Why is the display of small breasts in pornography banned in Australia?

This is a story that went viral in 2010, and originated in a tendentious claim from Fiona Patten that Australian censors would target A-cup performers in porn, for fear of encouraging paedophilia (performers “who are or appear to be persons under the age of 18”).

The terse response from the Australian Classification Board was that they only made case-by-case decisions on classifying film and publications, although a “person’s overall appearance” was used to determine whether they looked underage.

Has Australia really banned small breasts? – Crikey

What’s the history of monotonic Greek orthography (plus other things like the combined OY)?

Gott sei dank! This is going to be fun!


OK, I’ll dispense with the “other things” (ligatures) quickly, referencing my own page Other Ligatures

There was a mess of ligatures in Greek typography up until the 18th century, because Greek typography was based on late Byzantine squiggle. (That’s why typographers sigh at what might have been after the first 50 years of Greek typography.) The only two ligatures to survive the cull into the 19th century were stigma (στ) and omicron-upsilon (ου). These originated in Byzantium, as did all the other ligatures, and they’re still de rigeur in icons.

Only omicron-upsilon has survived into the 20th century (and I’m assuming the 21st), and it has an interesting survival. To quote a renowned authority (me):

It is never used in print in a book. In the media it might appear on occasion in a headline in a sports paper, and inside the handwritten speech bubble of a political cartoon; but it does not appear in comic books. If a student uses it in school, it will be marked wrong. It will appear in graffiti a lot (as well as on signs put up by neighbours objecting to parking or dumping garbage outside their door). If any shopfront is going to use it, it is going to be a car mechanic’s. It appears in church on the icons (which are revivalist Byzantine), but not in the hymnals or the bibles. It may turn up on old street signs, but certainly not on the newer road signs indicating distances to the next city.

In other words, in Modern Greece this is a consciously casual glyph, which has no official status, and is rarely if ever anything but handwritten. […] although it appears on church walls and in all books printed before the 19th century, the glyph increasingly has a rebellious air around it, expressing contempt for the official glyphs and the establishment promulgating them […] This is why the ligature might have been acceptable on street signs dating from the ’30s, but not on road signs dating from the ’70s. Including a codepoint for it for modern use would not go down well: the point of its modern use, in a way, is that it is not to be found on a keyboard. The following improvised For Sale advertisement for a holiday house illustrates the OU-ligature in its modern natural environment (which, as you’ll notice among the blue daubed-in phone numbers, also pays host to the kai ligature).


Spelling reforms featuring monotonic accentuation, or no accent at all, have been kicking around since the 19th century. They were marginal then, but gradually picked up steam among demoticists. One of the early cause celebres was the classicist Ioannis Kakridis (famous for his school co-translation of the Iliad) being fired from Athens Uni, for reprinting a lecture in monotonic, in the so-called “Trial of Accents”.

It wasn’t just that he was fired. It’s that he was fired in 1941. When you’d have thought Athens Uni had more constructive things to do.

Polytonic accentuation, which was always a nuisance and ill-fitting for Modern Greek, was undergoing simplification all the while. By the 1960s, breathings on rho, graves and iota superscripts had been abandoned. More intellectuals were starting to promote the monotonic, though it still had no official status.

The tipping point, from my vantage point as a precocious preteen, was the press moving across to a de facto monotonic in the 1970s—not so much because they were in the linguistic vanguard, as because they were sick of paying for extra squiggles. A lot of book publishing in the 1970s was also de facto monotonic.

De facto monotonic was not well regulated. Some of it used an agnostic breathing, as well as an agnostic accent. Because the accents were agnostic, the default was a vertical wedge or a dot, rather than an acute. (In fact, dot is what I still use in handwriting.)

There were systems with rules promulgated by various authorities. Emmanuel Kriaras was maybe the most renowned, and his system was different to what has prevailed. Most notably, he used dashes to connect enclitics to words, which resolves an ambiguity between “my” and “to me”. An ambiguity the official system handles horribly, with its optional use of disambiguating accent. And he accented monosyllabic content words.

Kriaras was certainly on the committee for what the official monotonic system should be, but he got outvoted. (And he acquiesced of course; his Early Modern Greek dictionary shifted from polytonic to his monotonic to official monotonic.) The system was decided by committee, and you can tell: many of its choices are mushy compromises (optional this, optional that), rather than unambiguous rules, and rather than phonologically informed notions of stress. (Hence the default of unaccented monosyllabic words.)

Pro-Polytonic web sites will tell you that monotonic was sprung on the unsuspecting Greek people by a midnight parliamentary session in 1982. Much Greek legislation is; what was rather more significant is that the move had bipartisan support, and from memory was implemented quite smoothly in education and the media. I was in 5th grade, and the relief all around was palpable.

