A quilt of comment fonts

Now, I did not report the latest font change to comments here, because it does not pass the test for posts here: a user not being able to tell whether the UX change is a feature or a bug. This is clearly an intentional change.

So I’ll link to this post on the comment font change instead: A letter to Quora on typography by Martin Silvertant on Typo/graphic.

But I have just been confronted by this quilt of comment fonts:


Sans serif for the notification of the comment. Spindly Illegible Serif for the actual comment. Sans serif for my response to the comment.

And you know, I just gotta wonder now…

What does the last name “Galifianakis” mean?

-akis is the patronymic suffix used in Crete; it’s a diminutive, like most patronymics in Greek surnames are.

The surname in Greek is Galifianakis Γαλιφιανάκης or Galyfianakis Γαλυφιανάκης; I see the upsilon surname much more frequently online (except with reference to Zach himself). Galifianos means “from Galifa”; there are references online to a Galifian carnival, ΓΑΛΥΦΙΑΝΟ ΚΑΡΝΑΒΑΛΙ 2012. Galifa in turn is a village in Crete near Iraklio: Γαλίφα Ηρακλείου – Βικιπαίδεια. The village is first mentioned in a census from 1538, and has a current population of 250. The village is spelled with both iota and upsilon.

I don’t know the etymology of the village name, but the related adjective γαλίφης “flatterer” comes from the Italian gaglioffo. An Italian name makes sense as Crete was under Venetian rule; not sure why a village would be called “female flatterer” though.

In Greek, when do you use Iota, Eta and Upsilon? What’s the difference?

So, here’s the mainstream answer. 🙂

Greek had iota, eta, and upsilon as different letters, because they used to be pronounced differently:

  • Iota was always an /i/
  • Eta was a long /ɛː/. In fact, in many archaic variants of the Greek alphabet, it was written as an epsilon /e/; that was the case in Athens before 404 BC, when they adopted the Ionic variant of the alphabet, which had the eta as an /ɛː/ instead of a /h/. Eta switched from /ɛː/ to /i/ some time around 300 AD, although there are dialects of Greek where an /e/ value survives for eta (notably Pontic).
  • Upsilon was probably originally /u/; in Attic it was /y/. The switch to /i/ is very recent: we have a poem from 1030 AD where a priest is made fun of for pronouncing ξύλον as ξίλον. There are dialects in which a /y/ pronounciation survives as /ju/; they include Tsakonian, Old Athenian, and Maniot.

That’s the history. Modern Greek uses those letters because its orthography is historical: if a word was spelled in Ancient Greek with an eta or an upsilon, it still will be spelled with one in Modern Greek. A lot of the controversy around modern Greek orthography in the early 20th century was because philologists had to work out the etymology of modern words, to work out how they should be spelled. Hence the switch of “to watch” from κυττάω to κοιτάω.

There was also a tendency to use the old variant i’s anachronistically, in transliterating loanwords and foreign names. A long /e/ would be transliterated as αι; a long /i/ as η; a long /o/ as ω; a spelling <y> as υ. So Σαίξπηρ <Saixpēr> for Shakespeare, which is just pronounced /sekspir/. That tendency has been abandoned the last few decades. I spell train as τραίνο <traino>, but I’m old; the spelling being taught now is τρένο <treno>. The ratio of the old-fashioned Χίλαρυ <Chilary> to the phonetic Χίλαρι <Chilari> online for Hillary is 1:50.

How do I phonetically write my name in Greek?

The discrepancy you’re seeing between Pavlos Daskalakis (Παύλος Δασκαλάκης)’s answer to How do I phonetically write my name in Greek? and Goru Yamato’s answer to How do I phonetically write my name in Greek? are two:

  • Where you accent Cotera on, as Goru said;
  • Whether you want to assimilate Hristo linguistically and make it declinable (Χρήστος), or keep it indeclinable (Χρήστο, or indeed just phonetically spelled Χρίστο). That basically depends on whether you want to assimilate into the society or not. If you’re going to be in conversation with Greeks, assimilating is a gesture that will be appreciated; if this is just a one off, or if you are unlikely to be chatting to them in Greek, it’s unnecessary.

Has Quora ever hired people to ask questions on a particular topic?

Quora has hired freelancers to write questions in the past couple of months; see screenshot at the end.

We are looking for talented individuals who are highly motivated, have excellent written communication skills, and work efficiently and independently.

Quora is a platform where users can ask any question and get answers from real people with first-hand experience. You will write incisive and insightful questions to be answered by real-world experts on our platform. This role requires 5-10 hours per week, all remote.


  • Write interesting and thoughtful questions in an assigned field, intended to be answered by real-world experts on Quora

Things we look for include:

  • Bachelors degree, or working toward one
  • Background in journalism is helpful but not required
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong editorial judgement and attention to detail
  • Interest in technology, higher education, and/or finance, as those are the areas you will be asking questions in
  • Organization and efficiency
  • Ability to work independently with minimal direction—

There are pros and cons to such a move.

Quora’s interest is in becoming a go-to resource for Internet research. In topics that it prioritises but it feels have not been well covered by questions to date, paying for questions is a strategy to seed good answers from its expert users. By addressing such gaps in their topic coverage, and paying for well-researched questions that are relevant to those topics, they ensure that when questioners begin at Google, they have the opportunity to end up at Quora.

On the other hand, many Quora users see themselves as a community (note that the Quora ad does not use that terminology). From a community perspective, the notion that people are paid to contribute questions may be disturbing to them. It’s a particularly delicate matter, as Quora is already awarding Top Question Writer awards to community members, who contribute questions for free. Many users have said that they want Quora to have better communication about their goals and policies. If there is a negative gut-reaction to the idea of Quora paying for questions, some of it will certainly stem from the lack of communication about it.

I think Quora should have considered how it would come across when a user accidentally stumbled on the job ad (as I have done), and I think Quora should have preempted any reaction by explaining that they were doing this—and that they still appreciate the freely contributed questions that come from the community.

You could argue there’s a slippery slope between pay-to-ask and pay-to-answer. As perusal of freelancing sites shows, people are already doing pay-to-answer on Quora, to boost their social media profile, but Quora has not been doing anything of the sort.

I would argue there is a difference between questions and answers, though. Questions are the stimulus to the content, but the answers are the content people come to see; that’s why answers are left as the user’s intellectual property, while questions belong to the community and not the user. As Yishan Wong pointed out so long ago (Yishan Wong’s answer to Why are my questions not answered on Quora?),

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.

Quora hiring people to ask good questions does not detract from the independence and quality of the answers to those questions.