~ It's All in the Syntax ~
by Rhiannon Silverflame

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Melinda Pappas, Janice Covington, Jack Kleinman, Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer are the property of Universal, MCA, and Renaissance Pictures. Aphrodite, being an ancient Greek myth, is in the public domain, but this particular depiction of her also belongs, more or less, to the above parties. This vignette is very strongly based on the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Fins, Femmes and Gems," which was written by Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster, from a story by Rob Tapert, Adam Armus, and Nora Kay Foster.
SUBTEXT: Let's just say that subtext exists in this vignette; it exists to the point where it's doubtful as to whether or not it should be called subtext at all. That's the whole point of the vignette.
CONTENT: This vignette contains some strong language. Speaking of language, I don't claim to know a thing about Greek, ancient or modern, and some of the jargon used toward the end of this is really just generic linguistic stuff. I don't know whether it's correct or not, and I'm not sure it matters all that much, so I'll just leave it be.

A dig site in Crete, March 1941
     "You're reading too much into it."
     "No, I'm not! That's exactly what it says!" Her Southern accent seemed to get a bit thicker as the pitch of her voice rose.
     "Oh, come on, Mel!" I threw my hands in the air, paced around the tent, and continued to rant. "You don't really believe she said that, do you? I mean, come on! That term didn't exist in ancient Greece, did it? She can't possibly have said that!"
     "Janice, I'm telling you, that's exactly what it says! I went over it carefully, several times, and I'm positive, that's exactly what the line translates as!"
     We've been having these arguments for days, and I swear, either this girl is trying to convince me that her ancestor (I'm still getting over that-her ancestor, not mine. Is there no justice in this world?) saw mine as more than just a tagalong sidekick, or she's trying to tell me something in a really frustrating, roundabout way.
     This latest scroll we're working on, see, is about how Aphrodite hired some band of thugs (those guys seemed to come a dinar-a-dozen back in those days) to steal the Mystic Diamond from the Temple of the Heavens for her, just so she could have her own constellation. Those gods had some serious ego trips. If Ares was any indication . . . well, he's trapped for good in that cave back in Macedonia now, thanks to Mel and her ancestor. (Argh!)
     Anyway, Aphrodite either didn't do much in the way of thinking, or she just didn't care, because by stealing that Diamond, she was going to be responsible for making the North Star disappear from the sky. And naturally, that meant that all hell would break loose for anyone on the road . . . on on the sea. Or, as that annoying fool Joxer (Jack Kleinman's ancestor. Why am I not surprised?) put it, things that went bump in the night really would go bump in the night. (Mel and I had an argument over that phrsae too. I didn't think they used it back then. And you know, I'm really wondering about this Aphrodite character. What kind of expression is "Like, duh" anyway? Mel swears up and down-well, she would if she swore-that "Like, duh" is exactly what Aphrodite said.)
     So, of course, Xena set out to get the Diamond back, and naturally Gabrielle went along with her. And they had Joxer tagging along with them too. Why, I don't know. But they did. To stop them, Aphrodite got the idea to make them each obsessed with something. That's when things really got crazy. Joxer started thinking he was some guy named Attis who, best we can tell, was an ape-man or something like that. Gabrielle developed a serious case of self-infatuation. (I'm still not sure what exactly it was about herself that she fell in love with.) And Xena suddenly found out that the only thing on her mind was fishing. (Mel tried to argue that there was some kind of symbolism in that, too.)
     That's how we got to this part of the scroll that we're working on now. And we've had more arguments over this part than anything else. According to the scroll, Xena jumped straight into a lake and started catching fish with her bare hands and yelled, "Come on, Gabrielle, let's get wet!" when she ran into the lake. (At least that's what Mel claimed, in that tone of voice that means she doesn't think it just meant that literally. But come on, why would she mean differently?)
     We also had a big fight over who Gabrielle was talking to when she said "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" after Xena yelled something that Mel translated as "Come on, Gabrielle, get your gear off!"
