Monday, April 16, 2012

A Translation Most Foul (Or, Shakespeare May Have Invented the English Language, But He Probably Never Saw This Coming)

The early seasons of the Fox comedy Bones were quite enjoyable: the writing had its moments, and in spite of some pop-culture-y type misconceptions about what constitutes intelligence, I could rather empathize with a main character who understands dead people better than live ones and can navigate a complicated field of study much better than human relationships. I realize that I can't have the following conversation, transcribed from one of the episodes, as the epigraph of my book (topical though it may be); I feel like I could probably make a solid academic case for it, but it would be completely preposterous. (Just because I can make an argument for anything doesn't necessarily mean that I should.) So simply on the basis of it still having the capacity to make me laugh raucously, I'm going to reproduce it here.

Aside from the odd juxtapositions that result from using "translation" as a code word for "murder" (involving the coroner in the former, for example, or adjectives that have never been seen paired with that word before in the history of the English language), I find it very funny to see characters on a major, mainstream TV program deadpanning a completely absurdist conversation about translation.

The setup is that forensic anthropologist Temperance "Bones" Brennan has realized, while attending the funeral of a colleague with her partner, FBI agent Seely Booth, that the decedent did not die of natural causes. I'm not sure it'll play as well in written form, but unfortunately I couldn't locate a clip online of this particular scene:

BRENNAN: We should remain clear-headed so we can solve the murder.
BOOTH: Code word, okay, for murder?
BOOTH: I want you to say "translation," you understand? Translation, got it?
BRENNAN: Okay. Someone translated Dr. Reilly, and we have to find out who.
BOOTH: Bones, is there any chance you just feel bad about not knowing this guy like the rest of us did? So, now you're just making it about you in saying that he was translated instead of, I don't know, dying of natural causes?
BRENNAN: No, there is no chance of that.
BOOTH: What makes you think he was translated?
BRENNAN: Okay, the rose that his assistant placed on his chest had fallen to the side. So, I reached in to put it back and I touched him….Booth, we are talking about translation.
BOOTH: Bones, did you ever think that, I don't know, if there was evidence of foul translation, that the coroner would have spotted it?
BOOTH: Fine, so, I'll tell you what. Tomorrow morning we will go find the guy who did the autopsy and we'll ask him questions.
BRENNAN: No, Dr. Reilly's scheduled to be cremated this afternoon. All the evidence will be destroyed. We have to get an injunction so that we can examine the remains.
BOOTH: Now? You want me to take the body now?
BOOTH: That family will be scarred for life.
BRENNAN: Booth, the man has been translated.


  1. Maybe it plays better in Peoria?

    Seriously, 5:44AM???

  2. Maybe so. I'll show it to you when you're here in June -- I have the iTunes download; it really is very funny and absurd actually played out. Yes, I was up and watching stupid TV at 5:44, but no, it didn't just seem funnier because of the hour. (Although I'll admit that it might have influenced my willingness to actually hit the "publish" button.) I'm teaching the intro class this week and the insomnia kicked in a day early. Usually does, actually. Anyway, my Pomodoro break is almost up. Ciao!