What is the most beautiful Greek typeface?

Originally Answered:

What is your favourite Greek font, and why?

GFS Complutum: Εταιρεία Ελληνικών Τυπογραφικών Στοιχείων

There is a Romantic history to Greek typography. The first fifty years of printing started inauspiciously, with poor, crude carved out Greek letters. But they got steadily better, until their apogee in the Complutensian Polyglot Bible of the 1520s, where they are used in the New Testament.

(I’ve posted about the history and awesomeness of the Complutensian already on my blog: The Complutensian Polyglot, ahead of the times.)

The Old Testament of the Computensian is written in the version of Greek typography that then prevailed for the next two centuries: the italic squiggle, popularised by Aldus Manutius, and taken up because it was more reminiscent of what scribes were doing.

Greek typography only got out of squiggle in the late 18th century, and in the early 20th century typographers were coming to fetishise what could have been, if the early tradition had continued on. Classicists may be familiar with the more modern iteration of fonts inspired by the old style: GreekKeys Athenian/New Athena Unicode.

The Greek Font Society has revived a font based on the Complutensian, although it’s now polytonic rather than monotonic. It’s not a font you’ll get away with for everyday use—people won’t get past the archaisms, like the nu that looks like a mu, or the random lowercase letters that look like capitals.

But there is a fearsome symmetry to the font, a stern blockiness, that I adore. Enough to have featured it in my wedding order of service:

Some would say I got married just so I could show off my favourite fonts. But that would be a bit much even for me…

Is there a piece of Classical music you wanted to like, but just couldn’t?

OP, and I’ll go first.

Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1 “The Gothic”.

I first heard of Brian from the Guinness Book of Records, back before it became a picture book. My curiosity was reawakened this past year through some random link taking me to the Havergal Brian Society’s pages. His life story is cool; his early work sounds like Mahler on steroids—as do the criticisms of his early work; his late stuff sounds enigmatic, but still full of awesome marches.

I borrowed everything on him I could find from the Melbourne Uni Music library. Biographies, analyses, appreciations. And I sat down to listen to the Gothic on Youtube. Several times.

I wanted to like it. I really really wanted to like it. And it does have some amazing moments.

But I have to agree with most critics. It’s just too incoherent to love or even get into. And the whole “it ends anticlimactically, on purpose” thing, which people trot out as a defence, works for Mahler’s 5th, and it may (if you’re being charitable) even work for Mahler’s 7th (a damn good symphony, but I don’t buy the finale either).

But in this case, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

Are Greek and Latin roots the only atomic words we know so far from which we can build all the compounded words?

I think what you mean, OP, is: are Graeco-Latin stems the only stems from which compound words can be formed in English.

The answer is of course no: there are plenty of compounds in English based on indigenous Germanic words, and there were all the way back to Old English. Statecraft. Breastfeed. Windmill.

There was a preponderance of Graeco-Latin stems for scholarly and learnèd compounds through the Renaissance, and up until the last couple of generations. Not any more: Bubblesort. Backbeat. Widescreen.

And you really don’t want to see how Greek renders object-oriented as a single compound.

Ok, you do: αντικειμενοστραφής. “object-turning”, where object itself is “opposite-lying”. Daft, just daft, and not idiomatic. HY-252 “Αντικειμενοστραφής Προγραμματισμός” (Crete Uni, CS-252) shows what could have been: the OOP course is subtitled οντοκεντρικός “entity-centered”, which is, well, at least less daft.

Why is Greece the 6th most important contributor in Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)?

I wish I knew. This is what I get from the Googles.

Francophone Balkans? ‘Outsider’ Membership in La Francophonie and Other Language-Based International Organisations speculates that it’s because French is such a prominent foreign language in Greek education. Which explains why Romania is in the Francophonie. And French was indeed the default foreign language in Greece—until WWII. Since then, it’s been so uniformly English, it’s not funny.

Hold that thought.

Can we get any hints from the blog of Η Γαλλοφωνία στην Ελλάδα – La Francophonie en Grèce [The Francophonie in Greece]?

The blog reproduces the announcement from the Greek Foreign Ministry at the time:

Η απόφαση της Ελλάδος για την ένταξή της στη Γαλλοφωνία υπαγορεύθηκε από την εκτίμηση της δυνατότητας πρόσβασης σε ένα σημαντικό forum με κοινή γλώσσα – τα γαλλικά – και έναν χώρο κοινών αξιών και αλληλεγγύης, του οποίου βασικά στοιχεία και στόχοι είναι η προώθηση της δημοκρατίας, του κράτους δικαίου και του σεβασμού των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων, η προώθηση της ειρήνης και ασφάλειας, καθώς και η προστασία της πολιτιστικής κληρονομιάς και η υποστήριξη της πολιτιστικής και γλωσσικής διαφορετικότητας. Ακόμα και η επιβίωση των εθνικών πολιτισμών στηρίζεται εν πολλοίς στη διαφύλαξη αυτών των αρχών.

The decision of Greece to join the Francophonie was dictated by her appreciating the opportunity to access an important forum with French as a common language, and a space with common values and solidarity, whose basic elements and aims are the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, promotion of peace and security, as well as the protection of cultural heritage and support for cultural and linguistic diversity. The very survival of national cultures is supported in many ways by preserving these values.

Wade past the diplo mumbo jumbo, and focus on the italicised bit.

