What is the correct pronunciation of dysania? I have found it in three references and all three listed different pronunciations.

Peter J. Wright is correct that it is [dɪsˈeinia], but doesn’t explain why. And I knew he was right, but I also confirmed that the first -a- in the Greek word ἀνία is short. So is the first -a- in the Greek μανία. So why is it a long a?

Traditional English pronunciation of Latin is why.

It’s a good read. It explains what streamlining was going through the heads of the people importing words from Greek and Latin into English. And why mania has a long a. (It’s because it was pronounced as ma-nya, making the stressed ma– the second last syllable—which is always long when open.)

And now, I want to decapitate an English teacher.

I am 45. I have a PhD in the humanities. I am a semi-Classicist. I have never seen these rules before. WHY WAS I NEVER TAUGHT THESE RULES IN MY SCHOOLING?!

Yes, we intuit the rules by analogy; that’s how we know how to pronounce written words in English in general. But given all the detritus thrown at me during my schooling, why, WHY, WHY was this two page guide never brought to my attention before?!

It’s a funny coinage, btw, dysania; the kind of inkwell word that noone actually uses in anger, and somehow ends up in some medical dictionary: Dysania. Ania is Homeric Greek for grief, anxiety; if you squint, and pay more attention to the adjective aniaros than the noun ania, maybe tedium. Ennui even.

Phobia of getting out of bed is a real thing if you’re depressed. (Shut up with your “hyuck hyuck, we just call it Mondays, hyuck hyuck.”) But dysania is a strange way of expressing it. Bad tedium? Bad grief? That’s all of depression.

And don’t get me started on dysania’s synonym, clinomania. No, people who are too depressed to get out of bed do not have an obsession with lying down.

What does Georgian sound like to foreigners?

What Sven Williams said. I have listened along to Chakrulo, that greatest of Georgian songs, with the transliterated lyrics; and I just could not hear the crunchy clusters. In fact, I’m going to do the same with some lyrics I just found:

Hai, Khidistavs shevkrat piroba,
chven gakhvdet ghivdzli dzmania
chaukhtet Mukhran Batonsa.
Tavs davangriot bania!

Hai, hai, hai hai ha,
arkhia arulailo, arulailo!

Hai, Mukhran Batonis qmobita
pkvili ver davdgi godrita,
dekeuli ver gavzarde,
kalo ver vletse mozvrita.

Hai ha! Khmalo Khevsurets nachedo
Telavshi tushma gagpera,
Mepe Ereklem gakurtkha
saomrad jvari dagtsera.

Mtero damchagre ar vtiri,
tirili diatst tsesia,
bevrjer vqolpilvar am dgheshi,
magram ar damikvnesia.

Matsale erti gavleso,
khmal chakhmakh tsetskhlis mkvesia,
sul tsmindad mogamkevino
rats chemtvis dagitesia!

It actually looks far less intimidating in Cyrillic transliteration. Much less digraphs (for the most part):

ხიდისთავს შევკრათ პირობა, – [хидиставс шевкрат пироба]
ჩვენ გავხდეთ ღვიძლი ძმანია, – [чвен гавхдет гхвидзли дзманиа]
ჩავუხტეთ მუხრან ბატონსა – [чавухтет мухран батонса]
თავს დავანგრიოთ ბანია, – [тавс давангриот баниа]

მუხრან ბატონის ყმობითა, – [мухран батонис кхмобита]
ხილი ვერ დავდგი გოდრითა, – [хили вер давдги годрита]
დეკეული ვერ გავზარდე – [декеули вер гавзарде]
კალო ვერ ვლეწე მოზვრითა – [кало вер влетце мозврита]

ხმალო, ხევსურეთს ნაჭედო, – [хмало хевсуретс начедо]
თელავში თუშმა გაგფერა, – [телавши тушма гагпфера]
მეფე ერეკლემ გაკურთხა, – [мепфе ереклем гакуртха]
საომრად ჯვარი დაგწერა. – [саомрад джвари дагтцера]

მტერო, დამჩაგრე, არ ვტირი, – [мтеро дамчагре ар втири]
ტირილი დიაცთ წესია, – [тирили диацт тцесиа]
ბევრჯერ ვყოფილვარ ამ დღეში, – [беврджер вкхопфилвар ам дгхеши]
მაგრამ არ დამიკვნესია. – [маграм ар дамиквнесиа]

მაცალე, ერთი გავლესო, – [мацале ерти гавлесо]
ხმალ-ჩახმახ ცეცხლის კვესია – [хмал чахмах цецхлис квесиа]
სულ წმინდად მოგამკევინო, – [сул тцминдад могамкевино]
რაც ჩემთვის დაგითესია – [рац чемтвис дагитесиа]


… I’m hearing schwas inserted everywhere. (Using the fast repeats of the stanzas.)

