Sophia’s acidic wit

In my Antipodean bonhomie, I have asked the no-nonsense Sophia de Tricht if I can call her Soph. Starting at…

The exchange went swimmingly:

—The last person who called me Soph won’t be playing the violin anytime… well, ever

—So when I sold my violin and took up the mandolin a couple of years ago, it was a preemptive strike!

—I think a mandolin would also dissolve in one of the several 55 gallon drums of acid that guy is currently a greasy film on the top of

And capped off, of course, with:…

You’ve heard of Sic Semper Tyrannis, right?

Well, this is “Sic Semper To Anyone who doesn’t call me Sophia”.

I trust the heels + sailor cap ensemble adequately captures your whole I Mean Business vibe, does it not?

Why is Symphony of Psalms considered neoclassical?

Lazily: because Stravinsky wrote it at the time he was writing his Neoclassical stuff.

The Symphony of Psalms does not have the obvious shoutouts to the Baroque or Classical period that Pulcinella or Oedipus Rex does, and in parts it sounds closer to his earlier Russian period. It certainly ostinatoes like early Stravinsky. Good catch, Anon.

(Could this be the first intelligent Anon question I’ve seen?)

But it’s certainly not as flashy as early Stravinsky: it’s somber and reserved (apart from the berserk horn in the final movement, which a friend said was a shout out to Richard Strauss), and it hews close to older understandings of liturgical music. It doesn’t fit nicely in the neoclassical Stravinsky opus, but it still fits better there than with what he was doing in 1910.

Which Greek author wrote the Labours of Hercules in Greek mythology?

You know, I don’t know. Luckily, Wikipedia does: Labours of Hercules.

Some ancients tells us that Peisander of Camirus wrote the official account of the labours as an epic. Some other ancients (via Clement of Alexandria) tells us that Peisander got his material from some other guy called Pisinus of Lindus.

Neither of these particularly matter to you, because neither guy’s work has been preserved. The writeup we do have of the labours is the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, a first/second century AD compendium, which is our go-to source for a lot of the fine print of Greek mythology.

Where did the names of the gods come from in Greek mythology?

Many are Greek, though they’re old and obscure enough to be headscratchers. If they aren’t Greek, they certainly aren’t going to be Hebrew or Persian (Greeks were in Greece a long time before they were anywhere near either); the origins of non-Greek names are more readily sought in old Anatolian and Middle Eastern civilisations, like Ugaritic or Lycian.…

Zeus is the Greek continuation of *Di̯ēus, the name of the Proto-Indo-European god of the daytime sky, also called *Dyeus ph2tēr (“Sky Father”). The god is known under this name in the Rigveda (Vedic Sanskrit Dyaus/Dyaus Pita), Latin (compare Jupiter, from Iuppiter, deriving from the Proto-Indo-European vocative *dyeu-ph2tēr), deriving from the root *dyeu- (“to shine”, and in its many derivatives, “sky, heaven, god”). Zeus is the only deity in the Olympic pantheon whose name has such a transparent Indo-European etymology.

That wikipedia artcle quotes from Burkert’s Greek Religion, so let’s see what etymologies he mentions as likeliest:


  • Hera: hōra “timely”? “ready to get married”?
  • Poseidon: Lord of… the Earth? of the Waterways? Source of Waters?
  • Athena: Athens may have come first, -ene is a location suffix.
  • Apollo: God of the Apellai initiation ritual
  • Artemis: probably from Asia Minor; proposals include “healthy”, “butcher”, and “Bear Goddess”
  • Ares: Chaos of War.
  • Hermes: from herma, a cairn of stones (with phallic cultic connotations)
  • Demeter: not in love with the traditional etymology “Earth Mother”, but somehow it connects to cereals.


