Tools of Trade
Genre: Gen, Humor, Team
Synopsis: Jack creates a diplomatic incident, Daniel gives a lesson in comparative linguistics, Carter gets choked up, and Teal'c reminds everyone why he always wins.
Notes: Born of a three-to-seven a.m. IM chat with my Aussie pal Eilidh17. I'll blame it on a lack of sleep, but that might leave her without an equally convenient excuse...
Status: Completed May 14, 2009
Tools of Trade
Halfway through Jack's carefully-rehearsed speech, the Leticans got up, looked down their noses at him, and stormed out of the room. Stunned by their sudden departure, the only thing he could think of to say was, "Was it something I said?"
Daniel cleared his throat. "Actually..."
"I practiced that speech for three hours!" Jack exclaimed, throwing up his hands. "Are you sure you translated it correctly?"
"Yes, and you recited it almost perfectly--"
"--right up until you said sheh'kova instead of shah'kova."
Jack blinked. "I did? Okay, so what's the big difference?"
Hanging his head, Daniel heaved a sigh. "Jack you just referred to their Sovereign with a masculine pronoun."
Wincing, the colonel retorted, "Well, she does have that moustache..."
"What?! She does!" Daring his team to contradict him, Jack stared at each of them in turn. Carter did her best to keep a straight face--failing miserably--while Teal'c raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. For the habitually stoic Jaffa, that was tantamount to agreement.
Daniel on the other hand, looked like he'd accidentally found an Atomic Sourball in his box of Everlasting Gobstoppers. "Jack... Look, I'll go talk to the councillors... see if I can't soothe things over with them. The 'Sovereign incident' was just the final straw."
Jack cocked his head. "'Final straw'? You mean there were others?"
"You swapped gender pronouns other places, too," the linguist explained hastily.
Jack scrubbed at the back of his neck. "So who else did I insult?"
"Uh, well, it wasn't a person, exactly... you used a feminine pronoun when referring to the council city, and a masculine one when you mentioned the council chambers. Oh, and a neuter pronoun for the treaty."
"For the treaty? Daniel, it's an inanimate object!"
"Jack, their language puts a lot of emphasis on gender associations... I told you this in the briefing!"
"I don't remember you mentioning inanimate objects having genders. Carter, did you know inanimate objects have genders?"
"No, sir," Carter admitted, "but--"
"Teal'c, did you know inanimate objects have genders?"
The unflappable Jaffa rose to the challenge. "Do you not refer to sports cars and sailing vessels with female pronouns?"
Jack rolled his shoulders. "That's different."
"Not really," Daniel argued. "Actually, English is rather odd--among European languages, especially--because we typically use gender-neuter sentence construction. A lot of other languages historically don't, like French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Hebrew, Russian... Some languages actually have--"
"Ack!" the beleagured colonel interrupted. "I get it, Daniel. You know, I always hated that whole los-las-me-te... whatever stuff. The worst thing about high school Spanish."
Daniel pulled a face. "I remember when I was first learning German--"
"You were what... three? Four?"
The linguist ignored him. "--I used to have trouble keeping the pronouns straight for forks and spoons. I thought 'the spoon', 'der Loeffel', should have had a female pronoun and 'the fork', 'die Gabel', should have been male. It always seemed to me that the rounded shape of the spoon was more feminine--"
"Whereas the fork has a bunch of little pointy things," Jack chimed in impishly, "just like men have little pointy things."
"I would not characterize my 'pointy thing' as 'little'," Teal'c deadpanned.
Daniel started to snicker, Carter started to turn bright red and choke, and Teal'c just raised yet another impassive eyebrow at Jack, as though saying, Top that, O'Neill.
Eventually, Carter wheezed out an excuse about needing to get a drink of water for the cough she'd just developed, and Daniel insisted on accompanying her. He also mentioned finding the councillors while they were out, just to see if he could salvage the apparently-not-genderless treaty. Before the door closed behind them, Jack couldn't resist calling out, "So does that make sporks hermaphrodites?"
"I believe sporks defy classification, O'Neill," Teal'c reasoned, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. Well played, O'Neill, said this expression.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, grinning in triumph. "Say, do ya think grapefruit spoons are a bit on the butch side?"
...And Daniel learns to never again try teaching Jack a foreign language.