The dot or wedge continued in use long enough to be confusing to early versions of Unicode, which differentiated the “tonos” (accent) from the acute. Since 1986. the monotonic accent has officially been the acute.

Monotonic has become more and more entrenched in the decades since. Early Modern Greek text is now increasingly being published in monotonic as well, although the rules have to be adjusted to allow for monotonic accent of ambiguous monosyllabic ancient words (e.g. ὁ vs ὅ). Estia newspaper used to be the last refuge of Katharevousa; now it is the last refuge of the polytonic. The polytonic has shifted from being a marker that you’re middle aged, to a marker that you’re conservative.

What is the history of the Soviet Greek language?

Indeed, as Basil Lucas has noticed, I did look into the history of Soviet Greek a few years ago, although the primary research was hardly mine: it was the Greek historian Vlasis Agtzidis’.

This is a summary of the history, although Basil’s answer gives plenty more detail (and so does my blog):

The Greek spoken in the former Soviet Union by long time settlers is of two dialects. Pontic (speakers of which migrated to the Caucasus, Ukraine and Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries); and Mariupolitan (speakers of which moved to the Ukraine from Crimea in 1778).

In the Springtime of the Nations, when the early Soviet Union was promoting literacy in its many ethnic languages, Greek was promoted as a written language, in phonetic rather than historical spelling. Initially the language used was the demotic of Greece. Later on, the actual dialects spoken were made literary languages. (If you can call Bolshevik propaganda literature.)

In fact, the use of Demotic vs Dialect was something of a tug of war over a decade. In 1926, Topcharas called the use of Pontic as a codified language “both utopian and narrowly parochial”. In 1934, he wrote a school grammar of Pontic, and his phonetic orthography has influenced the Wikipedia orthography of Pontic.

In 1934, the official decision came down from Moscow to make Demotic the only variant to be promoted. Then in 1936, the Springtime was terminated, the intelligentsia was liquidated, and no more phonetic Greek was published in any variant of Greek. In Mariupol, which was my particular interest, some linguists studied the dialect in the 50s, and one volume of commemorative poetry about Lenin appeared in the 60s. A fair bit of Mariupolitan poetry appeared right after glasnot, including poetry written in the preceding decades. All of it in Cyrillic.

The refugees from the Greek Civil War that settled in places like Tashkent, now that I think of it, likely did not use phonetic Greek. They did not bring phonetic Greek them from Greece; they would have had no contact with the literacy advocates that had promoted phonetic Greek; and if they had, they would have been Stalinist enough to assume their liquidation served them right.

Basil thinks the 1934 decision was about assimilation, and led naturally to 1936. I spent a few paragraphs in Demotic in the Soviet Union trying to work out what was behind the 1934 decision—not what was in it for Greece or the local Greek intelligentsia, but what was in it for the Politburo. Because I don’t have access to the decision-making, I could only speculate:

  • Maybe enough on the committee, even at that late stage, were still committed internationalists, and wanted a vehicle for solidarity with communists in Greece.
  • Maybe they were hardheaded like Topcharas was (or claimed to be) in 1928, and thought it a waste of time to develop a literary norm when one was already available; the Committee had decided for Demotic in 1926, when it adopted the phonetic alphabet, and it did not change its mind in 1934.
  • Maybe Demotic was removed enough from the hearth that they felt it could dampen the calls for an autonomous Greek republic, as less of a rallying point.
  • And maybe it was just a local outcome, without intervention from the Politburo which didn’t actually care enough about the debate—and with the moderate party being more effective at lobbying than the radicals. That there was going to be a second meeting in 1936 suggests the Committee were still open to argument.

Do you think UKrainian-Australian olena khamula is pretty or not?

I’ve made this a survey question.

This is a purely subjective opinion, as all such questions are. It is informed by Nick Nicholas’ answer to Do you think Australian singer Delta Goodrem is pretty?:

Individual: Not really into blondes, man.

As opposed to Season 3 Australian Bachelor Richie Strahan, who was only into blondes, man, and voted one brunette off the island after another.

Myself? Nah. I react badly to culture telling me “you must find this blonde attractive!” to begin with, and her persona was too impassive. (Persona, of course, is all you get on this show anyway.)

“Ooh, she’s so exotic!” “Ooh, she’s so mysterious!” “Ooh, she’s so blonde!” Meh. She’s a reality TV contestant that happened to have a foreign accent, and didn’t do much else.

And if we’re going to go “Ooh, she’s so Eastern European”? Then Sasha Zhuravlyova :

  1. Had much more of a personality
  2. Had much cooler hair
  3. Ate her rose during the first rose ceremony

My superficial picks, if that’s what we’re going to do?

Of the blondes in that season, Nikki Grogan (second from right); and it was risky of the producers to have her lose, after editing her so sympathetically. (Persona, of course, is all you get on this show anyway.) Of the contestants in that season overall, Rachael Gouvignon (middle), the Lone Brunette Survivor, as she herself smirked.

