“Concerning the Roses of the Lillian Girls”

     It should not surprise visitors of my site that I am attracted to the Botanical Latin used in the Japanese anime, manga, and novel series Maria-sama ga Miteru (「マリア様がみてる」; the series is often called Marimite).  Before I wrote this article, it did not seem to me that there were any English-language articles that provided detailed explanations of the names of the various plant names mentioned in the series.  Most fans know that rosa is a Latin word.  However, it is not likely that many of them know what foetida means.  Since I find Latin enjoyable, and I like the series, I have decided to write this guide to the relevant Botanical Latin words.  There are explanations of the variant spellings of the words, as well as descriptions of the various pronunciations of the names.  Perhaps the unofficial name of this article should be “How to read the Botanical Latin in the series Maria-sama ga Miteru.”

     (Notā bene: The first part of a two-word Botanical name, which represents the flower genus, has its first letter capitalized.  The second word, which is a particular epithet for the specific species, has its first letter in lower case.  So someone is more likely to see a Botanist use Rosa chinensis rather than Rosa Chinensis when that name refers to the plant.  In this article, the second name of a Botanical name is capitalized when the name is a title of one of the girls.  Incidentally, this article uses the Arial Unicode MS font.)

Rosa Chinensis

     Yōko Mizuno (水野 蓉子) is shown to have the title Rosa Chinensis (ロサ・キネンシス).  (This article does not contain an explanation of the intricate and intriguing naming system that the Lillian girls use, so you may wish to read more about it elsewhere if necessary.)  It should be noted that Rosa chinensis is the most common spelling of the rose species.  Although Chinese Rose is the literal translation of the name Rosa chinensis, the species is also called the Bengal Rose and the China Rose.  The spelling Rosa chinensis appears on relatively trustworthy sites such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant siteChinensis is one way to indicate the word Chinese (or the words of China) in Botanical Latin, but there exists another spelling: sinensis (or sīnēnsis, with a macron).  Both spellings contain the ensis suffix that is tacked onto place names to indicate an individual’s (in this case, a plant’s) country or place of origin or habitat.  (Chinensis obviously came from China, but sinensis came from Sīnae, a Latin word that refers to the Chinese.)  Technically, the e in ensis is a long vowel, so one can write chinēnsis and sinēnsis.  Note, however, that although the former spelling is a variant of the latter, they are not interchangeable when it comes to the name Rosa chinensis.  Botanists are likely to write “Rosa chinensis Jacquin” or “Rosa chinensis Jacq.” in order to indicate the first describer of the plant (who was Nicolaus Joseph Jacquin in this case).

     So what should be considered the proper pronunciation of the scientific name?  That is a rather loaded question because there are several different pronunciation schemes for Botanical Latin, and the pronunciations are not set in stone.  In general, people tend to pronounce the names according to the phonetic systems of their native languages.  In fact, the characters in the anime series pronounce Rosa chinensis according to the sounds represented by the katakana-character combinations ロサ・キネンシス, which go by the Japanese set of phonetics.  An approximation of the pronunciation that the characters use is “roh-sah kee-neh-n-shee-su,” where all of the vowels are short.  Perhaps an English-speaking person would pronounce the name as “ROH-suh cheye-NEHN-sihs.”  According to the reconstructed classical Latin pronunciation system (the one that perhaps Cicero and Julius Caesar used), Rosa chinēnsis would probably sound like “ROH-sah kih-NAYN-sihs.”  (It is important to roll or trill the R in Rosa.  If you know French, that the R should not be a problem for you to pronounce.)  That pronunciation would also be used according to another scheme called Ecclesiastical or “Church Latin.”  One can argue that the Ecclesiastical scheme would be more appropriate for characters who attend a Catholic school because it is used when singing hymns and such.  In fact, that scheme is the one that Shizuka Kanina [蟹名 静] uses when she sings the Latin words in Ave Maria.

Rosa Foetida

     Eriko Torii (鳥居 江利子), another Lillian girl, has the title Rosa Foetida (ロサ・フェティダ).  In Latin, foetida means stinking or ill-smelling or fetid, so it seems a bit out of place for such a lovely girl.  (Well, it does not seem that she stinks; the other characters do not seem to make unflattering comments about the smells of Eriko!)  The spelling Rosa foetida appears to be the most common one for the name of the rose species.  Like some other Latin words, foetida has more than one variant spelling.  It seems that the most common classical Latin spelling is fētida.  Some Latin sources use the spelling faetida.  It seems that the species received the name Rosa foetida because the plants apparently give off a bad smell.  Botanists are likely to write the name as “Rosa foetida Herrmann” or “Rosa foetida Herrm.” in order to acknowledge the person who first described the plant: Johannes Herrmann.