Hai, Khidistavs shevkəratə piroba,
chven gakhvdet ghivdz
əli dzəmania
chaukhtet Mukhran Batonsa.
əs davangriot bania!

Hai, Mukhəranə Batonis qəmobita
pkvili ver dav
ədgi godərita,
dekeuli ver
ə gavəzarde,
kalo ver vletse moz

Hai ha! Khmalo Khevsurets nachedo
Telavshi tush
əma gagpera,
Mepe Ereklem gakurtkha
saomrad j
əvari dagtsera.

Mtero damchagre ar vtiri,
tirili diatst tsesia,
bevrjer vqolpilvar am dgheshi,
magram ar damik

Matsale erti gavəleso,
khmal chakh
əmakh tsetsəkhlis mkvesia,
sul tsmindad mogamkevino
rats chemtvis dagitesia!

Granted, at the end when they speak it faster, I think they just swallow up consonants. There’s no way they sang every phoneme in bevrjer vqolpilvar.

Some of those may be syllabic liquids rather than schwas. You’d know all about syllabic liquids, Lara Novakov. What’s your dog’s name again? Ah yes. Mrvica. Has Mrvica ever been to Krk? How about the Vltava?

And, well, I’m not surprised. Human beings still have to speak Georgian. Of course they’re not going to choke and accidentally invoke Cthulhu. Some syllabic liquids, some schwas, some mumbling together of clusters, and they can go about their day without missing any vital bodily organs.

It’s like when I see people spluttering and hawking up while speaking Klingon. People. It’s just a Voiceless uvular affricate. You don’t have to cough up a lung while saying <QaQ>. Lenis, make it lenis

What did your language sound like 500 years ago?

OP, following up on Nick Nicholas’ answer to What did your language sound like 1,000 years ago?.

Modern Greek 500 years ago sounded, well, pretty much like an archaic dialect of Modern Greek. In many ways, there’s much more variation between dialects than between 500 year old Greek and Greek now. The Cypriot of 500 years ago is much more like Modern Cypriot than Modern Standard Greek. Ditto the Cretan of 500 years ago. So putting up samples of them would be misleading.

We don’t have as many texts in Ionian–Peloponnesian, the dialect ancestral to the modern standard; but we do have Ioannikios Kartanos’ translation of an Italian paraphrase of the Bible, from 1536. He was from Corfu, and his text is as close as we are going to get to a 500-year old counterpart of Standard Modern Greek.

Phonologically, it’s pretty much modern. Lots of final -n’s, like in the 1000-year old example; but we suspect by then the final -n’s were an artifice of written Greek, rather than actually being pronounced. They spelled /dz/ and /ts/ the same (as <tz>); we ignore that. Kartanos does not reduce /i, e/ before a vowel to a [j]; but in fact, Corfiot doesn’t now, and Cretan did back then too. So it’s not as archaic as it looks.

Grammatically, it’s pretty much there too; the modern compound tenses—future, perfect, pluperfect, conditional—hadn’t settled into their current forms, but they were on their way.

In fact, the main thing that stands out in 500-year old prose is how folksy it sounds. In fact, contemporary Greek is more archaic than it was then, because of the mass infusion of archaic Greek via katharevousa. It’s not just the vocabulary that has been affected: the use of the genitive for indirect objects, for instance, has been curtailed to pronouns.

Here’s the account of loaves and the fishes, from Παλαιά τε και Νέα Διαθήκη. I’ll put the original and an updating to contemporary Greek after it. It’s perfectly understandable to Modern Greek speakers; it just sounds a little quaint.

Λέγει ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Ευαγγελιστής πως ο Ιησούς Χριστός υπήγεν μίαν φοράν εις την Βεριάδα θάλασσα και υπήγανε μετ’ αυτόν πολλοί άνθρωποι δια τα θαύματα οπού έκανε, και εκάθησε με τους μαθητάδες του εκεί εις ένα μεγάλο βουνό και άρχισε και εδίδασκε εκεινών των ανθρώπων. Και ήτον σιμά το Πάσχα οπού έκαναν οι Ιουδαίοι, και οι άνθρωποι οπού έρχονταν ήσαν πολύ πλήθος, και λέγει του αγίου Φιλίππου: Ω Φίλιππε, πούθε να αγοράσομε ψωμί να φάνε τόσοι άνθρωποι; Και τούτο το είπε δια να τον δοκιμάσει, διότι αυτός ήξευρε εκείνο οπού ήθελεν να κάμει. Λέγει του ο Φίλιππος: Διακόσια δουκάτα δεν μας σώνουν να τους δώσομε πάσα ενός ένα μπουκούνι.

