charamei: Fourth Doctor/Romana II (DW4: Doctor/Romana II)
[personal profile] charamei
Title: Lost In Translation
Rating: PG for sesquipedalianism
Characters: Four, Romana II
Pairing: Doctor/Romana
Spoilers: What, you didn't know that Four turned red?
Wordcount: 1197
Disclaimer: Alas, for I am no closer to owning Doctor Who. It's still all for fun and practice. English translations are at the end: thanks to torn_eledhwen and alligatorade for correcting my French errors.

Summary: Romana learns French, while the Doctor loses a sock and ponders the nature of the Gallifreyan language. There are some quite important things that you just can't express in it, after all.


Gallifreyan was a famously difficult language to learn, primarily because of the way its tenses and pronouns shifted. Of course, what most aliens viewed as a secondary complaint was really, the Doctor reflected, the real trouble: 'random fluctuations in the time-space continuum' was a concept that had been compressed into one short swear-word, and yet, in the time it took to ask, "Romana, have you seen my left sock?" he might as well have searched the TARDIS again.

"Beg pardon, Doctor?"

She was pushing buttons again, which could only mean that she was up to something. Oh, dear. Last time she had been near the console, he had come back to it to find all its innards neatly wrapped in colour-coded cable ties, which would have been perfectly all right if only she hadn't failed to understand that he already had a system. He'd quoted Hamlet. She had raised an eyebrow. The cable ties were staying, for now.

"Have you seen my left sock, I said – and what are you doing to the console?"

"Oh, just turning off the translation unit," she assured him, and turned to face him, giving it one last pat. "I'm hoping to learn a language this afternoon, and it would be helpful if the TARDIS wasn't translating things for me. I haven't seen your sock," she added, as an afterthought.

Romana, he noticed, was wearing pink again. Romana had been wearing pink rather a lot lately. He hadn't liked to say anything, but really, he was beginning to wonder if she was perhaps suffering from some hideous disease which rendered her only able to see one part of the spectrum. Hopefully there would be a cure.

Still, he was quite an expert on languages, so perhaps Romana's hypothetical colour-blindness could wait a while longer.

"Oh, languages? I'm quite good at languages; any one in particular?"

"I thought perhaps French."

"French? Oh, no, no, you can't learn French; it's so tediously predictable of you. I recommend English. It's the official language of two of the three Great and Bountiful Human Empires, after all. Besides, we would be able to communicate then."

"We're communicating now, Doctor," Romana pointed out, her logic as impeccable as ever.

He waved this away. "Yes, yes, but we would be able to communicate better. Gallifreyan is hardly perfect, you know."

Romana sighed. "And English is?"

"Well, no, obviously, but for everyday conversations I find it much easier. Do you know how long this conversation has taken us?"

"Three minutes, forty-seven point eight seconds," she said promptly, and in five syllables. Well, to deny that Gallifreyan was anything but the very best language in existence for discussing the passage of time would simply be wrong.

"You see? In English it would have taken half that. And besides, there are concepts that just don't translate." One concept in particular, in fact, which had been irking him for centuries.

"Such as?"

The translation unit was definitely turned off, he was sure of it, which was just as well, because it would butcher this sentence. The Doctor took a breath. "Well, such as that I love you."

There was a moment of silence, then Romana wrinkled her nose in a particularly delightful manner. "Three syllables?"

"Yes." The closest thing he had found in Gallifreyan was I rather enjoy your company, which was a sesquipedalian twenty-one syllables and had a tongue-twisting alliteration right in the middle.

"What does it mean?"

He was quite sure that he was blushing, so he ducked behind the console under the pretence of resuming the quest for his sock. "Well, if you learn English then you'll find out, won't you?"

Romana made a small huffing noise and left the console room. Moments later, her voice drifted back up the corridor. "Have you checked the bath-house?"

"Fourteen syllables," the Doctor said to the TARDIS floor. "Ours is a very sick culture."

Romana spent the whole afternoon in the library. By the time she was finished with French, the Doctor had given up on finding his sock – it would turn up, one day when he least expected it – and retreated to the library himself, to catch up on his reading.

The library was outfitted as a library should be, with towering oak bookcases, leather sofas and some of those funny green lights that you never saw anywhere else. It had also recently spawned a number of chaise-longues, because this body liked to stretch out when given an opportunity to do so; they were mostly in alcoves, and the Doctor, being a practical sort, had taken the one nearest the door.

