How likely is it that the Cypriot Greek word for ironing board is related not only to horse but also to the English “apparatus”?

Not likely.

Not impossible. But not likely.

Let’s think this though, and the considerations for us thinking this through are not specific to Cyprus; they are pretty generic in etymology.

English was a donor language to Cypriot Greek while the British ruled Cyprus, from 1878 through 1960, and as an international language since. While there is English in Cypriot, there’s isn’t all that much; there’s a lot more Old French, Venetian, and Turkish. (Btw, if anyone reading thinks that Cypriot Greek tʃaera is a borrowing of English chair, stop that. It’s a borrowing of Old French chair.)

The first question to ask is: could the word be just Greek? The second question to ask is: could the word be English at all? If the answer to both is yes, then you may well be dealing with a contamination of the two sources: words don’t always have a single origin, especially if the two origins sound very similar.

So, first up, could someone come up with the term “horse” to describe an ironing board? Of course they could. An ironing board has four legs, and a flat back that you put things on. From Google, I see that ironing horse is occasionally used in English to refer to ironing boards. I’m not seeing any indication that the Standard Greek άλογο is used to refer to ironing boards, and I wonder whether ironing horse was calqued into Cypriot from early 20th century British English.

Second: could English apparatus have been borrowed into Cypriot, and conflated with the similar-sounding Cypriot apparos, to refer to ironing boards?

There’s several problems with such a possibility:

  • How often were English terms borrowed for household items into Cypriot? Was English going to be the language used for household items at all, when relations between Cypriots and the British were nowhere near as intimate as, say, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots?
  • Going from apparatus to apparos requires a slight leap of imagination. Not a huge leap, it’s not impossible, but it’s not tempting either.
  • Why would you borrow apparatus as the word for an ironing board? As opposed to the specific name of the thing, ironing board? Or, you know, ironing horse. You might as well borrow the word beverage to refer to tea. That kind of thing can happen in language, but again it’s not tempting.
  • Does anyone even refer to ironing boards as apparatus? *Googles* Ah they do: Patent US20130192102 – Ironing board apparatus and methods. Well, would anyone within plausible earshot of a Greek Cypriot in 1930, as opposed to someone in the US Patent Office in 2012, be likely to refer to ironing boards as apparatus?

I think coincidence is a more plausible explanation here.

Does Quoran culture exist? If yes, what is Quoran culture?

I’ll start by snarking that the culture Thomas L. Johnson describes sounds pretty nightmarish to me. But then again, for a very long time I refused to follow anyone with more than 1k followers.

The striking thing, reflecting after over a year of being a social butterfly here, is that there is no one culture on Quora. There are several quite distinct cultures going on, and they don’t intersect that much. The Indian Quora and the American Quora work very differently. The Discord teens’ Quora has different norms from the old growth Top Writers’ Quora — although the high school comparison has been raised more than once. Technical questions and political questions get very different engagement.

So there are clearly community norms, and even more clearly norms that Quora Inc seeks to inculcate through moderation and UX and consent. (Yes, I have been reading Gramsci.) But I would caution against regarding them as universally practiced. Or against assuming that old growth Top Writers are somehow more representative of Quora culture than Discord teens, say, or Americans more than Indians.

Are there commonalities? I think so.

  • I think the spirit of BNBR is widely respected. Yes, there are trolls, but there is far, far less flaming here than elsewhere. The letter of BNBR, its implementation by moderation, is more contentious.
  • There is an appreciation of good writing and good expertise. Other aspects, such as banter or clickbait, are again more contentious.
  • Upvoting and following practice varies, but there seems to be a baseline of courtesy to the group, and quite often clustering of friends and users with common interests.
  • Yes, there are also Quora Superstars, although I don’t think they are any universal Quora Superstars. I have no interest in any of the top 15 writers, for instance.
  • There is a culture of helping new users and each other, which the lack of onboarding makes essential. It is exemplified by blogs where users offer to help rewrite questions or upvote collapsed answers. But it is not clear to me whether this is a universal culture.

