Clavis Quoristarum praeclarorum #4

Linguā anglicā: “Key to renowned Quorans”

I have taken to cartooning Quorans I like and banter with. Both the cartoons and the banter feature jocular references that may not be immediately obvious to outsiders, who can only judge from the Quorans’ profile pic. (Often enough, the profile pic is all I have to go on to.)

Herewith, a key to my in-joke references, which gives me a good excuse to link-love Quorans some more. Depictions drawn from profile pics are not further explained.

I love youse guys #4

To Mehrdad Dəmirçi (keep the A2As coming, whether I know the answer or not), Achilleas Vortselas (too level-headed for a Greek, no wonder he was a mod!), Vadim Berman (if only we’d overlapped both on Quora and in Melbourne!), Victoria Weaver (Gustav Mahler says hello, grazhdanka Viktoriya), John Gragson (lay down the law, John), Amy Dakin (whose own Odyssey I’m honoured to follow), Sofia Mouratidis (Yalla tis!), Susan James (the peer review panel looks forward to more research updates), User (Anya of Lincoln, who shall shine even more than her language does), Neeraj Mathur (the learnèd historical linguist), Steve Rapaport (the learning historical linguist), Heinrich Müller (connoisseur of TV Tropes, as any true sociologist must be), Michaelis Maus (the nihilist terror), Ayse Temmuz (must not freak out about Afyonkarahisar, must not freak out about Afyonkarahisar), Sam Murray (confidant(e) in chief),

Mehrdad Dəmirçi: I have no idea if his profile actually shows him playing soccer or not, but I like to think that it does. Mehrdad A2As me a lot, and A2As are a wonderful thing. Especially A2A’s about topics I don’t know about, but I can make intelligent guesses on.

There are lots of A2A’s he asks me that I can’t. But that must not stop him!

Achilleas Vortselas: Achilleas used to be a community moderator here. He is a calm, considered answerer, and we’ve agreed that his experience as a mod helped him reach that level of circumspection.

Vadim Berman: Vadim left Melbourne for Boston, shortly after I joined Quora. Had we overlapped here longer, I’d have been pestering him in person about computational linguistics. I live in hope yet.

Victoria Weaver: As with other Marijuana aficionados, Victoria is holding a tell-tale doobie. I address her as “citizen Victoria” in Russian, because she is a proud Trot (as the felt sickle-and-hammer hat probably does not give away). She’s holding what is meant to be a baton, as a composer.

I allude to Gustav Mahler, because our first encounter was her dissing me about him. I keep baiting her about Mahler; she keeps promising me that when I’m up against the wall when the revolution comes, she’ll pick a lovely bridge for me.

John Gragson: John is a lawyer in the US, but I decided drawing him as a UK barrister would be more fun: Cartoons from my first BNBR by Nick Nicholas on Gallery of Awesomery. He lays down the law here as a Quora critic.

Amy Dakin: Amy (who alas has been Real Name dinged back from Amy Louisa) is a classicist whose specialty is the Odyssey. Hence the tunic. Or at least, that’s meant to be a tunic. What she’s holding is supposed to be a bust of Homer.

Sofia Mouratidis: Sofia is a uni student here in Melbourne town, whose taste in Greek music is somewhat more contemporary than mine, but very, very danceable. Hence the worry beads, obviously. Yalla tis “Allah to her!” is the half-understood exclamation Greeks make when they’re in a dance-y mood.

Susan James: Susan writes about sex, hence the cartoon shortcut of having her had on her hips (already seen with Mary C. Gignilliat). Her bio describes her as a sexual researcher; it stands to reason that if she’s doing the research, we the readers are the peer review panel considering further grant funding.

User: Anya is an artist, writer, and literature scholar, who has just been admitted to Lincoln College, Oxford. Her writing here is infrequent, but glittering.

Neeraj Mathur: Neeraj studied historical linguistics at Oxford, and is a far better Indo-Europeanist than anyone I know.

Steve Rapaport: Steve is studying a PhD in historical linguistics. The photo driving the cartoon is purloined from his Master’s graduation on Facebook. He likes cats.

Heinrich Müller: extremely insightful sociologist, with a soft spot for the treasure trove of cultural studies that is TV Tropes.

Michaelis Maus: contrarian nihilist and self-confessed narcissist, who terrifies me because he may well be right about things. Dresses very well, if he does say so himself—and he does.

Ayse Temmuz: the most popular of several Turkish writers that I follow. Once told me that the best kaymak (clotted cream) to be had in Turkey is in Afyonkarahisar. Afyonkarahisar was the site where the Greek army was routed during the Turkish War of Independence. I imagined myself driving out from Istanbul with Ayse, muttering “must not freak out about Afyonkarahisar, must not freak out about Afyonkarahisar”.

(The drive back wouldn’t be a problem: I’d be on too much of a sugar high to care.)

Sam Murray: Depiction drawn from Sam at Balena with a Clipboard by Nick Nicholas on Gallery of Awesomery. Sam is intersex, and has a packy (prosthetic penis), which they are packing with panache. Sam has been a confidant/confidante [intersex, after all!] over the last many months, for which I am profoundly grateful to them.

Why are some Americans so bad at geography?

Originally Answered:

Why are Americans so bad at Geography?

I responded to Nick Nicholas’ answer to What do you think when you hear the words, “United States”? with a map, to undo such questions.

I got the ball rolling, with all the questions listed in the answer wiki under How many Central and South American countries can you identify on a map?, in order to undo this question.

