Why use the term straight instead of heterosexual?

Let me answer a different question.

As I wrote on A cis lament for the Greek language and How to say transgender in Greek, the Greek language has a Greek term for transgender, diemphylikos. Trans Greeks were involved in coining it.

The Greek peak body of LGB (with only token T) uses diemphylikos.

Greek trans groups, including the very people who came up with diemphylikos, refuse to use it, and use transdzender and trans instead.

Why? Because they did not want a self-designation that sounded like a medical diagnosis.

And while my cis Greek linguistician heart bleeds to hear it, I understand that.

That’s also why gays don’t call themselves homosexuals.

And as frustrated as they have had reason to be with heterosexuals, that’s also why they don’t call heterosexuals heterosexuals, or for that matter why heterosexuals don’t call themselves heterosexuals. It’s not a colloquial term. It is a scholarly term.

Oh, and as enough answers have already said: words change meaning, and more importantly, words change connotations. People really don’t think of straight as either defensively positive, or derogatorily negative. It’s just the colloquial term for heterosexual now; the social circumstances around it have changed, and so has the understanding of it. If the connotations of conventionality and rectitude were paramount, the expression straight but not narrow would be unintelligible.

Why are Quora credentials so hard to edit or create?

While adding credentials is easy, per How can I add credentials on Quora?, adding credentials to the satisfaction of the Quora Credential Bot, which stealth collapses your pre-existing bios and your recently edited credentials, is so opaque, that Mike Bowerbank’s answer is not useful. Sure, it’s real easy to create a credential that will get instacollapsed and ignored by Quora; but that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Quora credentials are hard to edit and create, because when the Quora Design team put together their metrics for how they would call the rollout a success, those metrics did not include writers being able to change their credentials easily. Or even becoming aware that there was a problem with your credentials to begin with.

Designing Your Own Metrics by Jackson Mohsenin on Quora Design

Why yes. When you design your own metrics so that any pre-existing bio that didn’t match your criteria gets silently suppressed, and you don’t have to count it in your metrics, of course you’re going to call whatever the hell happened a victory. Like old man Tacitus said: solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. They create desolation and they call it peace.

(If any of this is news to you, go to your Profile, and hit Edit under credentials. If you see a whole lot of yellow triangles? That’s the UX experts of Quora silently suppressing your bios as “unhelpful”, and not bothering to let you know about it.)

How does Jackson’s essay start?

Designers are often skeptical about the metrics that guide product development, and for good reason: organizations frequently choose metrics that are bad proxies for long-term value to their customers or users.

Indeed. And yet, those metrics keep happening.

So. Reason #1 why Quora credentials are so hard to edit or create: an approach to UX design at Quora that consistently ignores its writers. Not its users: its writers…

if Bios weren’t accurately representing an author’s relationship to a question, and we just work on getting more and more of them, it could lead to readers seeing many unhelpful bios on Quora, lowering their overall trust in the product.

And with this, we realise, yet again, that the users Quora UX design for are not the writers: writers are fungible fools, who will put up with whatever crap is ladled to them in the interface. The only users that matter to Quora UX are the passive readers who stumble onto the answers, and onto that sweet, sweet advertiser clickbait.

It let us more accurately measure what we intended – good experiences for readers – without having to throw measurement out all together.

Good experience for readers.

Not for you.

Reason #2: Opacity in what the Credentials Bot expects to see in credentials. Best guess is, Quora wants a lot less levity, and a lot more academic or professional-looking credentials. If you put in “PhD Linguistics, Univ. of Melbourne, 1998”, you’re probably safe. If you put in a phrase in the English language, you may well not be safe. If you put in a pithy one or two word apophthegm, you’re probably not safe. But of course, Quora never does any onboarding, and they didn’t do any onboarding of what kinds of credentials they like to see:

With no link to what is helpful? With me having to do trial and error to work out what you consider helpful? And with no clear pattern discernible from the credentials that don’t get rejected?

And with no answer from Quora to the ostensively relevant questions, just user confusion?

As we say in Klingon: HIchop. Bite me.

Zeibura S. Kathau has asked that I mix up the Greek proverbial wisdom with which I decry Quora UX idiocy with some Klingon.

yIvoq ’ach yI’ol. Trust, but verify.

yIvoq ’ach lojmItmey yISam. Trust, but locate the doors.

When Quora 2.0 is announced, what features would you like it to implement?

This question has been asked in the aftermath of BadHombreBotGate. That’s…


Quora 2.0.

Implemented by the same guys who implemented Quora 1.0, and have been feeding Bug? or Feature? with material ever since?

Nothing. Please, God, Nothing. Just. Don’t. Touch. It. It’s kinda working for now; let’s not add any more superduper “enhancements.”

… Although maybe do bring back the pee-coloured notifications. They were funny.

