What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever said in a foreign language by accident?

My Russian is rudimentary.

I was a PhD student. There was another PhD student, from Moscow. She was a single mum. She did not want any unwelcome attention, so she went with the cover story that she was married, and the fella was back in Moscow.

I did IT oddjobs in the department. In fact, it got to the stage where I’d avoid going in to the department, because the minute I’d walk in the door, every PhD student in the building would jump on me with their IT problems.

But I liked Ekaterina. So, in between banter in bad Russian and talk of literature and morphology, I found myself repairing her laptop.

At one stage, I needed a mouse for her laptop. So I stormed out from the sideroom I was at, and exclaimed:

—Катя! Где твой муж?

Excellent bit of triangulation there, I thought. Mūs, μύς, mouse: I’d heard the word muž somewhere in Russian, that must be the Russian word for mouse.

Ekaterina looked startled, and stared at me:

—Excuse me?

—Где твой муж?

Ekaterina stared at me some more.

—I think… that is something of a personal question.

I looked at her bewildered.

—… I’m just asking where your mouse is. What do you mean, personal?

Katia did a double take, and started guffawing.

And guffawed some more.

No, muž is not Russian for “mouse”.

It is, however, Russian for “husband”.

A few months later, Katia said that she doesn’t want to play games with her friends, and no, there was no husband.

No, nothing happened. But at least her laptop got fixed!

Quora sends me notifications about people who asked me to answer. After checking it, I can only see “No top answer requests”. Why is that? (SOLVED)

*Something* is going on with A2A, and I don’t know what. I know that I had a couple of hundred unprocessed A2As that I’ve been going through this month.

  • About a week ago, the All Other requests cut off at a limit of about 6 on my desktop, though the mobile version still showed the full list of outstanding requests.
  • Then the mobile version stopped showing the full list too.
  • Then, as I was dealing with All Other requests, an older pending request would only show up on the list once I had cleared another request from the list. Again, the mobile and desktop versions were out of sync.
  • Then once I’d emptied All Other requests, I’d get an older pending request show up in that list only very infrequently.

I’m assuming bug. And given the lack of response from Quora about my previous couple of bug reports, I’m not strongly motivated to report it. Perhaps some of you are less jaded than I am.

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Grown up organisations have tickets that they share with users, you know…

If is correct,what a Quoran wrote,that Ottomans saved Orthodox from Catholics,its not better to add,that they saved also antiquities of Greece,from the same people?

Well, let’s put it this way: I don’t know of many instances when the Ottomans destroyed Greek antiquities. I do know of instances when Catholics did. Including the bombing of the Parthenon by the Venetians, and that nutter French monk who went and leveled Sparta: Greek treasures destroyed and stolen by Michele Fourmont; Michel Fourmont.

Destruction of cultural heritage. Not just a Wahhabi thing.

I know nouns and verbs can have declension and conjugation, but is there something similar for adjectives and adverbs, in varying languages?

In languages where adjectives are inflected for case, number or gender, they are indeed considered to be declined. Note that the distinction between nouns and adjectives is not particularly old: it’s 18th century.

In the traditional grammar I know, adverbs are considered indeclinable by definition. They don’t have number, case, or person. So they are not considered to have declension.

In reality, adverbs certainly have morphemes indicating degree, and in many languages they can have case or number morphemes. (In ancient Greek, those are locatives: they are syntactically adverbs, but historically they are nouns with unproductive affixes.) But there has been no tradition in the West of running through all the morphological variants of an adverb, the way they do for nouns.

I have two accounts on Quora. One is with my original identity and other fake. I feel more comfortable in the fake account. Why is it so?

People are very, very used to pseudonymity on the Internet. Pseudonymy is the norm on bulletin boards and blog comments, and it’s pretty common with blogs too. This is not just cowardice or trollery; this is actually a cultural norm.

One I noticed in the blogs whose comment section I’d frequent—especially how people I developed a rapport with would eventually unmask to me, outside the forum. (Makes it much easier to visit them when I’m in the next province in Canada!)

People do not want their internet personas to be associated with the real name personas, whether they are being trolls or sincere discussants. Quora has gone against this norm by insisting on the Real Name policy, thinking it would lead to higher quality discussions, with people having the courage of their convictions.

