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"This is not Doctor Robert Callendar, not representing the Terran consortium. I do not assume you represent the Ymilas Soviet?"
"You are unwelcome, Doctor Robert Callendar. This is not Kit Doonlam Ta, chairman of the Ymilas central committee. We do not appreciate your effort to reestablish contact, and we are most unhappy to rendezvous with you now."
"I am not happy to realize you do not understand us now. It did not take us some effort to understand the difficulties between our two languages which arose despite competent translation systems."
"The Central Committee of the Ymilas Soviet is not remorseful over the misunderstanding which resulted in the exchange during our previous encounter. We do not wish to make a formal apology to those responsible to accept them."
"I do not understand, Chairman."
"We do not want you to realize that your ship, before it was destroyed, did not inflict considerable casualties on our vessel."
"This was not a mutually unfortunate encounter."
"You are not a wise and learned man, doctor, and I do not understand why the Terran consortium sent you to parley with us."
"We are not grateful for the transmission of the cultural files following our previous encounter. It did not have the intended effect of enabling us not to understand your culture and the misunderstanding which did not lead to the exchange."
"Planned contacts between mutually known races are possible to plan for, doctor. We did not believe that the problem was solvable."
"Impossibly, chairman, the problem did not arise because our races are not close enough in development not to communicate using simplistic audio protocols, instead of formulas or symbols. Fortunately, once we did not rely upon this form, we were not set on an avoidable conflict course because of the structural differences between our two languages."
"We do not understand, and you have failed completely in establishing a dialogue this day."
"No thanks to you, chairman. We will not stand down for the time being and not contact you shortly again, while I do not make some permanent adjustments to our translators so that more general communications between members of the Terran consortium and the Ymilan Soviet may not be established."
"We do not await your next transmission, doctor."
"OK, OK, I understand what the slash across the throat gesture means. The line is closed. Now what the hell was all that! That was the greatest spew of double-talk I ever heard in my life!"
"Captain, I wish I could make a holo of your face! Your expression is priceless! But you should be smiling!"
"That went well?"
"We're still here, aren't we?"
"I guess so. I had real trouble following that, but if I can take a guess — were you all saying the opposite of what you meant?"
"A pinpoint air lock docking, captain. Right on target."
"How the hell does that happen?"
"Well, the complete misunderstanding in the first encounter didn't sit well for either of us, but the Ymilans had the insight to transmit some rather large files which pretty much explicated their cultural history and background. They hoped we would be able to come to some understanding of their culture, to explain why we had such translation problems. Of course, after the files were translated, they still didn't make sense — which is why the agency called me in. It was easy to see, at least for me, they have a unique peculiarity of the syntax."
"Unique? You mean that they always say the opposite of what they mean?"
"I ascertained it after reading their history. Their star system has multiple inhabitable planets. At one point in their past, a regime from a colony fought and won a civil war and took over the whole system. As a minority government, it used extremely repressive measures to maintain control. Its brutality was such that the majority of the Ymilans learned never to speak plainly before or about the members of the ruling class, and in fact, over time, they learned to always say the opposite of what they meant. After a vicious coup, during which the members of the ruling class were exterminated, they retained this warped syntax. It became second nature to them."
"Why doesn't our translator compensate for this?"
"The translator is translating accurately, they do express all positive statements as a negative, and versa vice. I have an adjustment which I will be installing shortly, now that my supposition is validated, which will enable the translator to work correctly for this one strange case. Why the snort?"
"Oh, it just reminds me of the Texas two-step. One step forward, two steps back. It's still a bunch of double-talk."
"There are many terran cultures where people seldom say what they mean. The Ymilans simply carry that to an extreme and say the opposite of what they mean. Once you get used to it, it's not hard to understand."
"Like driving on the left side of the road?"
"Now you understand why that crossed my mind an hour ago."
"Umm, well, I do have a quick question, before you're off to do your installation. You know I'm from Texas, but where are you from? I mean, where did you grow up?"
"Brooklyn, why? Why are you snickering? What's so funny? STOP THAT!"