Language Is a Cruel Mistress
By Her Bootlicker
Beginning with Latin (always a good place to start any language discussion), “Domina” literally means “the lady of the house,” in the sense of “domestic boss.” (“Domine” is Biblical Latin for “Lord,” as in deity, and “Domina” is simply the feminine.) So that’s a good title.
“Mistress” is a feminine of “Mister,” which can be understood as “lord,” “sir,” or any number of similar terms. Until the 19th century, it was used as a title for any woman, single or married. It came to mean the female owner of a pet in the 19th century, and as a translation of the old Latin “domina,” the female in charge of a household, and hence of the servants (or slaves) working in that household.
“Mistress” as a euphemism for “kept woman” is fairly recent, apparently a matter of finding a word to fit a vacant place in Victorian vocabulary. It is this meaning that seems to bother most people in the Woman Worship scene today. A century ago, it clearly meant that she was there for his use, an unofficial employee, as it were, at his command. Clearly, that will not do here!
The significance we want is that of the Lady and Her servant, the Owner and Her dog. As long as both understand that is the exclusive and exact meaning, there is no problem. If others outside the relationship do not use the term that way, we have a problem. Solve it either by excluding them (keeping the FLR confidential) or change to a term that will not be understood.
What term, then? “Lady” implies a “Lord.” “Madam[e]” reminds us of the euphemism for a brothel owner, which leads back to the male-dominant model.
“Domina” may require conversation in Latin only [;-D]. “Madonna” is confusing, “Maitresse” good if you have some French, and “Herrin” if German is part of your linguistic landscape. “Ma’am” (a contraction of Madam) works well, except that it brings back memories of school days to some. (That may be just right, though, for many of us.)
Keeping the relationship private solves many problems; private may mean behind the bedroom door (and maybe in the basement!), or it may mean in the company of others who are in the scene. There you can do as you like, and it’s nobody else’s business. In the end, that may be the best way to handle the whole thing: privately.