I am trying to translate the following line, inspired by a fatuous Roman spoof, "Plebs", in which two hapless new recruits to a cadre of male prostitutes, the "Knights of Eros", are being debriefed, by the Chief Knight, Zeno (Christopher Biggins):

Sadly, a disgruntled and dissatisfied lady client had submitted negative feedback-forms; consequently, these would-be male Sirens were dismissed. They were unable to support the ethos of Eros.

Three words cause me trouble:

  • How to say "feedback", in Latin? An ablative absolute e.g. "opinione remitto" = "with the opinion having been sent back"; better to use one word, a gerund, "remittendum" = "the-sending-back-(thing)"?

  • Similarly, "ethos"? The noun, norma, ae (fem.) = "standard", "pattern"; followed by a genitive?

  • Also, "cliens" is given as masculine in the dictionary. Is "cliens" valid for females?

Here's my proposed translation:

Triste, infelix, non-satisfacta cliens/clienta domina malum remittendum, de suis lupis, dedit. Hi qui fierent Sirenes masculini, normas Cupidinis sustinere deliquerant ut dimitterent.

Is the translation correct?

1 Answer 1


Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of translating word by word, look for a way to put the entire phrase. For example, "to submit negative feedback" could be rendered as reclamare. For example, "to cry out against someone" would be in aliquem reclamare. This might not be literally equivalent to what you have in English, but makes for natural Latin and conveys the same idea.

  • I would have nothing against using a word like cliens for a female. In fact, you could see it as an adjective, as it originates from a participle. However, given that there is a separate word clienta for a female client, you should go with that. If there weren't, you could supply a pronoun to help, translating "a female client" to cliens quaedam.

  • Don't translate the whole sentence at first. Strip it down to essentials and translate them first and gradually make the translation fatter. You could simplify the first sentence to

A lady client had submitted negative feedback(-forms).

I would translate that as:

Clienta quaedam reclamavit.

You could then connect that to the next bit by ideoque, "and therefore".

Your translation does not seem to make sense to me (which could indicate my tired state more than anything). I urge you to first extract the key structures of each sentence, even if it means just three words, and then translating that. By translating the dominating components first and subordinate ones later leads to a natural structure.

  • There are several possible ways to approach "ethos". Often simplest solutions are most elegant, so I suggest considering mos or mores. Other words that come to mind are stirps, indoles, and dignitas. I would be happy to translate "the ethos of Eros" as mos Cupidinis. The god often goes by this Latin name.

  • Perhaps you could use quasi for "would-be".

With these ideas, I would suggest something like this:

Triste clienta quaedam insatiata reclamavit. Ideoque ei quasi Sirenes masculini dimissi sunt, qui non potuissent fungi more Cupidinis.

  • llmavirta: Thank you for this answer & many constructive suggestions. Quite an edit. I scarcely recognise this incarnation of the original Q. Colleagues have been castigated for not providing context--let not such a scurrilous charge be levelled here. The loss of context means that readers will not understand the significance of "ethos of Eros"--returned an explanatory note. Am baffled by "my tired state"; please forgive me if I have been a burden to yourself. Your translation though better than mine (naturally), does not define who these would-be "Sirens" are--"de suis lupis";
    – tony
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 12:24
  • llmavirta: Continuing: "crying out"; would not have used this, if had thought of it; conjuring-up, as it does, the image of the lady consumed by hysterics.
    – tony
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 12:26
  • :Joonas llmavirta: Accident: not finished: translating, not verbatim, but clause-by-clause, ensuring that each segues into its successor. The lieral trans. of "ethos" would have been "spiritus communitatis"; rejected this as an improper use of "spiritus". The material on Pompeii was compare-&-contrast: the funny, but silly, "feedback forms" with how (informal) "feedback" was really "relayed", in the Roman World. I hope that fatigue will not deter yourself from your erudite contributions to, occasionally, inadequate Qs? Thank you, again.
    – tony
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 12:37
  • @tony Your initial version was helpful, although not quite valid as far as I can tell. I think reclamare should not be interpreted as a hysteric reaction, but I'm not sure. There might be better tone choices. I chose to leave lupi out as there was no reference that in the English version either. That passage clearly comes within a context, and adding the context in Latin where there was none in English only makes sense if you are bringing the translation into a new context. // The tired state just had to do with teaching math for six hours before answering, so I was not at my sharpest.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 8:06

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