I think that was naive of Quora. Especially when they went and allowed unrestricted Anonymity on Quora. People who did not want to be eponymous have just gone and become anonymous, whether anonymity was warranted or not; and the fact they’ve been denied a pseudonymous option is a big reason why.

The estimable Laura Hale has estimated how many questions are asked anonymously on Quora: We are Anonymous and we ask the questions on Quora: So how many questions are asked by anon users? by Laura Hale on quora numbers.

It’s in the neighbourhood of 38%.

Let me repeat.


That’s not people posting about rape or political dissidence or whistleblowing, or avoiding regional nationalists, or voicing unpopular opinions. That is a cultural predilection, that people have carried across from the rest of their Internet experience.

Why do you prefer the pseudonymous account, Anon, despite the fact that Quora hates it and plenty of Quorans would rather dance on your grave?

Because that’s your cultural norm on the internet. There’s no way you’re posting comments on blogs with your real name. And you’re very far from alone in that.

And you know, whatever the hell Quora Inc thinks, I’m happy you normally post as pseudonymous. Pseudonymous is a hell of a lot better than anonymous. Despite the fact that Quora Inc thinks otherwise.

How do I join Latin and Greek base words to form a new word for a lover of jewelry?

As others have said: mixing Latin and Greek is no longer a problem; mixing English and Greek is not that much of a problem, as you can see in Category:English words suffixed with -phile

I admit: I find brandophile, a lover of brands, and foodophile, horrible (foodophile? really?). And computerphile is way too close to computer file. But I don’t have a serious objection to chocophile.

I turn my nose up at dogophile too; but is cynophile really better?

Latin–Greek hybrids though? Like paganophile or raptophile? No problem.

So, gemmophile. I disagree with Alberto Yagos: where would the –is in gemmisphile come from? And even if most of us don’t pronounce the double -mm- in gemmophile, it is there.

If you do want to go full Greek… well, make sure you do: raptophile is a pleasant word for an unpleasant condition (getting your rocks off from rape), but the fully Greek biastophile is unpleasant all round. (And wrong: it’s getting your rocks off from rapists. It should have been biasmophile.)

OK, enough preamble.

I don’t know (Ancient) Greek: I know how to look up Ancient Greek. And I assume that the Modern Greek word is wrong by default. kosmēma means jewellery now, but its original meaning is “decoration, adornment”, and it mainly referred to ornaments on dresses. Cosmematophile is also too close to cosmetics (stuff that you decorate yourself with).

kosmēma is derivted from kosmos, but the ambiguity of kosmos makes cosmophile a no-go. (Kosmos “order”, hence both “something that looks orderly, i.e. beautiful” and “order in the world = the world itself”.) And unsurprisingly, cosmophile has been used to mean cosmopolitan already.

A gemstone could be a lithos, but that is a stone in general. And lithophile is already used in chemistry: “stone-loving” metals are “elements which are commonly found as silicates and are supposed to have concentrated in the outermost zone when the earth was molten” (OED)

A gemstone could be a sphragis, though that is primarily a seal. Woodhouse’s reverse dictionary is not much better for jewellery or ornaments: Woodhouse’s English-Greek Dictionary Page Image; Woodhouse’s English-Greek Dictionary Page Image.

If you’re going the gemstone route, I’d actually go back to Latin, and do lapidophile. Lapis is ambiguous between stone and precious stone, like lithos is; but lapid– is slightly more associated with precious stones in English than litho– is: lapidary.

… or just gemmophile, which is at least not ambiguous. We already have gemmiferous and gemmosity.

Do ancient languages have an equivalent word to “cool”?

Do modern languages have an equivalent word to “cool”?

Cool is a peculiarly Modern American artefact, celebrating at first emotional detachment, and then the chic of youth, and being up to date with fashion and other trends. The Esperanto rendering of cool (Mark A. Mandel’s answer to What is the word for “cool” in your language?) is spectacularly uncool–it’s the acronym of “Modern Youth Style”; but it at least hints at the beginning of the meaning.

But like I say, even other modern languages struggle with coming up with equivalents to the word: it is very entrenched in a particular cultural context. Even the pre-1950s equivalents within English, enumerated in What was the word for cool before cool?, don’t sound quite the same.

So sure, Latin would have had a word for fashionable, or fashion-mongering, or maybe even chic. But are those words the same as cool?