With the proviso that I don’t even remember the bottom half of exilees (including the two that hooked up after the show: Tiffany and Megan, was it?), and that Gouvignon paraded around an episode in a bikini. (Oh, google it yourselves, I’m embarrassing myself enough already.)

God Save Us All.

EDIT: In fact, I remembered Tiffany and Megan so little, I didn’t even pick them out in the photo. They’re the leftmost and rightmost blondes in the bottom photo.

Do you miss Rage Against Quora, the deleted Quora blog?


A lot of people that I respect felt disappointed by this answer. I’ve discussed it with several of them, and I’ve taken some time out of Quora. I’m leaving the original response below, because it does reflect something; but I’m retracting it, and I am standing by the following, reduced version.

I feel betrayed by an organisation which shows minimal engagement with the user base that makes it possible, and has not engaged visibly with the one venue where that user base could voice its concerns publicly.

I feel disappointed that the owner of the blog has chosen to delete the blog without warning, and without public explanation. I don’t want to feel vindicated in all my dark surmises. And after all, it was the owner’s blog, and the owner doesn’t owe me or anyone an explanation.

But there is an ongoing breakdown of trust between a considerable number of users (not merely a few reprobates) and Quora; not just about moderation, but about the relation of users to Quora in general. In that context, I feel this has been a missed opportunity.


How do I feel?

I miss it. More than that, I feel betrayed by an organisation which shows minimal engagement with the user base that makes it possible, and then deprives it of the one venue where that user base could voice its concerns publicly.

And don’t dare tell me about the TW lounge (the Facebook group that Top Writers have access to). I will not have my putative betters speak for me behind my back, and not relay back what was said. Just as I will not break bread with those who assert RAQ served no purpose, and everything is Hunky Dory.

I feel disappointed that the owner of the blog has seen fit to delete the blog without warning, and without public explanation. And I find it difficult not to see her action as a corporate action of Quora’s.

I feel repulsed that Rage Against Quora is gone, and Rave for Quora still exists.

I feel vindicated in all my dark surmises that Quora regards its users as nuisances and expendable. I don’t want to. I have had a wonderful debate with Jennifer Edeburn over at The Insurgency about how unwarranted and counterproductive those surmises are.

But Quora has lost my trust. And this is not how to rebuild it.

Can you recall a particular text that ignited your love of literature?

You merit of me, Anya of Lincoln, an answer with a gem in it. A shard of Sappho, perhaps. But that was in my thirties. An artfully naive ballad of Heine’s. But that was in my twenties. The children’s poetry of C. J. Dennis. I remember the LP I somehow got of him when I was 6; I remember thinking THE TRIANTIWONTIGONGOLOPE was a quizzical thing with a marching beat, but I don’t remember actually getting it as literature.

I could tell you I was translating Horace’s Odes from Latin when I was 11, and I’d be telling you the truth. But I’d be lying to you if I told you I got them as poetry. I was impressed by the last ode in the collection, the Exegi monumentum. But I hadn’t gotten what it was that he was boasting so highly of achieving.

The answer lies in my uncles’ and aunts’ and cousins’ dusty, high school anthologies of Modern Greek literature, from the 70s and 60s, that I pored over in my granddad’s shed. They gave me a sampler of what I’d like and what I wouldn’t: more Karyotakis, less Palamas, more Xenopoulos, less Papadiamantis. They situated excerpts of Modern Greek literature in a chronological context and tradition; they gave an overview of what had happened and changed between 1800 and 1950 (along with the bedrock of Greek folk song, that they all either referred back to or shrunk from).

And as a result, they gave me the caution to seek out the social and the literary context of what anyone was writing. They aren’t isolated, self-wrought monuments; they’re always latticed in with what came before and what after.

And they prepared me for four masters of Modern Greek. Each of them I read before I was 12. Each of them, in his own way, a master stylist. And each of them, more so than most in Modern Greek, acutely self-conscious about the language they used (and that’s saying a lot for Modern Greek).

