On this Electoralgeddon evening…

On this Electoralgeddon evening, I think, to my own surprise, of an exchange I had here during the Brexit referendum.

I was transfixed here by the arguments during Brexit, the distress of the Remain camp, the snapping back by the Europeans. When the results came out, there was despondency on Quora, and a lot of Remain voters saying a lot about how angry they were.

Shane Dhury was one. I’m going to quote from memory, but he was saying stuff like the North of England was dead to him now.

And all of a sudden, some Australian busybody from out of nowhere starts pestering him in comments, saying that wasn’t the responsible thing to say as a citizen, and one’s fellow citizens must have their grievances heard if things are not to come to this, and how it is nobler to rebuild than to curse, and blah blah blah.

To Shane’s credit, rightly fucked off though he was at some Australian busybody’s unsolicited platitudes, he conceded grudgingly that the busybody was right, and yes, Shane did in fact have some ideas about how to rebuild from here.

But couldn’t I fucking allow him ONE NIGHT of wallowing in his sorrow?

And of course, I could, and I apologised.

Electoralgeddon evening has somehow hit me worse than Brexit. This probably tells you a lot about how Australia has reoriented itself since the days of Empire.

I have good American friends here, and I have American acquaintances whose voices I cherish. They will be distressed in the days and months and years ahead.

Electoralgeddon evening has somehow hit me worse than Brexit, so I know now that I really should have left Shane alone that night.

I stand by what I said. But tonight, I’m not volunteering my opinion to Americans, of how they should rebuild, and reunify their country. I’m in fact hiding this post in a blog, with only one American follower, who’s too polite to tell me to fuck off. 🙂

Tonight instead, I’m apologising to Shane, again.

Shane Dhury’s answer to Since the British flag is a combination of only three of its four parts, how would you incorporate the welsh flag?

Who is the most famous Greek who was named Alexander in the previous 15 centuries (one for each century)?

Imma skip 19th and 20th centuries, which my Greek peers have already amply answered.

EDIT: Filled in with the help of Uri Granta, for which my humble thanks.

  • V century: Alexander of Apamea [Uri]
  • VI: Alexander of Tralles, medical author
  • VII: Alexander, bishop of Cotrada, participated in the 6th Ecumenical Council, 680–81 (Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit: Alexandros 178); Alexander, bishop of Nacolia, ditto (Alexandros 179)
  • VIII: Alexander, participated in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, 787 (Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit: Alexandros 185)
  • IX: Alexander, iconoclast monk in Studium Monastery and possibly bishop, mentioned in Theodore Studites’ Small Catechesis (Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit: Alexandros 187)
  • X: Alexander (Byzantine emperor) (912–913)
  • XI: Patriarch Alexander II of Alexandria [Uri]
  • XII: ?
  • XIII: ?
  • XIV: Alexander Euripiotes, nobleman around Thessalonica, owner of property in Pungion, 1321 (Prosopographisches Lexikon der Paläologenzeit 6324)
  • XV: Antipope Alexander V (1409–10), born Peter Philargos in Crete
  • XVI: ?
  • XVII: Alexander Mavrocordatos [Uri]
  • XVIII: Alexander Helladius [Uri]

You can see I’m really straining to find people; it simply was not a common name, the way Alexius was. Those Prosopography German things? They’re the index of anyone Byzantine named in any written source, for 600–1000 and 1200–1500. I’m sure someone can come up with people for the missing decades (and certainly for the 16th–18th centuries); but that’ll do for now.

What is your favorite city in the world and why?

Vienna. Monumental architecture, cosy atmosphere, livable scale, awash with the history and the ghosts of some of the best culture Europe ever produced. Love love love Vienna. My wife and I both loving Vienna was one of the first things we bonded over when we started going out.

(The second was Richard Nixon, God help me.)

What is the life expectancy of the English language?

Yes, it is impossible to tell, for reasons my learnèd colleagues have touched on. Allow me to expand one angle.

As I was saying to Martin Silvertant just before (wat de neuk?), I predicted the death of Dutch in 200 years as a postgrad, when I found out that university courses were being lectured in English in the Netherlands. That’s how it begins: replacing a language with a more prestigious language in some domain of public discourse. Then more and more domains. Then the home.

I was challenged at the time by another student. “When you say that,” he pointed out, “you really just mean some time you can’t immediately predict, don’t you.”

Well, yeah. And screw you for being right.

Is there anything on the visible horizon that would displace English like that? The British Empire has set, and the Pax Americana may be starting to; but English has a comfortable niche for a while yet as a lingua franca, even without them. Could Mandarin displace it yet? Not impossible (and something can be worked out with the characters vs Pinyin); but then again, as Mao put it in Nixon in China,

Our armies do not go abroad. Why should we? We have all we need.

The next hegemon, if China proves to be that, might be just fine with English sticking around as a lingua franca.