He was therefore, and completely accidentally of course, in a prime position to spot Romana making her way over to the reference section, then coming back a moment later with an English-French dictionary. There followed ten minutes of furious page-turning, then Romana came out again, this time returning with a proper dictionary in French, and an encyclopaedia.

There was some muttering, then four minutes after that she emerged again, this time heading not for the reference section but for him. He almost stopped breathing, but managed, somehow, to put his book down on his chest as she approached, still looking rather bemused.


"I see," she said calmly. His hearts sank.

"You do, do you?"

"You're quite right. There is no way to express that concept in Gallifreyan. It's a terrible shame; it sounds quite... nice."

"Yes, humans seem to enjoy it."

"Of course, humans aren't telepathic. I imagine a species would require more words to explain a sense of emotional attachment if its members were incapable of simply projecting the sensation to their fellows."

It occurred to the Doctor that this explanation had never occurred to him before. "Well, perhaps," he allowed. "Although I'm not sure if you're thinking of quite the same concept as I am, hm?"

Romana half-smiled, and sat down on a nearby sofa."Oh, Doctor, really. While it is nice to be able to say je t'aime, I can hardly say that the concept is new."

The telepathic sensation hit him at the same moment as she said it, a sudden wave of affection and warmth. He couldn't help but smile as he responded, I love you the Gallifreyan way, all emotion and no words, and simultaneously wondered how he'd managed to miss it up until now and really rather wished he hadn't, because it was entirely beautiful.

"You know," he said, slowly and carefully navigating the verbal minefield, "I rather enjoy your company."

Romana smiled. "Our mutual telepathic field is pleasantly harmonious is shorter, I think. Now, perhaps you could explain to me why it is that ta TARDIS délabré teint continuellement mes vêtements en rose?"

The Doctor frowned. There hadn't been anything wrong with the laundry as far as he was concerned, except that his sock was still missing.

His new red sock, to go with his new red outfit, he thought, as he gazed down himself at his bare foot, its rather magnificent big toe wiggling innocently at him.



ta TARDIS délabré teint continuellement mes vêtements en rose – your dilapidated TARDIS keeps dying my clothing pink

He'd quoted Hamlet - Act 2, scene 2, line 206: 'Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.'


People may also be interested in my Ten Rules for the Gallifreyan Language, which spawned this little fic in the first place.


Date: 2008-07-31 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jinxed_wood []
And that was rather wonderful :-)

Date: 2008-07-31 09:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you :)

Date: 2008-07-31 06:21 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I enjoyed this very much! Lovely.

As a sidenote, I'd translate the French differently: "Votre TARDIS délabré teint continuellement mes vêtements en rose." "To dye something x" is "teindre quelque chose en" rather than "à", and while "habillement" is used often for shops in speech it rings wrongly to my ears.

*Eledhwen (torn_eledhwen on LJ)

Date: 2008-07-31 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you, for both the review and the translation. It's de-Babeled now.

Date: 2008-07-31 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was really sweet! I love Four/Romana stories, and this one was especially clever. (My favorite part was the laundry denouement.)

My only nitpick is that I think Romana would use "ton TARDIS" instead of "votre TARDIS" (or "ta TARDIS", if a TARDIS is a feminine-gendered object), since votre is reserved for someone you are more formal with.

Anyway, great job! =)

--Ally (alligatorade on livejournal)

Date: 2008-07-31 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you.

French: argh. Fixing, thanks for pointing that out. Man, why couldn't I have had her learning ancient Greek, then I could have done the translation properly myself...

Date: 2008-07-31 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Now there's a question - is a TARDIS feminine or masculine in French? Interestingly the French for boat and ship are masculine, whilst in English those are about the only things we do assign a gender to.


(no subject)

From: [identity profile] charamei [] - Date: 2008-08-01 09:46 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-01 02:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was entirely wonderful! I love your version of Gallifreyan.

- akashasheiress on Livejournal.

Date: 2008-08-01 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you.

Date: 2008-08-01 05:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Very sweet and funny! Very them!!

Persiflage_1 on LJ

Date: 2008-08-01 09:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you.


