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.