(I still say it was Joxer, because he kept ogling her. Now, if an irritating buffoon like Joxer were ogling me, even in his right mind, I'd have slugged him. But no . . . Gabrielle was too nice to do that. Sheesh. Mel claims that she was really talking to Xena though. She says it has something to do with some obscure point of ancient Greek grammar that I have no idea about. Of course, she could probably just be baiting me. She knows more about the language than I do; that's why she's here with me.)
     But back to the argument at hand . . .
     "Mel, I'm telling you, there's no way in hell she could have possibly said what you're trying to say that she said."
     "Why not?"
     (Gods, this girl can be so stubborn sometimes!) "That's a pretty major innuendo! Don't you think that's just a little risqué for Gabrielle?"
     She rolled her eyes at me. "Janice Covington, just because Gabrielle was an innocent young girl when she left Poteidaia to follow Xena doesn't mean that she stayed a complete innocent. Besides, she was a bard. Bards had a way with words, you know. Don't you think that you're not giving her enough credit?"
     (Ouch. Touché. She got me there. She was right. I've never given Gabrielle much credit. To me she's always been Xena's useless tagalong, a wide-eyed kid who got herself into more trouble than she was of any help. Back in Macedonia, I felt like such an idiot when Ares talked about a descendant of Xena being the only one who could free him, and like an arrogant little bastard I just assumed it was me. I don't think I've ever really gotten over that humiliation.
     But Xena talked to me back in that tomb and said that Gabrielle wasn't useless. She gave me a pretty good lecture about it, but I just had a hard time believing it. That's just years of imagination and fantasy going down the drain, I guess. But that little bard really meant a lot to Xena, apparently, so maybe she was something special after all. Maybe she was something . . .)
     I sighed. "Okay, Mel. Why don't you take me through this slowly and explain to me just how that line translates to 'She wants me to fist a fish?'" (For someone as sheltered and innocent as Melinda Pappas is, she sure translates a lot of really raunchy stuff! I'm still getting over that bit of dialogue she worked out earlier about Aphrodite and the hired thug and that whole arrow/shaft/thrust/shoot thing. I just about choked on my cigar when I read that, and Mel sat there the whole time as cool as anything, reading it out loud like it was the most innocent conversation in the world. Wait a second . . . now who's reading too much into things? Oh boy, now I've gotten myself into it.)
     Mel took me through the translation patiently, working backwards. "So you see, if you take the most formal, grammatically correct structure of the sentence, it comes out as 'She wants me to fish with my fists?' But in this dialect, it was acceptable to invert the verb and preposition, which is what Gabrielle did, so it becomes 'She wants me to fist-fish?' which literally means the same thing. However," she added, giving me a pointed look, "right here there's an indefinite article thrown in, and as you can see, this is not the verb form of 'fish.'" She put the scroll down and looked smug. Smug and . . . something else, but I couldn't quite read her expression. There was some kind of devious motive going around in her head, though. I could tell that much.
     I looked at her for a long moment. "Oh."
That was all I could say, and boy, did I ever feel dumb. (I swear, she wins these arguments every time . . . but then I guess that's why she's the expert on translating ancient Greek now, isn't it?)
     I sighed and looked at her again, and before I knew it I was saying, "You know, Mel, you're awfully cute when you're acting superior."
     She giggled and blushed-yeah, really blushed-and replied, "Why, thank you, Janice." Was that a trace of flirtatiousness I heard in her voice? Could she possibly have been . . .
     . . . Nah . . .
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Colophon (Concept borrowed from L.N. James)
This little sketch was just something I got the idea for one night while trying to convince myself that I really didn't need a pointless scene in the middle of "Deciphering the Rift" with Mel, Janice, and Kaitlyn arguing over syntax! But the idea of writing the scene was just so intriguing that I had to do it anyway. L. Graham's "Lost in Translation" was the inspiration for it, really, though that story takes a pretty different approach. It's intended as a sort of lighthearted look at some of us subtexters, inspired by my friends who keep teasing me about that particular pastime of mine. I hope no one was offended by that.

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