     If someone wishes to pronounce Rosa foetida, he or she can follow one of the several pronunciation schemes.  The Lillian girls pronounce the name according to the sounds indicated by the katakana-character combinations ロサ・フェティダ, which sound rather like “roh-sah feh-tee-da.”  An English-speaking person may say “ROH-suh FEE-tee-dah.”  According to the classical Latin pronunciation scheme, the name sounds like “ROH-sah FOY-tih-dah.”  (Fētida wound sound like “FAY-tih-dah,” while faetida would sound like “FEYE-tih-dah.)  The Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation of is “ROH-sah FAY-tsee-dah.”  (According to the Ecclesiastical Latin scheme, fētida and faetida sound exactly the same as foetida.)

Rosa Gigantea

     Another girl, Sei Satō (佐藤 聖), has the title Rosa Gigantea (ロサ・ギガンティア) at different times.  The scientific name Rosa gigantea literally means gigantic rose or rose of the giantsGigantēus (gigantea is the feminine form) and gigantea both derive from Gigās (plural: Gigantēs), which refers to one of the Giants who were sons of the goddess Gaea and the god Tartarus in classical mythology.  The e in gigantea is long in Latin.  Sometimes there is a macron over the e in gigantea: gigantēa.  Fortunately, there are no common variant spellings of gigantea (other than gigantēa and its usual grammatical forms such as gigantēus).  Supposedly, the plant has its name because of its giant growth.  (In that case, the translation gigantic rose seems to be more appropriate.)  One of its common names is Manipur wild-tea rose.  One is likely to see a botanist write “Rosa gigantea Collett” for the name of the plant because the first describer had the name Sir Henry Collett.

     The Lillian girls pronounce Rosa gigantea according to the Japanese approximation of the name that they use: ロサ・ギガンティア.  Their pronunciation sounds rather like “roh-sah gee-gahn-tee-ah.”  Someone speaking in English may pronounce the name as “ROH-suh geye-GAN-tee-uh.”  According to the classical Latin pronunciation scheme, the pronunciation is “ROH-sah gee-gahn-TAY-ah.”  Speakers who use the Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation would say “ROH-sah jee-gahn-TAY-ah.”

Rosa Canina

     Shizuka Kanina (蟹名 静), one of the Lillian girls, is often known as Rosa Canina (ロサ・カニーナ) because the Latin word canina sounds similar to her surname.  Canina (or canīna becasue that i is long) means of dogs or canine in Latin.  The plant has the common name Dog RosePliny the Elder, the Roman writer who wrote a treatise named Naturalis Historia (Natural History), referred to the plant as cynorrhodon (Greek: κῠνόροδον; literally, dog-rose), where the cyn part came from the Greek word κύων (kuōn), meaning dog.  Apparently, the ancient Romans used the plant as a medicine for rabies, as well as a cure for hydrophobia (a symptom of rabies in humans).  In more recent times, Carolus Linnaeus (the Swedish botanist who proposed the modern system of biological nomenclature) described the plant and gave it the scientific name it has now.  This species of rose was apparently referred to as Rosa sylvestris alba cum rubore, folio glabro (meaning white woodland rose with redness, smooth leaf) by some botanists before Linnaeus.  Botanists nowadays refer to the plant as “Rosa canina Linnaeus” or “Rosa canina L.”

     Of course, there are several different ways to pronounce Rosa canina.  In Maria-sama ga Miteru, the characters pronounce it according to the sounds represented by the combinations ロサ・カニーナ.  That pronunciation sounds rather like “roh-sah kah-nee-nah,” where the i is a long vowel.  An anglicized pronunciation may be “ROH-suh KAY-nine-uh.”  However, “ROH-sah kah-NEE-nah” is the classical Latin pronunciation and the Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation.

Other Botanical Names?

     The most important Botanical names in the series have been discussed above, but there is at least one other name that appears in the anime.  A certain book on flowers that Yumi reads in the anime features the name of another rose species: Rosa centifolia (meaning hundred-leaved rose).  Since that name is not particularly important to the series, this article does not give a detailed description of it.  If, however, the name becomes important in the series, a new section for it will appear in this article.  That goes for any other names that might become important.

Useful Links

Official Maria-sama TV Site | Maria-sama Haru TV Site

Pāginae Latīnitātis | DIĒS GAUDIĪ

© 2004-2007 Ian Andreas Miller.  All rights reserved.  Those statements refer to all of the original content on this page.