  • Nikos Kazantzakis, for the late novels. Long, picturesque, dramatic narratives; but cast in a language of robust, lively flexibility and shading. His vocabulary at times was over-dialectal, but in Greek that was an asset, not a liability: it made it all the richer and more vigorous. And his command of syntax was unrivalled.
  • Constantine P. Cavafy. A much subtler taste to acquire, and it took me longer to. His style is exquisite, though much of it in the opposite direction from Kazantzakis. Eclectic rather than folksy; elite rather than populist; understated rather than effusive. Every word well-weighted, every shift in register a grimace behind a mask.
  • Yannis Makriyannis. The Noble Prize winner Seferis cultivated a mythology around this illiterate general in the Greek War of Independence being the greatest stylist of the language, writing in the purest Demotic that has ever been. A lot of that is mythology; Makriyannis’ morphology has been contaminated plenty by Puristic Greek, and Modern Greek, like all literatures, was anxious to find its own Caedmon or Homer as a founder.
    But (though the narrative gets bogged down in tedious details often), at his best Makriyannis really is that good. His syntax is guileless and powerful. It owes nothing to the pedants, and everything to generations of peasants, who know how to spin a good yarn in arresting language.
    • Οι τούρκοι υποψιασμένοι· να ’βλεπαν ρωμιό, κιντύνευε. “The Turks—suspicious; they saw a Greek, he was in danger.” You don’t know what a relief it is to a reader of Greek, after all the weight of centuries of Thucydides and calqued French, to be confronted with a sentence this bare.
  • Nikos Tsiforos. Not a producer of high literature, and I have no doubt some Greeks are arching their eyebrows about now. He was a humorist, who started out with anecdotes about petty criminals, and branched out to serialised accounts of Greek mythology and history, their protagonists speaking and acting as if they were petty criminals. And his prose is a vindication of all the expressive potential of the Greek language. They really don’t write like him any more.

Are there any constructed languages based on non European language?

From List of constructed languages – Wikipedia:

  • Afrihili, based on Swahili and Akan
  • Poliespo, based on Esperanto and Cherokee
  • Unish, based on 15 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese.
  • Lingwa de planeta, based on 10 languages, including Arabic and Chinese.

Am I shallow or superficial for thinking Australia’s aboriginals are the least attractive race of humans in the world?

Fascinated why I got A2A’d this. I mean, I have my self-flattering theory as to why, but Robert Thompson, who A2A’d me, do get in touch!

Kia Ora, OP, my Māori fellow antipodean! Do me a favour. Google pictures of the Khoisan. (Previous unfriendly names: Bushmen, Hottentot.) Tell me whether you find them more unattractive.


Lots of the answers are close to castigating or hectoring OP, which is counterproductive. (So’s Quora’s sanction “This question should be phrased with neutral and sincere language”.)

Lots of the answers given were “politically correct”, and I don’t think most of them, politically correct or not, were satisfactory. The answers I think got it were by Gita Gavare Marotis, Paul Scott, and User.

The related question Am I racist I only find Australia’s white women attractive and I don’t find any of Australias aboriginals that aren’t white attractive? did not do even that well in its answers.

What’s attractiveness? Is it an abstract universal mathematical property? Artists would like to tell you it is, but of course it isn’t. Artists swim in the same cultural sea as the rest of us.

Is it genetically coded, somewhere along with Chomsky’s blueprint for language? Evolutionary biologists would like to tell you it is, but evolutionary biologists are only dealing with differences within a tribe—which aren’t going to be the kind of difference we’re talking about here, between major branches of the human diaspora.

Our notion of attractiveness, I’ll posit, is culturally grounded in (a) familiarity and (b) hegemony.

  • We are going to find the body types and features we see around us every day, in our parents, our relatives, our leadership, familiar; we are likelier to base our notions of attractiveness on a subset of those familiar features. People with drastically different phenotypes, we will see as alien first, and the alienness will freak us out, Uncanny Valley style. “They look like people, but not as I know them.” Some of the time, that will lead us to exoticise them, especially where their features are more of what we already find attractive. Some of the time, we will exoticise them in the opposite direction.
  • If we are being ruled and/or propagandised and/or indoctrinated by a different group of people, we’re going to take on their beauty ideals. That applies to British colonialists ruling New Zealand, and it applies to American media pumping out Hollywood’s notion of what a good looking person is to the world. So even if someone Chinese finds Westerners to be big-nosed coarse-featured orangutangs—so long as they’re on a regular diet of Hollywood and/or San Fernando Valley, that reaction is going to be subdued.

Now. Australian Aboriginals aren’t the hegemonical class in New Zealand, or, well, anywhere really; so they don’t have that cultural advantage towards looking attractive to a Māori (which Pakeha do).

Moreover (and this is critical): Australian Aboriginals diverged from the human diaspora out of Africa at a very early time. If you allow the time for them to walk out of Africa, maybe 50 thousand years? 60? And for the Khoisan, the time of divergence is even greater. On the other hand, Polynesians and Europeans are closer to each other by phenotype, and I assume by date of divergence, maybe more like 30 thousand years ago. (Those migration charts are hard to read, and there is a lot of guesswork.)

So Western culture biases your beauty ideal, OP, away from Aboriginal Australians and towards Europeans. And familiarity biases your beauty ideal away from Aboriginal Australians and towards Europeans and Polynesians—who look closer to each other than to Aboriginals. And if my theory is right, you’re not going to find Khoisan people physically attractive, either.