Date: 2008-08-02 12:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am a phychoticly happy whovian linguist right now. (And, being able to speak french, started laughing before I saw the translation.)


Date: 2008-08-03 11:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you.

Date: 2008-08-03 12:49 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
As a linguistic geek myself and fervent Doctor/Romana shipper, this is ridiculously adorable. I love that Romana is able to learn French in only an hour and all of the discussion on Gallifreyan grammar (a pet subject of mine if I ever had one)... and the explanation for the Doctor's new outfit! I love it. Romana and her colour-coding delights me.
-skyway on LJ

Date: 2008-08-03 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charamei []
Thank you :)

I'm intrigued as to what the epxlanation for the new outfit that you inferred was, though... the outfit being red (and not yet colour-fast) was the reason for the pink, but I've no idea what the reason for the outfit was.

Date: 2010-09-16 10:00 pm (UTC)
dbskyler: (Four smiling)
From: [personal profile] dbskyler
This fic is sweet and happy-making.

Date: 2013-04-19 01:35 am (UTC)
rbmifan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rbmifan
Adore this. Romana and the Doctor are lovely here, and I love your thoughts on the Gallifreyan lanugage (and your Ten Rules). Totally my headcanon now.

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Date: 2013-06-02 11:45 pm (UTC)
rbmifan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rbmifan
*sneaks in a month later and slides a reply under your door*

"Yes! Martha's disgusted and confused, the Doctor is deeply embarrassed and hiding it by shouting about the Master, and then there's Jack, who's mostly unbothered and wiping himself off like, 'Oh, not again, I just had this coat dry-cleaned last week!'

And then Martha's like, hold on, this is a regular occurrence? And Jack's all like, yeah, there's poo in the vortex, nobody knows how it got there, and the Doctor will clear his throat very loudly and march off in a random direction, because he can't trust the Master not to stab him in the back but he can at least trust him to keep the secret of the origins of Time Poo.

Hee, yes, exactly!

Or, can you imagine Jack's first year in Time Agent training? Assuming he's always been as concerned with his appearance as he is in the show, I'd like to see his reaction the first time he hits poo while time travelling.

"I was actually trying to work this out while I was writing that fic. I think we have to assume that it is all still floating about up there? The disappearance of the Time Lords hasn't undone any of the previous messes they'd made with Time, that we'd seen. Characters like Jo and Sarah-Jane still remember them, for example. So... yes. Random free-floating time poo, confusing Time Agents since the beginning of modern time travel."

Right. Time in general seems to get a bit wonky when it comes to the Time Lock. On the one hand, Time Lords themselves are now nothing more than legend. (And I remember reading somewhere that the Time Agency was very different before the Time Lock, since they'd have had the Time Lords and other Temporal Powers breathing down their necks to make sure they didn't do anything funny.) On the other, we've got random Time Lord stuff floating around still.

(I wonder if Braxatiel's collection is still around. And whether the Doctor's taken it upon himself to protect it in Brax's absence?)

"I'm torn on the question of multiple copies of his outfits vs excellent dry-cleaning, to be honest. For Doctors like Nine and Ten the latter makes more sense (especially Ten, who has a whopping two suits!), but for Five and Six it seems more likely that there's just one extremely well-cleaned coat. Especially Six. Doesn't Peri threaten to hide his a couple of times?"

True. On top of dry cleaning, the TARDIS would have to repair any damage to his clothes as well. (And I imagine he accumulates quite a bit of damage in his travels).

It's possible the TARDIS *could* make multiple identical copies of his clothes, but the Doctor is sentimental and insists on keeping the same one and just repairing it.

"Me too XD Doctor Who is great for this sort of thing. It has a (very loose) set of rules for how the universe works, but beyond that? Go anywhere, do anything. Take this minor canon point to its logical conclusion and you'll have sentient gummi bears dropping on the heads of alien kangaroos! It is so. Much. Fun."

Yes, exactly! *spins around in the Whoniverse*

"(Also, you now have gift fic on AO3.)"

My first ever gift fic~ Thanks!

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Date: 2013-06-29 06:15 pm (UTC)
rbmifan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rbmifan
Starting a new thread :)

"Hi, my name is Charamei and I'm a completist :p

I will probably have to do that, though. Ten series of Benny. Aaaargh.

This is a really, really bad fandom to be completist in, by the way XD.

