Let’s call it “sub rosa money”: federal funds (your tax dollars) that have been paid to victims of inappropriate sexual behavior (and other violations of federal employment law) for out-of-court settlements. The reported sum (The Washington Post stated last Nov. 17) is $17.2 million over the past two decades. The acts of depredation are never made public, and the philanderers are free to roam again, without fear of financial loss.

Why is “sub rosa” a synonym for “secretly”? Cupid gave a rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence, for not revealing the amorous activities of Venus, the goddess of sensual love. Decorated with roses, the ceilings of dining rooms in ancient Rome reminded the guests not to make public what is said and done under the influence of too much wine.

What does a president say to a visiting dignitary as they stroll through Washington’s Rose Garden?

Henceforth, may the public assume that newspaper journalists will carry garden shears and clip some roses to report what is happening under them?

Morton G. Soule

Portland