Sub rosa

There is a fairly strange episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, from the last season, called “Sub Rosa”, that I only saw for the first time sometime in college, in which Beverly Crusher is basically seduced by this spirit or ghost that inhabits a newly colonized planet terraformed in the image of Scotland. She becomes so captivated by it (with obvious suggestions of human–spirit sexual action) that she quits Starfleet and moves down to the planet to live sexually—er, happily—ever after with this ghost, or, as they call it in Star Trek fake lingo, an “anaphasic lifeform”. This ghost had also “enchanted” her grandmother and several Howard women on down the ancestral line, for generations. As it turns out, this anaphasic lifeform has been using the Howard women for generations to stay alive—maybe by feeding off of their life energy, or something. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I could never figure out why that episode would have such a strange title and what Latin or roses would have to do with anything, or what that phrase meant. Well, one time a while back at Dictionary.com, sub rosa was the word of the day, and it is an adjective or adverb meaning secret(ly), private(ly), or confidential(ly). That’s cool! I’m glad I found that out! Now, where the hell did that phrase come from?!

What? What’s that you say, Wikipedia? Sub rosa comes from the Latin, literally under the rose, from the ancient association of the rose with confidentiality, the origin of which traces to a famous story in which Cupid gave Harpocrates, the god of silence, a rose to bribe him not to disclose the indiscretions of Cupid’s mother Venus? Hence the ceilings of Roman banquet-rooms were decorated with roses to remind guests that what was spoken sub vino (under the influence of wine) was also sub rosa? Fascinating, Captain…

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