So, it’s turned to yellow now – the notification background. by Kathleen Grace on Bug? or Feature?

What’s the verb for “running away to marry” in your language? Is it “to elope” in English and “klevomai” in Greek?

The Greek word for ‘elope’ is indeed klevome: ‘to steal each other’. In my mother’s village, my impression is there were more elopements than weddings with parents’ full-throated approval.

Elope. Another word rendered obsolete by societal change. I’m sure it sounds as quaint to most Westerners now as betrothal and godsiblings…

What is the origin of the Jewish surname ‘Pizer’?

Pizer is listed in Patrick Hanks’ American Dictionary of Family Names, with two provenances. As an English surname, it is a variant of Peyser, and and its etymology is available online. As a Jewish surname, its etymology is given as unknown. From online searches, I couldn’t even tell whether it was Ashkenazi or Sephardi.

So, I don’t know, and it looks like a lot of people don’t know either.

The Ancient Greek Language: Is it similar to Modern Greek? The first link states that modern Greek descended from ancient Greek, however the second link says otherwise. What is really the truth? (links are down in the “answers” area)

I’m to take seriously a doctor’s tongue-in-cheek commentary in a medical journal, as evidence that Modern Greek is not descended from Ancient Greek? Quoting a phrase book as his authority?

Over an answer with contributions from several good minds that know both languages, including some (like me) with academic training in linguistics?


A guy that says

Latin is experiencing something of a revival as a subject for serious study, and it lives on in the everyday language of much of southern Europe.


Latinene loquuntur in Siciliâ? Praeclarum! Eamus pizzam edendum!

I registered to the Lancet. Resuscitating dead languages says all of the following:

And Greek? My phrase book asserts that “Modern Greek is not nearly as difficult as it looks”. Possibly, but ancient Greek looks more dead than old Latin. To the burden of alien letters and baffling accents has to be added changes in pronunciation. Physicians-in-the-making may pick up all sorts of things on vacation by the Mediterranean but not, I fear, medical etymology. The science writer Lancelot Hogben tried to present the derivation of common scientific terms in a systematic way, but his book is out of print. Before a classically educated generation of physicians dies away entirely perhaps one of them could do something thorough for medicine, as an educational tool.

He is not saying Modern Greek is not similar to Ancient, let alone that it is not descended from Ancient Greek. (Good Christ.) He’s saying that it’s changed a fair bit, and it has. But he’s not saying it in a way that deserves to be taken seriously.

Burden of alien letters and baffling accents? Vacation by the Mediterranean?! This is not an argument. This is not particularly funny either, and as an Australian, I thought I got British humour.

At least he namechecks Hogben. I loved that guy’s conlang.

It is true that David Sharp, vacationing in Malia sans doute and sneering at the locals’ alien letters and baffling accents, would not hear all the Greek vocabulary of medicine from the local peasantry waiting upon him. (He wouldn’t hear none of it, either.) And yes, Ancient Greek is dead; just as Shakespearean Fricking English is.

But if you want an answer on whether Ancient and Modern Greek are similar, take the counsel of your learnèd fellow Quorans in How different is the Ancient Greek language from the modern Greek language? Can any Greek-speaking people testify if they understand classical Greek of Homer, et al? (and its two dozen merged questions), over a medico who thinks the following counts as wit:

When last I saw the Aegean it looked more like the froth on lager, but around the time of the Trojan wars it was a “wine dark sea”. Poor translation, colour blindness-or did wine in Homer’s day really look like that? The Nauticos project has identified amphorae in this ruined ship—indeed the Mediterranean sea-bed is littered with these huge pots. Those accident-prone ancient merchant seamen did not hug the coastline, as long suspected, but intrepidly carried wine (and olive oil too) across far deeper waters, spilling some en route.

And don’t get me started on Illiterature and medicine, the squib that somehow prompted David Sharp’s squib:

My advice is to drop a sicknote on literature-and-medicine lecture days in college, and with journals hasten to the educational delights of obituary pages. I’m sure there is nothing wrong with literature, and that even the most delicate child can be trusted with it; and I’ll defend to my last gasp anyone’s right to read it (although, maybe, not to write it). But literature’s relevance to coping with people in the Monday morning surgery queue is nil—unless they happen to be very old Russians.

Screw you too, buddy.

That squib by John Bignall does not even mention classical languages: how on earth did David Sharp used it as a springboard for his excursus?

This curricular fad relates largely to living languages but perhaps dead ones have more to offer directly since so many medical terms come from Latin or ancient Greek, with the occasional mongrel admitting to both types of parent.

… That’s a segue?

I am brand new to the ways of the Lancet. Do they do this kind of thing a lot in their squibs?