How many Nepalese can name the three former Guyanas? How many Slovenians can make a stab at sub-Saharan Africa?

The American education system may well be crap, not my place to pass verdict. But America’s a big country, and (correlated with that) Americans are not a people who need to know much about what goes on outside their borders, in their day to day lives.

Of course, it’s been America’s world, we’ve just been living in it. So we non-Americans expect Americans to take more of an interest in us, closer to the interest we take in them. After all, we don’t do as badly as we should at naming the States of the US. (Quick: Which Indian states are well known in other countries? How many Brazilian states can you identify on a map?) We expect reciprocity.

But that’s the thing with being a superpower. There is no reciprocity. And as Irene Colthurst would be pointing out at this point, being a superpower was the elite’s idea; the American people never truly bought into it.

What are some (longer) words that appear or are considered false cognates, but which could plausibly be actual cognates?

My favourite example is Hawaiian meli “honey” and Greek meli “honey”. I have even seen a historical linguistics textbook say that’s a coincidence (Trask’s, I think.)

It’s not a coincidence.

The honeybee is not native to Hawaii. Honey is referenced in the New Testament. The New Testament needed to be translated by missionaries into Hawaiian.

… From Ancient Greek.

How is a sign identified as a letter, a picture, and a number?

For pictures, we hope for extreme iconicity. Writing systems often originate in pictures, but end up looking quite abstract and conventional. That applies even to Chinese. So if you have a lot of symbols, and only a few of them look like animals, you can conclude that the ones that look like pictures really are pictures. That’s what happens with Linear B and its accounts of cattle and sheep, for example.

Numbers are often iconic as well, and they tend to occur in fixed places (like before symbols of cattle), and add up into sums. So in accounting texts, they are easy to pick. Even in astronomy texts, they can be identified with some work, because they are predictable. Mayan numbers were identified and deciphered long before Mayan hieroglyphs. We have not deciphered the Easter Island texts, but we do know they are calendars for the same reason.

What’s left are letters. They have regular distributions recurring within words, and based on how many distinct letters there are in the corpus, you can work out whether they are an alphabet, a syllabary, or ideograms.

How frequently do you check Quora?

Too too too often. First thing in the morning. Last thing at night. Open window at work. On my mobile when I’m commuting or walking the dog.

Too much checking to actually answer questions, you could argue. Then again, engaging in the Quora community isn’t just about your own voice…

How do I translate these sentences into Latin?

This is parasitic on Alberto Yagos’s answer. Would be nice if we could call these collaborative answers!

Don’t let your dreams be memes.

Alberto is more than right to call memes graffiti. So:

Ne tibi fiant spes inscriptionum res.

Let not your hopes be the subject matter of graffiti.

Not… great, not at all.

If a code can’t be bugless, how can a human be perfect?

You know, it’s a bit too pragmatic of me, but I’m ok with codex being used for code. It does also mean medical prescription, which is… a little close.

Si non codex sine erratis, quomodo homo sine peccatis?

If no code without errors, how a human without sins [or faults]?

I’ll pass on “Expression of frustration is necessary”. Rahul, should be snappier in English anyway. 🙂

Do you believe it hurts Quora’s intellectual credibility when it bans questions on IQ and race?

I agree with Konstantinos Konstantinides that the question is leading and poorly worded, so not a good springboard for honest discussion. (Whether it’s BNBR is slightly contestable, but that it comes across as insincere isn’t.) I disagree that the poor word choice is different; it’s the should be acknowledged that’s the problem. It loads the question in one direction, and defies the reader to provide counterproof.

I agree with Sophie Dockx that banning questions on controversial topics can be infantilising. But as others (e.g. Carlos Matias La Borde) have argued, that’s not what’s going on here. Banning leading questions OTOH is not infantilising, it’s refusing to indulge poor answers (as Konstantinos argued.)

Sophie argues further that bigots or the clueless should be given the rope to hang themselves, or the opportunity to be cluesticked, by having bigoted questions stand. I think learning opportunities can still arise if questions are reworded to be neutral; they enable the possibility of civil debate and refutation, rather than predisposing everyone to an angry rebuttal.

(And I dislike questions where dozens of users queue up to register their indignation at a controversial or offensive premiss. Indignation isn’t instructive. Argument is instructive. But a loaded question is unlikelier to invite civil argument.)

Of course, people who find the questions offensive can and should be able to tune out those questions. They can even deride them as Sealioning. (That makes me immediately think less of them, though that’s my issue, not theirs.) That doesn’t mean that that there isn’t a space for refutation on this forum, though.

That said, Michaelis Maus has just spoken of the Sam Morningstar effect: Michaelis Maus’ answer to What topics do you love but find difficult to get into on Quora? There’s only so long a single user can keep on administering the same cluestick to the same questions, over and over again, before they burn out. Several African-American Quorans have reported the same fatigue. And they should be permitted to opt out of being Explainers In Chief.

Accent Challenge: Can you affect various English accents?

ZOMG. This is going to be shit. Only because I like you, Z-Kat and Sam.

Australian: Vocaroo | Voice message

Steve Irwin: Vocaroo | Voice message

Foghorn Leghorn via Kermit the Frog: Vocaroo | Voice message

Scarlet Pimpernel: Vocaroo | Voice message

Groundskeeper Willie: Vocaroo | Voice message

ZOMG. This has been shit. Only because I like you, Sam and Z-Kat.