  • Aphrodite: Proceeding from the foam? Adaptation of Phoenecian Ashtoreth? Phoenecian “dove” or “fertile”?
  • Dionysius: Zeus’ Something, but Zeus’ Son is guesswork, and the second bit may be non-Hellenic. The other names are certainly non-Hellenic: Bacchus is Lydian, Thyrsus Ugaritic.
  • Hephaestus: Not Greek, and there has been speculation of Etruscan (via Lemnos) and Lycian origins.

What is the difference between Creole and Patois?

Originally Answered:

Is creole and patois the same thing? Why or why not?

In a prescientific sense, of course. Patois is what French people called the corrupted gibberish that white people spoke in France, and Creole is what French people called the corrupted gibberish that brown people spoke in the colonies.

Thank god for science, right?

A creole in linguistics is the development of a pidgin language, as it becomes learned by children, and starts acquiring more of the irregularities and patterns of normal languages. Creoles often resulted when French colonials spoke broken French to dispossessed colonised peoples, and those peoples turned that broken French into their own language. Haitian Creole for example. So a creole is a particular stage in the development of new languages.

You’ll occasionally hear the suspicion that English was at one stage a creole, though the breakdown of inflection when the Vikings came to town is not quite the same scenario.

Dialects are regional variants of languages. You might occasionally hear linguists use patois as a more regionally restricted subclass of dialect. But patois has a snooty derogatory connotation to it, and dialectologists tend not to think of their objects of study in that way; so you won’t see them use it.

Have people of Mediterranean descent living in the Anglosphere reappropriated the word “dago” as self-identification?

Wogs is the Australian equivalent; and yes, emphatically so, although it’s starting to be dated now, as Greeks and Italians go into third generation. There was overt reclamation in the 90s, though the residue left is more a matter of the more-assimilated using it against the less-assimilated. See Wikipedia on Wog.

JM Cortese speaks for what happened in the US. Her perspective is certainly not mine. And I know the difference between being called a wog by a skip (Anglo-Australian), and being called a wog by a fellow wog.

Do the Ancient Cretans have their own Cretan mythology?

Like Niko Vasileas said, we don’t have deciphered writings from the Minoans, so we don’t know for certain much of anything. But:

  • We know the Greeks were Indo-European, and the Minoans likely were not.
  • We know much of Greek mythology has Indo-European content in it.
  • We know some things about Minoan religion from their sculptures and frescoes: Minoan religion. And they don’t look Greek.
  • We suspect there was at least some Mother Goddess stuff going on in Minoan religion. Or at least a lot of stuff involving boobs and snakes.
  • We know there were some faint echoes of something in later Greek mythology, including the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, but also the infancy of Zeus in Crete.

But no, the pre-Greek Cretans would have had their own mythology. The Dorian Cretans would have had Greek mythology, though maybe with some admixture. The people speaking Eteocretan language a thousand years after Minoa may have had Greek mythology, or they may have had syncretism: there is a bilingual Eteocretan–Greek inscription (Dreros 1) in a Delphinium, a temple of Leto, Apollo and Artemis.

Could the names for the rivers Potomac, Thames, have any etymological connection with Greek potamos (=river)?

As for Greek potamos, I’ve checked in Dictionnaire-Etymologique-Grec : Chantraine (It’s online?! Download while you can!!!)

Its likeliest source is as a noun derived from e-pet-on “to fall” (so, waterfall, torrent); but the meaning means that rivers always fall, which doesn’t sound right. The alternative derivation given, proposed by Wackernagel, is a relation to German Faden “embrace” (which would indeed go back to Proto-Indo-European pot-). More detail in Frisk’s etymological dictionary.

No, I don’t know how “embrace” is more plausible than “waterfall”.

EDIT: Frisk’s dictionary is at the same place. (For now.)

Oh! Faden “embrace” is related to the Greek verb pet-annumi, and its noun petasma, “spread, broadening”. So “something that gets wider”. Ok. And the Old English parallel is flōdes fœðm, “spread of the flood”?

Derivations Frisk rejects: potamos < *topamos, cf. Lithuanian tekù “to run”; and some guy who inevitably said “I dunno, therefore Pelasgian”.