Coz if they actually paid attention during those literature-and-medicine lecture days in college, their squibs might be better literature. Certainly funnier. And with less WTF segues.

and I’ll defend to my last gasp anyone’s right to read it (although, maybe, not to write it)


The answer, by the way, is yes. Modern Greek is similar to Ancient Greek, in the way that Modern English is similar to Middle English.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

siþen þe sege and þe assaut watz sesed at troye
þe borȝ brittened and brent to brondez and askez
þe tulk þat þe trammes of tresoun þer wroȝt
watz tried for his tricherie þe trewest on erþe
hit watz ennias þe athel and his highe kynde
þat siþen depreced prouinces and patrounes bicome
welneȝe of al þe wele in þe west iles

Have you ever muted or blocked prolific and popular Quorans?

Have I ever muted or blocked prolific and popular Quorans?

Well, what would the point be of muting or blocking taciturn and unpopular Quorans? The whole point is to get people off of my feed that I keep seeing there, and I don’t want to.

Blocks are the results of heavy altercations, and of course Quora doesn’t let you see who you’ve blocked in one place. But I do tend to both mute and block.

The one benign mute I was going to report, I seem to have undone. It was Rob Weir. I am a statist liberal by American standards, but somewhat libertarian by Australian standards, and I wanted to know a bit more about libertarianism. So I started reading Rob Weir’s stuff. And upvoting it, even if I didn’t always like it.

And then Quora turned my feed into Weirapalooza. It was Weir 24/7. It was Weir plus Weir followed by more Weir, and none of it was Thomas Wier, who isn’t spelled the same anyway. It was Beat Back Leviathan: The Movie. It was a Gary Johnson convention. It was Galtgulchageddon.

I wanted to know a bit more about libertarianism: I did not want to be put on the mailing list. I ended up muting him, but I never blocked him, and I felt guilty enough that I unmuted him a year later.

Of the other extremely popular and prolific Quorans… hm, can’t name names, eh.

Interesting: I mute 11 accounts, and block almost all of them. 6 of them have blocked me back, 2 I didn’t know about until now. Three are blocking me because of me being a Quora critic; they have had no other interaction with me. One might be that, or it might be because I called them out by name for a misdeed, in the company of many others. One blocks me because I blocked them and they found out; they were at least civil about it, which I respect (but not enough to unblock them 🙂

I’ll make it +5k followers. That brings it down to 7.

  • 2 for being peddlers of chicken soup for the soul pablum that ruins my experience of Quora, and what respect I have for it as a forum. They are the most popular by a ginormous humungous margin.
  • 1 for being the worst embodiment of combined 5xTW Entitlementism and ideological self-righteousness (and I never liked what they had to say)
  • 1 for being the worst embodiment of combined comment blocking and ideological self-righteousness (I did like what they had to say, but the shtick grew tiring; and I don’t care how much I want the gummint to take away peoples’ guns, if you use the word ammosexual, I no longer care to listen to you)
  • 3 for being defenders of Quora Inc in ways I have taken particular offence at (and they have reciprocated by blocking me). It’s not that they have defended Quora Inc per se, but that they have done so in a fashion I consider sneering, oblivious, defensive, and/or unwelcome in my feed.

I’m interested to see that I haven’t muted anyone for being a conservative, and I have muted at least two people who ostensibly are on my side of politics. My feed has done the muting of the opposite side of politics for me. 🙁 (No, not proud of that.) I did block someone for attacking me quite patronisingly when I defended the Australian gummint taking away our guns; but it was the attack that did it, not the “ammosexuality”. And one of the Quora defenders is conservative enough to make me dislike his writings, but that wasn’t why either.

Does “nigh” have the same etymology as “near”?

The five answers given quote the facts, but I’m afraid they don’t understand the facts.

Nigh comes from the original Old English word for “near”.

Near comes from the Old Norse for “nearer”. It came to England with the Vikings.

They are not the same etymology. They are related (cognate) words, just as shirt from Old English and skirt from Old Norse are related: but the last time they constituted the selfsame word (ignoring that one is a comparative) was in proto-Germanic. In 800, when the Vikings came to England, English nēah and Norse nær were two separate words from two separate languages.

My thanks to Syarif Fadhlurrahman for his clarification in comments.

Near comes from Old English with some influence from Old Norse. It’s not totally from Old Norse:

ON: ná
OE: neah

ON: nær
OE: near

ON: ‘næst’
OE: ‘niehst’

Granted, Oxford assigns only the Old Norse etymology, but I don’t see why. Perhaps due to non-adjectival use? (Old Norse ‘naer’ can function as adverb and preposition)

Updated 2017-08-16 · Upvoted by

Logan R. Kearsley, MA in Linguistics from BYU, 8 years working in research for language pedagogy. and

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

Does Quora need a clearly presented time/date stamp on the original questions?

Quora Users might. Quora does not. And once again, we need to get out of the pernicious habit of thinking that the needs of the two coincide, and that Quora has any interest in making life easier for its writers, at the expense of its own goals.