In that case, the race to expire English will be between the Technological singularity, Environmental Catastrophe, and the natural death of languages. With mass literacy and the nation state, language change has been slowed down; I’d normally give it 500 years, but it’ll be likely longer. Which means it’s a race between the robot overlords and New York being under water.

… Sorry about that last bit. It’s Electoralgeddon, we’re all going a little crazy.

What character can we use as an irony mark?

Irony punctuation – Wikipedia

There have been various proposals over the years, though none have taken off. In internet discourse, where irony marks are pretty necessary, the smiley has prevailed; it’s more about “I’m only joking! I’m only joking!” than about actual amusement.

Some Ethiopian languages use a special temherte slaqî or temherte slaq punctuation for “sarcasm and unreal phrases”, that looks like ¡

Of the Latin alphabet proposals, as Wikipedia enumerates them, there’s been:





What are the best restaurants to try when visiting Melbourne, Victoria, Australia? What should you try while you’re there?

We are fricking foodies in this town, and this is a very hard question.

At least, if you’re visiting Melbourne, it’s reasonable to constrain this question to the CBD, and to fine dining.

That’s still not really constrained though. Of the options mentioned by other answerers, there’s the nouveau everything of Vue de Monde, the nouveau Chinese of the Flower Drum (which I’m told has seen better days), the nouveau Armenian of Sezar, the nouveau Greek of The Press Club (now even more expensive).

I’m going to nominate the last fancy place I’ve been to: the nouveau Lebanese of Maha.

I’ll add the nouveau Peruvian of Pastuso, the last restaurant I’ve been to at all, because the fish marinade was to die for; and the nouveau Asian of Ezard.

The high temples of food are probably Vue de Monde and the nouveau Italian of Grossi Florentino. Being inside Grossi Florentino is like being inside a temple of food. (A very very expensive temple.) But apart from the $60 cheese platter, I was actually kinda disappointed when we went there: not quite nouveau enough.

Why yes, there is an ongoing emphasis on innovation and fusion in contemporary Australian foodie culture. Whatever gave that away?

What are some good ethnic restaurants and eateries in Melbourne?

It’s Melbourne, it’s fricking awash with ethnic fooderies. Can I just nominate two?


Oakleigh, which is now Greektown, is full of Greek fooderies. All of them bad, and primarily about people hanging out pretending they’re in an Athens patisserie. The best place in Oakleigh is the one hidden away.

  • Mezedakia. Opposite the train station, hidden away upstairs. Wonderful home cooking. Garrulous owner, waitstaff fresh off the boat (they all are now in Greektown), oldtime rebetiko on the iPod. Honest to God, when my therapist needed me to nominate a “happy place”, that’s where I defaulted to.


  • Reza Afghan Kebab. Haven’t been there in a little while, but my God it’s good. Hole in the wall place in Sydney Rd Brunswick (which is historically Turkishtown), run by an adorable family, with lots of Muslim school ads in the corner, and tender, tasty dishes, well frequented at odd hours of the morning. Have the shir chay, and thank me later.

Quorans describe your reaction to the 2016 US elections with an emoji and why?

As noted here:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why do some questions, answers, and messages on Quora contain figures like this: U0001f60f?

Only Plane 0 Unicode emoji will render in the Quora text editor:

⏱ ☃☹☺☻♨⛄⛱✊✋✌

I wish to convey a negative yet hopeful reaction. So:

☹ It’s sad, and

♨⛄Lots of stuff will melt down, and

☺☻Racial harmony in the US may well be even more compromised,

⛱ But meanwhile you will be able to enjoy your summers

☃ And your winters

✋✋ While you mull over converting your open hands

✊Into Defiance, for

⏱In time

✌ There will be new Victories

How many Greek words begin with a?

It’s kind of a meaningless question, because vocabulary is productive; but to Vasiliki Baskos’ answer I will add these figures from non-Modern lexica:

  • 19699 from the Liddell Scott lexicon, 2045 from the LSJ supplement; but LSJ does not separate out derived words very well
  • 28405 for the DGE Diccionario Griego-Español, which includes proper names
  • 23487 from the Papyros dictionary, which encompasses the Dimitrakos dictionary as a dictionary of all periods of Greek
  • 11564 from Trapp’s Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität, which mostly includes Byzantine words left out by other dictionaries.
  • 5577 from the Kriaras dictionary of Mediaeval Vernacular Greek Επιτομή Λεξικού Κριαρά
  • Triantafyllidis’ dictionary of Modern Greek, as Vasiliki Baskos mentioned, is at 8233

And that’s not to mention the Academy of Athens’ Historical Dictionary of Modern Greek (the Greek dialect dictionary), or the serious gaps in Modern Greek lexicography surrounding literary Greek. I don’t have a count for alpha there.

Alpha is a good letter to ask about, btw. Trapp is up to tau, Kriaras is at rho, DGE is at epsilon, and the Academy is at delta. Lexicography is about the long game…