m out of practice.)


Yeah it seems tricky, i didnt even think about word play and puns not translating

I mean, it goes both ways. I remember an ASL teacher a long time ago telling us a signed joke that … was totally untranslatable to English. Not only was it not funny, it didn’t even make sense. All I can remember was that it had to do with the difference between “park” the noun and “park” the verb.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the weird relationship ASL has to English. Because it does rely on it for spelling, and for some signs that only make sense because you’re using the first letter of the English word, but then the grammar is totally different.

Most Americans didn’t know much about him either until Lin-Manuel Miranda made Hamilton. :laughing: I’m … what I guess we’re now calling a “policy wonk” so I knew a bit about him (he wrote much of the Federalist Papers … big deal for U.S. policy wonks). Since Hamilton, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and even Hillary Clinton have all made lots of references to Hamilton.

I haven’t finished listening to the second disc in the album version yet (I’ve gotten to Angelica’s big song in disc two) but I can definitely recommend it.

I think it’s still free on Spotify if you want to give it a try.

True fact: before that musical came out, it was Hamilton who was slated to be replaced by Harriet Tubman on U.S. print currency instead of Andrew Jackson. (Not because the people in the Treasury department had anything against Hamilton, just because the $10 bill was the next one slated for a major redesign at the time).

So happy that the genocidal jerkface is getting the boot now instead! (Or at least demoted to the back).

ETA: here’s the basic story in XKCD form.



(it’s also free if you have Amazon Prime)

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