CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher inadvertently signs rude word during Makaton show

CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher inadvertently signs rude word during Makaton show

Related video: Viral CBeebies clip praised for upfront message on race


Children’s television is never the place for inappropriate or explicit language but unfortunately for the popular CBeebies programme Something Special, a resurfaced clip from 2004 has gone viral this week showing host Justin Fletcher signing a phrase in Makaton which actually has a completely different meaning in British Sign Language (BSL).

While BSL is the recognised language of the UK Deaf community (it was legally recognised as a language in England, Scotland and Wales in 2022), Makaton is not a language, and is instead a “communication programme” - according to the Makaton charity - which is commonly used by those with learning disabilities, combining signs used to English grammar with spoken English and symbols.

This is different to BSL, which has its own grammar separate to English.

In the video, Fletcher is seen singing a song about underwater creatures, turning his attention to a crab he sees “scuttling quickly sideways” and pinching his index fingers and thumbs together repeatedly in an upside-down triangle, similar to a crab’s pincers.

Except, in BSL, the sign for ‘crab’ shows the pinching gesture performed with hands far apart, because forming a downwards triangle with your fingers in BSL is actually the sign for ‘vagina’.


The conflation of BSL and Makaton has long been a source of controversy and frustration within the Deaf community, with Deaf advocates accusing Makaton of ‘stealing’ and 'culturally appropriating’ BSL signs to form the alternative method of communication.

In a position statement released in June 2022, the British Deaf Association said: “Let us be clear: these 'sign systems' make absolutely no sense to Deaf people.

“Well-meaning hearing people, schools and nurseries using Makaton, Signalong and so-called ‘Baby Signs’ with their children give the misleading impression that they are teaching these children something useful, a skill for life.

“While we accept that these can be helpful for those with learning or communication difficulties, they should not be considered as equal to appropriate replacements for BSL. It would make far more sense to teach children - both hearing and Deaf - BSL, a natural, rich, visual language that will enable them to communicate with the Deaf community for the rest of their lives.”

The charity adds Makaton and ‘baby signs’ are “not sign language” and “not languages at all”.

Similarly, the Makaton charity stresses on its own website that Makaton and BSL are “entirely distinct” and belong to “very different communities of people”.

“Makaton serves as a supportive communication system, aiding those with learning or communication challenges, while BSL is the full language of the UK's Deaf community. Acknowledging the significance of both, The Makaton Charity and the BDA have agreed to work collaboratively to highlight the specific features of Makaton and BSL and to support their respective communities effectively,” it says.

It's in this context that deaf social media users and BSL interpreters have pointed out the unfortunate hidden meaning in Fletcher’s supposed signing of the word ‘crab’:

The BBC has been approached by indy100 for comment.

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