Diversity, eh? An odd thing for Greece to say, when its attitude to linguistic diversity within its borders has been… well, it’s been a lot like France’s. But the linguistic diversity of Arvanitika and Aromanian is not what that last sentence is talking about, is it? So what linguistic diversity are they talking about?

The colophon of the blog says:

20 Μαρτίου: Διεθνής Ημέρα Γαλλοφωνίας
Η Ελλάδα μέλος της Γαλλοφωνίας από το 2004
Με τη συμμετοχή μας στη Γαλλοφωνία στηρίζουμε την πολυγλωσσία και μέσω αυτής την ελληνική γλώσσα

20th of March: International Francophonie Day
Greece has been a member of Francophonie since 2004.
By participating in Francophonie we support multilingualism, and through that, the Greek language.

Hm. Getting a lot warmer.

Euractiv, a EU affairs blog post from the time Greece joined, said at the time:

Greece has become an associate member of the OIF, a club for French-speaking countries. The move is seen as part of efforts to stave off the growing domination of English in the EU.


An official from the Greek Perm Rep in Brussels told EurActiv that the idea was to “reinforce the plurality of languages within the EU. We safeguard our own language by making room for more languages to be spoken”.

The move is widely seen as part of efforts to prevent a single language, namely English, from overly dominating the EU.

I think you have your answer. It’s political.

Greece joined in November 2004; George “Jeffrey” Papandreou Jr’s Socialists were voted out, and Kostas “the Calf” Karamanlis Jr’s Conservatives were voted in in March of that year; the Olympics were in August.

Greeks more knowledgeable than I about Greek politics will have to tell me what kind of chess the Greek Foreign Ministry was playing, and is playing now. But Greece certainly isn’t the only observer in the Francophonie with no immediately obvious reason for being there.

Why have you learned Latin, Ancient Greek or Sanskrit? What aspects of those languages are you fascinated by?

Latin: Opportunity. My uncle’s and aunt’s old Latin textbooks were in my grandfather’s storehouse, and I discovered them when I was 10 (1981). Thinking back, that’s where my love of language started. I read through the grammar, and then went to work translating Cornelius Nepos.

I loved the intricacies of the grammar, I guess, but I loved the monumental style even more. There is a solemnity there.

Ancient Greek, on the other hand, I was allergic to, because I’d soaked up the language controversy around me. Demotic had just won the dispute a few years before, and Puristic Greek was still the target of derision and partisan suspicion; the new socialist government was elevating folksiness to the political mainstream; and it was a decade before the backlash that let all the genitive direct objects and reduplicated participles back in.

I’ve only made any kind of peace with Ancient Greek in the past decade or so. The grammar is cool, but it’s tracking the changes that led up to Modern Greek that keeps me interested.

What the blocks would be added to Unicode 10.0?

Roadmaps to Unicode lists the blocks that are in the process of being added to Unicode; the approval process needs to be sync’d with ISO, for those countries that prefer a non-commercial standard, and takes a few years.

The green blocks as of this writing, which are the furthest progressed, are:

  • In Plane 0 Syriac Supplmental: http://www.unicode.org/L2/L2015/…, Cyrillic Extended C: http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC2/WG2…
  • In Plane 1: Osage, Newa, Mongolian Supplemental, Dogra, Zanzabar Square, Soyombo, Bhaisksuki, Marchen, Masaram Gondi, Gunjala Gondi, Makasar, Tamil Supplemental, Medefaidrin, Ideographic Symbols and Punctuation, Tangut Ideographs, Tangut Components, Nushu, Glagolitic Supplemental, Adlam, Indic Siyaq Numbers
  • In Plane 2: CJK Unified Ideographs Extension F

Unicode won’t add extended blocks just because it can. My area of expertise, such as it is, is Greek, and I was explicitly asked by Unicode to check that there was nothing else left to include. There will not be a Greek Extended-B.

What does Quora plan to do with the vandal who keeps vandalizing questions on Islam?

One week on: still happening, now to https://www.quora.com/What-would…. Several of us have been edit-warring Anonymous McPusBoil, who is now pouncing on reverts and undoing them as soon as they happen. Rather chillingly, McPusBoil snorted today to Deniz Ali:


“We can do this all day son”

What Quora could do (as has been suggested several times) is ban anonymous users from editing questions or topics.

But of course, suggesting feature improvements to Quora seems as effective as reporting question vandalism…

Is Melkart & Iraklis the same divinity?

Only through Interpretatio graeca, the charming Greek tendency to assume that all non-Greek divinities were actually Greek divinities with funny names.


Melqart (Phoenician: U0001090cU0001090bU0001090aU00010912U00010913U00010915, lit. Melek-qart, “King of the City”; Akkadian: Milqartu) was the tutelary god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was often titled Ba‘l Ṣūr, “Lord of Tyre”, and considered to be the ancestor of the Tyrian royal family. In Greek, by interpretatio graeca he was identified with Heracles and referred to as the Tyrian Herakles.

Whence this blog

It all began with Karen Chung’s answer to What did someone do that made you think they were really smart?

Karen most awesomely illustrated the scenario she described, with XKCD-style stick figure art.

Well, I exclaimed in comments. If she can do something so awesome, I can certainly do something half-arsed and attention-grabbing.

Some of this art will be done with mouse and Graphic Converter. (Think MS Paint.) Some will be done with stylus and MacBook Trackpad and Inklet—and GraphicConverter. Some will be done with my trusty LAMY safari pen. All will be devoid of perspective, chiaroscuro, detail, or any artistic sensibility.