Morning name: Bene Gesserit

Today’s name. From Wikipedia:

(Wikipedia caption) Reverend Mother Mohiam (Siân Phillips) and other Bene Gesserit, from David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

The Bene Gesserit are a key social, religious, and political force in Frank Herbert’s fictional Dune universe. The group is described as an exclusive sisterhood whose members train their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning to obtain superhuman powers and abilities that can seem magical to outsiders. Acolytes who have acquired the breadth of Bene Gesserit abilities are called Reverend Mothers within the organization’s ranks.

… Etymology: In Dreamer of Dune, Brian Herbert’s 2003 biography of his father, the younger Herbert speculates that the name “Gesserit” is supposed to suggest to the reader the word “Jesuit” and thus evoke undertones of a religious order. Like the Jesuits, the Bene Gesserit have been accused of using casuistry to obtain justifications for the unjustifiable.

On the works, from Wikipedia:

Dune is a science fiction media franchise that originated with the 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert and has continued to add new publications up to 2017. Dune is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history. It … was later adapted into a 1984 film and a 2000 television miniseries. Herbert wrote five sequels, and the first two were presented as a miniseries in 2003.

As is often the case, I have no idea why the name came to me. Somewhat remarkably, I never read the 1965 book or any of its sequels, nor have I seen any of the films. Indeed, when I woke up with the name in my head this morning, I thought it was a Latin phrase with the adverb bene ‘well’ and a 3sg verb form gesserit that was unfamiliar to me, so I was startled to come across Dune.


6 Responses to “Morning name: Bene Gesserit”

  1. Gary Says:

    3rd person singular perfect subjunctive, or future perfect indicative, of gero

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Ah yes, gero ‘carry, manage, conduct’. So it’s a verb I actually (once) knew, but I’m deeply foggy on perfect subjunctives. Still, I’m guessing that this is not what Herbert had in mind.

  2. Gary Says:

    A legal term:

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    I read (and liked) Dune approximately when it came out, and probably a few more times subsequently; I managed to get through the first sequel (Dune Messiah), but I hated it, and abandoned the franchise at that point. I never saw any of the film versions, although the revelation (new to me with this post) that the David Lynch version has Siân Phillips as The Reverend Gaius Helen Mohiam almost tempts me.

    When I read it, and for years afterwards, I assumed that the g in “Gesserit” was hard, and I still hear it that way in my head, although I learned somewhere years later that Herbert pronounced it like English j. (I wish that Herbert, who did provide an appendix with some background on the characters and concepts of Dune, had included information on how he intended his invented names to br pronounced. Same to you, Ann McCaffrey and Ursula LeGuin, and many thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien for providing [perhaps excessive] linguistic information.)

  4. Alon Lischinsky Says:

    Having always read the first consonant as /g/, I imagined it as somehow derived from גזר, g-z-r, the root for ‘to cut’

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