Have you been following the Swift/Perry beef? Were you as bemused as I was to read about the gift of the olive branch? Were you as horrified as I was at the quality of Perry’s handwriting? Were you stunned by the fact that Swift appears to have needed help from fans in order to be sure about the precise meaning and symbolism of the olive branch? Then read on…
It’s an interesting world when an olive branch and a hand-written note sent from one pop music star to another makes world headlines but that’s exactly what happened this month when Katy Perry sent an olive branch as a gift to Taylor Swift, with a hand-written note that appears to say:
“Hey old friend, I’ve been doing some reflecting on past miscommunications and the hurt feelings between us, I really want to clear the air – I’m deeply sorry for…”
Swift shared a short video of the gift and the note on Instagram. She also ‘liked’ a post from a fan that explained the meaning of the ‘olive branch’.
Sigh. Oh dear. If only Swift and Perry were students of Classics at the ANU.
Here are 8 good reasons why:
- Perry would have taken greater care with her handwriting. Any student of Classics knows that in order to be properly understood, and assessed, handwriting must be legible!
- Perry would have written her message in carefully handwritten ancient Greek or Latin. That way she could have found more appropriately idiomatic expressions for ‘old friend’ and ‘clearing the air’ and educated her fan base as they desperately scrambled to translate the handwritten note.
- Perry would not have chosen such an ambiguous gift. In ancient times, the olive branch was a symbol of victory, not peace. [When Athena and Poseidon were making competing claims over the region of Attica, they each gave a gift to the region: Poseidon struck a rock on the Acropolis with his trident and sea water came pouring out but Athena planted an olive tree. The twelve gods judged that Athena’s gift was superior and more useful so Athens was named after Athena, and the olive tree became synonymous with Athena and her victory.]
- Instead of using Google and Tumblr to decipher the meaning of the olive branch, Swift would have turned to her handy reference guide to classical mythology.
- Swift would never be so reckless as to cite an incomplete source. For all we know, the rest of the note says: “I’m deeply sorry for finally winning this long-running feud between us – I realise it must make things very awkward for you. See ya laterrrrr.”
- Swift would never be so reckless as to fail to double-check that the text actually did come from the attributed source and not from someone else.
- Swift would have correctly interpreted the sticker of the ‘puppy’ as a symbol of purification in early Greek religion (Parker, p.230). Perhaps Perry symbolically ‘washing her hands clean’ of any responsibility for the package?
- Swift would have taken a video of herself wearing the olive wreath and preferably a toga as well. Clearly that is what the olive branch was intended for.
Oh well, so many lost opportunities. If only both were enrolled as students in Classics at ANU. Then we could really shake this thing off, once and for all.
Hansen, W. Classical Mythology (Oxford 2004).
Parker, R. Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (Oxford 1983).