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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.

Gabrielle:
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!
Pirates:
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 Mycenian
¹ ... [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.
 
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Last week we saw "sororal", sisterly, as in "sororal concern". In contrast:
quote:
... I travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian
And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenian
(And many have attempted, by a host of methods mystical,
To tell if our relationship's sororal or sapphistical).

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?
 
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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...
 
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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 travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian
And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenian
(And many have attempted, by a host of methods mystical,
To tell if our relationship's sororal or sapphistical).]

My armory is brazen, but my weapons are ironical;
My sword is rather phallic, but my chakram's rather yonical
(To find out what that means, you'll have to study Indo-Aryan).
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!

 
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quote:
Lesbian also means someone or something from the isle of Lesbos.

I'd thought the word for that was Lesbonian. Have you ever heard that used?
 
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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.
quote:
I wake up every morning, ere the dawn is rhododactylous¹
(Who needs to wait for daylight? I just work by sensus tactilis².)
And ride into the sunrise to protect some local villagers
From mythologic monsters or from all-too-human pillagers.
I hurtle towards each villain with a recklessness ebullient ...


¹rhododactylous: rosy-fingered. Homer makes frequent reference to rhododaktulos eos -- "rosy-fingered dawn".
²sensus tactilis: Latin for "sense of touch".
 
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quote:
I'd thought the word for that was Lesbonian. Have you ever heard that used?

Nope, never heard that, Shufitz. confused
 
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ululate (UL-u-late)- to howl or wail, like a dog or a wolf
the adjective form is ululant; Xena misspeaks.
quote:
At the funerals of their sons, the mothers ululate as though celebrating a wedding as the body of a boy, now defined as a martyr killed fighting Israel, is carried high into streets full of Palestinian flags.
--Victoria Brittain, Guardian, December 12, 2001

Xena sings:
...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.
 
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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

quote:
In short, when I can tell you how I break the laws of gravity,
And why my togs expose my intermammary concavity,
And why my comrade changed her dress from one that fit more comfily
To one that shows her omphalos (as cute as that of Omphale), ...
 
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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")

Xena concludes:

quote:
In short, when I can tell you how I break the laws of gravity,
And why my togs expose my intermammary concavity,
And why my comrade changed her dress from one that fit more comfily
To one that shows her omphalos (as cute as that of Omphale),
And why the tale of Spartacus appears in Homer's versicon,
[She holds up a tomato:]
And where we found examples of the genus Lycopersicon,
And why this Grecian scenery looks more like the Antipodes,
You'll say I'm twice the heroine of any in Euripides!

But though the kinked chronology, confusing and chimerical
(It's often unhistorical, but rarely unhysterical),
Would give a massive heart attack to any antiquarian,
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!
 
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