Not a fan of Benny? :)

XD I noticed that, yeah. You could be at it your whole life.

"My plan is succeeding *evil grin*

How are you finding Gallifrey?

8DA is awesome, though. I'll try not to spoil it...

I'm liking it! Season 1 wasn't bad, but didn't really pull me in. But seasons 2 and 3 were great (I'm on the last ep of season 3). And surprisingly, Narvin's managed to become one of my favourite characters (along with Leela, K9 and Brax).

Was very happy when Darkel died, and that doesn't happen too often.

"(It might be worth listening to An Earthly Child between series 3 and 4, though. It's a Christmas special, not a part of 8DA, but it sets up a few things that turn up in S04.)"

Okay, thanks for the suggestion. I'll buy it when I get season 4~

"True. I could see the institution existing, but the parents just getting waylaid. And then there are the one or two eager beaves who actually track down the tutors and demand to speak about their children, which annoys the tutors immensely. They're here to socialise, not to work! Honestly.

Entirely. As much of a coincidence as that time one of the TARDISes in the labs went missing and they turns up later that day with alien fruit. Not related at all.

Of course, I could also see them being two of the parents who track down the tutors at parent night. Because who cares about socializing - they're all a bunch of stuck up politicians anyway. They're here for someone important.

Of course not. Total coincidence. Or that time their daughter disappeared during lunch and showed up again for her next class in different clothes and smelling faintly of smoke.

"I'm not 100% sure that's true, but it's not as if we have any proof either way. *shrugs*

What we do know is that Time Lord bodies seem to have a higher tolerance for the ruins of age than human ones. Miniature Ten in the S03 finale is the first canon depiction of an idea that already existed in the EU - that as Time Lords grow old their bodies wither away to incredibly tiny and frail nothingness before finally regenerating. By that standard, One's 'elderly' body really wasn't. It was simply no longer able to sustain his very active lifestyle.

I'm still not sure how I feel about that scene, actually. Do Time Lords ever actually get that old? In any case, we know that each body should last several hundred years. Possibly as long as a thousand years, if we've got 10,000 year old Time Lords running around. And it seems a bit unfair that a Time Lord who gets a string of old bodies will end up with a much shorter lifespan. It just makes more sense if the bodies don't age. I mean, in School Reunion Ten flat out states 'I don't age; I regenerate'. Which you could interpret in a couple different ways.

Of course, probably most Time Lords have more control over their next body than the Doctor (I have a feeling he was skipping class when they covered that in the Academy). So maybe getting an older body is something that happens when you don't have a lot of control?

"Seven is explicitly stated to be old in the intro to the Eighth Doctor movie, IIRC (and I'm not positive, but I suspect they made Sylvester McCoy up to look older than he was for it). Although it does make a lot of sense that the first body ages faster somehow."

Hmm. I rewatched the intro to the movie. He says he's 'nearing the end of his seventh life', and he is older. That seems it. And he's not as old as the First Doctor looked when he regenerated due to old age. He's clearly still sprightly. So I find it hard to believe he's expecting to die of old age soon. More likely he's referring to his imminent death by gunshot/surgery, since it's the Eighth Doctor telling the story.

But who knows?

"That's definitely possible, assuming a slowdown and not a complete halt. Susan... ehhhh. Maybe? She is definitely written as young, but young does not necessarily mean sixteen. I get the impression she's young enough that she still ought to be in school, but that could mean she's in her eighties...

(Which, if you want a rough equivalent to sixteen, would make sense. Old enough to be in the final phase of schooling, to be almost ready to go out and engage with the world as an adult - young enough to still be technically a child.)

Right, I meant the relative age of her body in human years. Obviously her actual age would be quite different :)

PS: Saw Caves of Androzani. It was awesome! Possibly my favourite Classic Who episode so far :D
Edited Date: 2013-07-01 02:34 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2015-01-02 08:19 am (UTC)
shyfoxling: Ravenclaw crest (Default)
From: [personal profile] shyfoxling
Arrrgh, at the end... I sighed aloud. Bad jokes ahoy!

But I love all the language stuff in this. Our mutual telepathic field is pleasantly harmonious is shorter, indeed. (having read your Ten Rules post, I get why!)

Being "sesquipedalian" merits a PG...?
Edited Date: 2015-01-02 08:23 am (UTC)


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