Λέει ο άγιος Ιωάννης ο Ευαγγελιστής πως ο Ιησούς Χριστός πήγε μια φορά στην Τιβεριάδα θάλασσα και πήγανε μαζί του πολλοί άνθρωποι εξαιτίας των θαυμάτων που έκανε, και κάθησε με τους μαθητές του εκεί σ’ ένα μεγάλο βουνό και άρχισε να διδάσκει σ’ εκείνους τους ανθρώπους. Και ήταν σύντομα το Πάσχα που έκαναν οι Ιουδαίοι, και οι άνθρωποι που ερχόνταν ήταν μεγάλο πλήθος, και λέει στον άγιο Φίλιππο: Φίλιππε, πού θα αγοράσουμε ψωμί να φάνε τόσοι άνθρωποι; Και τούτο το είπε για να τον δοκιμάσει, διότι αυτός ήξερε τι ήθελε να κάνει. Του λέει ο Φίλιππος: Διακόσια δουκάτα δεν μας φτάνουν να δώσουμε στον καθένα μια μπουκιά.

What did you do with your partner on your first anniversary?

Why, what else does one do on a first marriage anniversary?

Put your wife on a gondola. (Luxury Gondola Cruises: Venice on the Yarra)

Everyone on the riverside assumed this was for a proposal. I kept hollering out to onlookers:


(sotto voce) Two years ago…

Should you thank those that answer your questions on Quora by upvoting and/or using the “Send Thanks” feature?

We all indeed have our own norms, and can only report on how we understand them. OTOH, our norms about upvotes and thanks didn’t come from nowhere. They came from other online fora we’ve already been using (Facebook certainly), and our societal norms of reciprocity and tokens of belonging to a community.

Yes, OP, I want to put a framework up for why we do what we do. I tend to do that.

Quora posits that questions aren’t the asker’s, but the community’s, and makes sure that the interface suppresses any sense that the question belongs to the asker. Including hiding the question’s author, and letting anyone edit it.

But that’s not human nature. Human nature still treats an answer as a transaction between a questioner and an asker. People still reference OPs and A2A’ers—much as I’m doing with you, Mary.

(I still think that “fuck is racist” commenter was trolling you, btw.)

And if you accept that transactional nature of a question on Quora, then you accept that the answer is doing a service, not just to Quoradom (and to the bots that Quora Inc is training), but to the asker. And the asker needs the service, since, as Yishan Wong’s answer to Why are my questions not answered on Quora? puts it,

Quora is a great place to write answers and to read answers, but it is not a good place to get your own questions answered.

So, if you’ve done the asker a service, a gesture of acknowledgement from the asker is reasonable to expect. I know that, whenever I see an answer of mine with zero upvotes, my first reaction is “… it wasn’t that bad an answer”; my second reaction is “… I guess my upvoter posse doesn’t frequent that topic.”

And my third reaction is: “Screw you, OP.” Because they, of all people, should be acknowledging that I answered them.

(And when they comment instead of upvoting, I then think “Screw you, n00b OP.”)

I treat the Thank You button as a rarer emphatic, like Michael Masiello does. I only became aware of it when I started getting it from the impeccably polite Edward Conway. I use it rarely—less when an answer is amazing (that tends to get a public comment), than when an answer represents a unique contribution, that noone else would likely have given. The fact it’s private rather than public becomes part of its meaning.

But then, like a good structuralist, I accept that meaning is all about the paradigm. Quora put that Thank You button in there, I guess I have to find a distinctive meaning for it somehow.

Is the word Hello a meaningless word?

It’s meaningful, but it’s not referential (to use Jakobson’s functions of language). It’s phatic: it’s meaning is associated not with a situation, object or mental state—but wiht the channel of communication. The main function of hello is to open the channel up.

In the traditional British public school system, why is (or was) it believed that knowledge of “the classics” was necessary?

As you found out in comments, OP, the history came along for the ride with the literature: Thucydides and Caesar were read more as literature, than because schools actually cared what happened in Syracuse in 415 BC. But they are great literature.

