Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Public Service Announcement about Sex Cults and Bad Latin

Mind control, human slavery and brainwashing are all bad of course, but do you know what really aggravates me? Bad Latin. Recently, I've been reading a lot about the alleged sex cult DOS. It's in the news because its two leaders (Keith Raniere and the actress Allison Mack, aka "Chloe Sullivan" from Smallville) have been arrested in New York on a variety of horrendous charges including sex trafficking. In nearly every story on the case, we are told that DOS stands for "Dominus Obsequious Sororium", and that this translates as "Master of the Slave Women".

I'm issuing a public service announcement. For the record, “dominus obsequious sororium” is not Latin for “master over the slave women”. It’s pseudo-Latin (substantially worse than Monty Python's “Romanes eunt domus”). Let's break it down like a Centurion would...

“Dominus” is the correct word for “master”. We can give them that.

“Obsequious” is not a Latin word at all – it is perhaps a sadly misconceived variant of the deponent verb “obsequor” (to be pliant). Even granting this bastardization, the adjective agrees (in the grammatical sense) with “dominus”, which indicates that it is the *dominus* and not the *sororium* that is the pliant one.

“Sororium” is a misspelling of the genitive plural of “soror” (sister). The proper spelling is “sororum” without the “i”. Sororum means “of the sisters”.

So, putting it all together, if you had to render “dominus obsequious sororium” into English, it would be...
“plianticulous master of the sisterrrss”

I hope these people were better at running a cult than they were at Latin grammar.

Quo usque tandem abutere, Allison Mack, patientia nostra?

POSTSCRIPT: I'm annoyed that no one in the media took a few moments to consult with a classicist in order to nail down what this Latin actually meant. After all, it was a source within the cult who came up with both the Latin and the translation. Why would you take a cult's word on anything, let alone paleolinguistics? Shouldn't you be fact-checking that? 

In my zeal to find the origin for the mis-translation, I tracked down the Affidavit of FBI Special Agent Michael Lever, which supported the arrest of Raniere. This seems to be the first publicly available statement that DOS = dominus obsequious sororium = master of the slave women.  But, interestingly to me, Agent Lever includes a footnote to this passage which reads as follows:
According to various sources of information, DOS stands for "Dominus Obsequious Sororium", which at least one DOS slave was told by her master translates to "Master Over the Slave Women." According to a Latin expert I consulted, this phrase is broken Latin ("obsequious" is an English word and the Latin would properly be "obscquicsarum" and "sororium" would properly be "sororum"), but roughly translates to "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions".
Well, I'm glad the FBI cares about getting the details right, even if the media can't be arsed. In any case, stay tuned for more cranky sex-cult/Latin-grammar updates as affairs develop and circumstances may require. 


  1. I need to find my books. I had bought two books in a series where the author translated various sayings into proper Latin. Such things as Yankee go home and what not. I believe that's where I first saw my favorite motto. Cervisarii Feliciter. I may be misremembering how to spell that. The error is mine.

    1. I think I know the books you're talking about -- or at least I had something similar... "Latin for All Occasions" by Henry Beard. Great book!

  2. Matthew thanks for the Latin lesion I feel truly educated and enlightened!

  3. Where are the mouse monsters? This post is way out of left field, but I love it.

    1. If there's one thing I hate more than monsters, it's bad Latin.

  4. It all sounds like garbled '40K Speak' doesn't it? When I first read it I thought, 'What a weird name for a Sisters of Battle detachment'. Well I'm glad that's sorted. Now Dan Brown has something solid to work from for his next book. ;)

    1. Now that you mention it, it makes me appreciate the fact that the Latin in Rogue Trader is generally pretty decent.

  5. Ok, it's not every day I see Latin and Sex Cult in the same post.. bravo!

  6. Thank you Matthew. That is a warning to take to heart.
    If or when I join a sex cult, I shall endeavour to ensure that their Latin is correct.


  7. بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم نحن فى شركة الكمال تقوم بافضل انواع التنظيف العام وتنظيف الفلل بافضل انواع العالميه التى تحافظ على السيراميك
    شركة تنظيف منازل بحائل
    شركة تنظيف بالطائف
    شركة تنظيف بجازان
    شركة تنظيف بحائل
    شركة تنظيف مجالس وكنب بحائل
    ونحن فى خدماتكم اربعه وعشرون ساعه وكل هذا بافضل الاسعار واقل التكلفة

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