Some of you may know the television show Xena, the Warrior Princess, set in ancient times. Kevin Wald recently discovered that Gilbert and Sullivan had composed an obscure operetta in her honor. That opera, The Pirates of Pergamon, included the song that gives us this week's words.
We join our operetta in progress. The infamous Pirates of Pergamum have just seized a bevy of beautiful Mytilenean maidens, to carry them off for matrimonial purposes.
Hold, scoundrels! Ere ye practice acts of villainy
Upon the peaceful and agrarian,
Just bear in mind, these maidens of My-TIL-ene
Are guarded by a buff barbarian!
We'd better all rethink our cunning plan;
They're guarded by a buff barbarian.
Maidens: Yes, yes, she is a buff barbarian.
[Xena leaps in from the wings, with a tremendous war cry, does a mid-air somersault, and lands on her feet on the Pirate King's chest.]
Xena: Yes, yes, I am a buff barbarian! [The orchestra starts up.]
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian;
Through Herculean efforts, I've become humanitarian.
I ride throughout the hinterland -- at least that's what they call it in
Those sissy towns like Athens (I, myself, am Amphipolitan).
I travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian
And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenian¹ ... [to be continued]
parthenian - virginal
¹Mycenian is the ancient Greek dialect that was written in Linear B, which predates the adoption of the alphabet. Gabrielle is said to write in Linear B; if Xena takes place around the time of the Trojan war, this is chronologically reasonable.
Last week we saw "sororal", sisterly, as in "sororal concern". In contrast:
sapphism - female homosexuality; lesbianism
from Sappho, lyric poetess of the isle of Lesbos c.600 B.C.E., whose erotic and romantic verse embraced women as well as men. sense of "pertaining to sexual relations between women" is from 1890
Perhaps muse can tell us more about the poetess?
I've actually been to the isle of Lesbos (or Lesvos as it is called in GreeK) a couple of times and it's a beautiful island: quite large, with a variegated landscape, bustling with trade in the town of Mytilene and not overrun by hordes of lesbians as some may think (though they do have a their annual International Convention in the town of Eressos). I just thought I would let you know, as an aside to 'sapphic', that Lesbian also means someone or something from the isle of Lesbos. That did present me with a problem, however, when I was translating a brochure about oil from the island. I decided against calling it "Lesbian Oil" for obvious reasons...
Continuing Xena's song, we also find the promised example of last week's word "yonic".
chakra - a cycle, a wheel; also, any of several points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy;
chakram - flat steel ring with a sharpened outer edge used as a thrown weapon (thrown like a frisbee)
Clearly Xena has that last meaning in mind:
quote:I'd thought the word for that was Lesbonian. Have you ever heard that used?
Today we have a word less obscure than chakram,, plus miscellaneous esoterica.
ebullient - zestfully enthusiastic ("the ebullient enthusiasm of the French" -- Carlyle)
(also a lesser-known meaning: boiling; bubbling)
The literal meaning was the earlier (1599), the figurative sense of "enthusiastic" is first recorded 1664.
¹rhododactylous: rosy-fingered. Homer makes frequent reference to rhododaktulos eos -- "rosy-fingered dawn".
²sensus tactilis: Latin for "sense of touch".
Nope, never heard that, Shufitz.
ululate (UL-u-late)- to howl or wail, like a dog or a wolf
the adjective form is ululant; Xena misspeaks.
...I hurtle towards each villain with a recklessness ebullient
And cow him with my swordwork and my alalaes¹ ululient;
He's frightened for his head, because he knows I'm gonna whack it -- he's
Aware that his opponent is the Basileia Makhetes!
[The music crashes to a halt, as the Chorus stares at Xena in utter confusion. She sighs.] It's Greek. It means "Warrior Princess"!
[Light dawns on the Chorus, and the music resumes.] Sheesh ...
Chorus: He knows that his opponent is the Basileia Makhetes!
He knows that his opponent is the Basileia Makhetes!
He knows that his opponent is the Basileia Makhe-makhetes,
Xena: Because I've got my armor, which is really rather silly, on
(It's cut so low I feel like I'm the topless tow'rs of Ilion,
And isn't any use against attackers sagittarian²).
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!
¹ "Alalaes" are war-cries
² sagittarian: archer-like.
omphalos - the navel (also, a central part or focal point)
We all have at some point contemplated our omphali.
omphaloskepsis - meditation while gazing at one's navel
A note, and a question, concerning Xena's final verse and chorus:
The tomato (genus Lycopersicon) is a New World plant, unknown in ancient Greece. Thus, its appearance in Xena's story is out of its proper time and place. The word for something "out of proper time" is anachronism. There must be a similar word for "out of proper place", but I'm don't know that word. Can anyone help?
Now for today's word:
antipodes - literally, any two places on diametrically opposite sides of the earth.
figuratively, something that is the exact opposite or contrary of another
from greek antipodes, "people with feet opposite ours" (anti- "opposite" + pous "foot")