Why were the Classics valued in elite schools in 19th century England?

Well, I can argue the intrinsic merit of the Classics, but I won’t. Instead, I will pick up on your response to Andrew Munro, and I’ll do a historical justification.

In the Renaissance, when Roman and Greek literature were rediscovered, that literature was treated as the source and reference point of all culture. To know that literature was to be cultured. There was literature already happening in the vernacular languages; but in the 16th century, at the time of Shakespeare, noone was studying Shakespeare as the repository of art and emotion and example and challenge that it is now. All there was was the Classics, and the Bible.

And the point of a liberal arts education back then, as it was in Ancient Greece, was not to get you a job. You didn’t go to uni for that; you went out as an apprentice, and people looked down on you as a mechanical. The point of a liberal arts education was to be cultured. To appreciate good literature. To form good judgement. To have good character.

Which of course presupposed that you were rich, and you were getting yourself an education for fun. Absolutely.

That’s also why people were doing science, btw. For fun. Not because the government funded them to; if the scientists weren’t already loaded, they got themselves a patron who was. And they were not goddamn engineers. Engineers were the people who attached themselves as apprentices.

And everyone doing science or literature read Latin, because that’s what intellectuals wrote in. And because they now had access to the classics, they would try to speak it more like the Romans did, and less like the mediaeval clerks did. Doing science and reading Cicero were part of the same package. It was all part of being cultured.

In the 16th and 17th and 18th century, the English developed their own literature. Gradually more and more science was written outside of Latin. So you didn’t need just Latin to appreciate good literature or do science. But the public school system stuck with it, because their ancestors did, and because Classical literature was still felt to be awesome, and because old habits died hard. And because you didn’t get a public school education to get a job. You got one to be cultured. Besides, any job you were likely to get as an aristocrat would be tied up with being cultured anyway.

Things have changed. Riff-raff like you, OP, and me, and the now rather peeved Michael Masiello (whose rejoinder I hereby solicit), get to go to high school and university. And we need to keep getting a job in mind, because we are riff-raff and not cashed up members of the aristocracy. And the Classics are only one option among many, and hardly the most prestigious one even among the liberal arts.

Plus, the attraction of learning the original languages has gone away. A lot of Classics PhDs I met in the States were somewhat shaky in the Ancient Greek (but a lot better in their Foucault) There was a lot of Latin being used in the 18th century; now it’s a curio. It’s even more marginal for Ancient Greek; it always was.

But there’s still some great literature there. And it’s still literature that pervades how the West thinks of itself.

Now, cynically, the insistence on learning Classics in the original in public schools in the 19th century was an elitist thing, to mark you off from the riff-raff. It didn’t necessarily mean you grokked those speeches by Demosthenes and those dramas by Euripides. And yet, the speech-makers of Britain learned a lot from Demosthenes. Those that were paying attention in the public schools did put that learning to use.

Ultimately, why would you, OP, value knowing Shakespeare? At best, because it is beautiful, and because it teaches you about life. (And movies.) At worst, because everyone else had to suffer through it at school, and you got to suffer through it too. Or, even worse, so you can be a snob, and lord it over the unlettered chavs.

Well, same back then with the Classics, I’d say.

Has e-mail, Twitter and texting caused people to forget or ignore the rules of grammar and punctuation?

Read less Lynn Truss (Eats, Shoots & Leaves) and more David Crystal (Making a Point)!

(That was a genius move of Profile Books, btw: to publish both the Punctuation Panic book, and its Refutation.)

As Crystal argues compellingly, Internet and SMS discourse don’t make people forget the rules of formal punctuation they have been taught in school (sometimes, successfully). As Zeibura S. Kathau puts it (What does your English accent sound like?): “I can speak Job Interview too.”

But it does allow them to ignore those rules in certain registers, which are more relaxed about the rules of formal grammar, and where you need not punctuate in Job Interview. That does not mean there are no rules at all in that register; ending an exchange with a period in an text means something distinct, in a register where the default is to leave it out. Not to mention the use of periods to represent. emphatic. speech. like. this.

And if you can command two registers of grammar and punctuation, rather than one, why, surely you’re better off.

Now, Quora tends to the formal rather than the informal side of punctuation: Wikipedia rather than Twitter. And yes, some contributors are slack about it, because they treat Quora as an extension of their Twitter or texting register. We speak a toned down version of Job Interview here, and some don’t tweak to that immediately. That does not necessarily mean those posters can’t speak Job Interview.