Monday, December 29, 2008

Reader's Favorites - The Linguistic Traits of NCIS Agent Ziva David

Call me behind the times but I just discovered the television show NCIS this year (even though it completed its fifth season Tuesday evening). I immediately fell in love with the show not only because it is a quality show but also because I love listening to the character Ziva's use of the English language. Ziva David is an Israeli Mossad agent who speaks many languages, though English is obviously not her first.

Ziva's linguistic traits include:

A lack of the use of contractions.

Tony: How long have you been in this country?
Ziva: Why?
Tony: Well you never heard of gypsy cabs. You don't use contractions. Assimilate already.
Ziva: What are contraptions?

This is quite accurate for an ESL speaker as it is very hard for foreigners to grasp the use of contractions. I, personally, think that the lack of contractions in her speech make Ziva sound very sophisticated - plus I find it amusing.

Mixing up suffixes.

In an episode a week ago when McGee (as he is playing Scrabble with Ziva) tells Tony that he is working on a linguistic developmental exercise to bolster her English vocabulary. Ziva responds that it is not her vocabulary that needs bolsterment.

Mixing up idioms.

Ziva : It'll be like trying to find a pin in the haystack.

Ziva: Ducky, drip it!
Ducky: You mean drop it or zip it?
Ziva: American idioms drive me up the hall!

Ziva: I feel like a donkey's butt.
McGee: Donkey's butt?
Tony: I think she means horse's a** probie.
Ziva: Yes, that too.

Ziva: Kody was covering his plates.

Ziva: McGee you look like you saw a goat.

Each one of the above examples of Ziva's language characteristics falls under the category of either morphology errors or syntax errors.

As for the season finale which has Ziva, Tony and McGee leaving - I don't believe it will happen, I think it was just the writers' version of a cliffhanger, or should I say bluffhanger.


Ora - Looking for Offramp said...

That was great, which season are those quotes from? We're getting the reruns now.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Umm, err...

Ziva : It'll be like trying to find a pin in the haystack.

Isn't that a contraction?

Laura Payne said...

The Ridger, FCD - Great catch. I never noticed that.

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