Yes, yes, Hanlon’s razor, but humour me. It’s an interesting intellectual exercise.

Quora believes questions on Quora need to be general and universal, and increasingly: evergreen.

It’s an interesting exercise, searching for the word evergreen on Quora. When writers use the word evergreen, they tend to use it negatively. To them, this is yet another instance of the same goddamn question, which they are bored of answering, and it’s dumb anyway.

Now Quora agrees that there shouldn’t be multiple instances of the same goddamn question. Which is why none of you have question details any more. Be careful what you wish for.

But Quora doesn’t care what its writers are bored of answering. Because people on Google aren’t bored of doing the same searches: there’s a lot more of them, they’re not as smart (on average) or as jaded as Quora writers, and there’s a lot more churn among them. And those eyeballs from people on Google, asking inane repetitions of the same question, are what bring in glorious, lovely, monetisable eyeballs for advertisers.

(Top Writers don’t get to watch ads. That doesn’t make them privileged stakeholders. That makes them loss-leaders.)

To Quora, evergreen isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. A feature that will make them a motza. A feature that they are already telling advertisers will make them a motza:

Why brands should be writing on Quora by Alecia Li Morgan on Quora for Business

SEO and Evergreen Content: Quora content is searchable through Google and usually ranks high on the search engine. Quora answers can reach millions of people who are searching for an answer to a particular question. And answers on Quora don’t disappear or lose momentum after a few minutes or days. They’re evergreen, continuing to garner views, upvotes, comments, and shares beyond the normal lifespan of a post on other platforms, and lasting years in the internet spotlight. When building a content strategy for your business or simply for yourself as a thought leader, Quora should be at the top of your list.

[Her emphasis, not mine.]

… And here you were, thinking you were helping democratise knowledge.

(Maybe you’re doing that too; humans can do doublethink.)

So. If you’re Quora UX, you are a bumbling nincompoop from the perspective of the writers. But we’ve seen that UX doesn’t need to make writers happy at all (and they couldn’t make them less happy if they tried), because they’re about the readers:

Designing Your Own Metrics by Jackson Mohsenin on Quora Design

if Bios weren’t accurately representing an author’s relationship to a question, and we just work on getting more and more of them, it could lead to readers seeing many unhelpful bios on Quora, lowering their overall trust in the product.

The fact that a bunch of writers have given up in frustration having credentials is immaterial to that goal.


Does Quora want to see both a Created and a Last Modified date on Questions? Noooooo. Because that’s clutter that only a writer would find useful. UX must be Streamlined! And Clean! And Funky! And Endlessly Scrolling, Partying Like It’s 2010!

Does Quora want to see a date on a Question at all? Noooooo. Because that would demotivate people from writing clickbait answers to canonical answers, and their canonicity means that they have to be treated as evergreen. Out of time and space. Valid for the long tail of clickability.

Remember. Evergreen sells. Good for business. Putting dates on questions puts a mental expiry date on them. Bad for business. Good for writers, but screw them, they’re gonna keep writing anyway. And if they won’t, a bunch of new ones will.

Why yes, I am vituperative. I doubt that I am also wrong.

And what are we writers to do, confronted with this?

As a wise Nick 🙂 recently said:

We obviously aren’t going to convert Quora to our mindset. All we can do is use Quora for our own ends; we ignore Quora’s ends where they diverge from ours, and we resist, as much as we can, Quora getting in the way of our ends.

PS. Wanna know what Quora Design think of long-time Quora writers? Here’s Mohsenin again.

As Quora grew, we relied on Bios more and thornier problems began to emerge. We saw topic experts in many fields either not use Bios at all or use them in a jokey fashion. While those jokes might be funny to seasoned Quora users, they’re unhelpful and confusing to readers, and create a bad norm for newer authors.

Does it sound to you like “seasoned Quora users” are the core constituency he cares about keeping happy?

Yeah, arguably he’s right about jokes. But no, they aren’t. And if more of them give up on having credentials at all, if they can’t or won’t work out how to provide a credential Quora likes? As far as Quora’s concerned, that’s a win.

Answered 2017-08-16 · Upvoted by

Achilleas Vortselas, Quora Admin Emeritus

Brag about yourself. What are you really good at doing?

“Let us now praise famous Nicks.”

I hope I’m good at popularising obscure topics in the set union of Greek and linguistics. It’s what I’m ostensibly supposed to be doing here, instead of complaining about the site’s misdeeds.

When I’m firing on all cylinders, my intellectual labour is quick. Fearsomely quick. I’m quick to pick up knowledge about a new domain, quick to do wide-ranging discovery, quick to synthesise it, and quick to formulate an informed opinion about it. Quick sometimes means Hasty; Quick almost always means Impatient. But if I have missed something in my final product, it certainly won’t be staring you in the face.