But again, these days I see many more differences than similarities. Whether Quora is social media; whether the Company enables or hampers; the value of comments; the validity of homework questions or survey questions. I don’t see consensus around these, and I don’t see a unified culture around these.

Could emoticons form the script of a new constructed language?

Obviously, Vote #1/#2 Daniel Slechta’s answer to Could emoticons form the script of a new constructed language? and Daniel Ross’ answer to Could emoticons form the script of a new constructed language?

(I disagree with Daniel Ross’ first point, that the emoji must be conventional and not iconic for them to be a language at all. I think the real issue is his second point, that icons can only go so far.)

(I will hold my tongue about Esperanto diacritics, because I otherwise like Daniel. ;^)

See also: Could emojis ever replace written language? Why or why not?

My concern, as expressed in that question, is what your verbs and syntax are going to look like, if your emoji-based language is not going to be just some rebus—or, as Daniel Slechta argues, extremely restricted in what it can talk about.

The challenge has been addressed in an actual symbol-based universal constructed language, Blissymbols. But I don’t think anyone would argue that Blissymbols’ verbs are intuitive.

Can we change to the name of the Byzantine topic to Eastern or Later Roman, because Byzantine is a erroneous term made up by hardcore Romanophiles?

Your fellow hardcore Romanophobes already have. Roman Empire has already had the following topics merged in:

  • (Merged from Byzantium)
  • (Merged from Byzantine Empire)
  • (Merged from Byzantine)
  • (Merged from Byzantine History)

The lack of any East Roman Empire topic is… not helpful, and it’s probably too much work now to introduce one.

Byzantines is the one remaining topic that allows us to narrow down anything between 330 and 1453. We could rename Byzantines to East Roman Empire, but the real work to be done is to unmerge Byzantine Empire, even if it means renaming it East Roman Empire, to placate Romanophobes. And the merger has been there for a while: it would need a lot more retagging.

Are second Aorist tenses in Ancient Greek more frequent that first Aorist?

More frequent? No. But certainly very noticeable!

The second and first aorists are equivalents of the strong and weak verbs of Germanic. Strong verbs and second aorists form their past tense by ablaut, vowel change. Weak verb and first aorists form their past tense by suffix. The older pattern is the ablaut; the newer and more frequent pattern is the suffixation. There’s more second aorists in Homer than in Attic.

As the new pattern generalises, the verbs that hold out in the old pattern the longest are very frequent verbs, which are quite entrenched in people’s memories, and people don’t feel as compelled to simplify. So εἶδον “I saw”, ἔβαλον “I put”, ἦλθον “I came”. Have a look at this list of frequent second aorists in the New Testament: Second Aorist

And the second aorist was stone dead by Early Modern Greek, but it did in fact enjoy a resurgence in the Koine, particularly with passives in the Septuagint. βασταγῆναι for example instead of βασταχθῆναι. Cf. Modern US English dove for dived: Dove vs. dived – Grammarist

The Decalogue of Nick #6: Loud as a poor coverup for shyness, and with one’s usual share of psychological baggage

For Lyonel Perabo.

I am, I protest, a shy person. I’ve got the Meyer-Briggs to prove it: Nick Nicholas’ answer to What’s your MBTI personality type? A person who is uncomfortable and a wall-hugger in a new crowd. A person who finds it hard to mingle in the proverbial cocktail party. A person who gave up on conference dinners early on, because my God, I don’t know any of these randoms.

People who know me very well can corroborate this.

People who know me less well will think I’m talking crap.

Because once I find myself in an environment where I know people, I come out of my shell. And it’s very hard to stuff me back in.

Dad-dancing into the cafe for my morning latte. Greeting imaginary fans with a politician’s wave, as I walk into a restaurant with my honey (but only if it’s together with my honey). Guffawing and talking loudly in the pub about whatever recondite topic strikes my fancy (back when I used to go to the pub). Holding court at work about power dynamics (but only if I have an audience).

My ideal self is like that. Loud and Greek. Voluble and witty. Unabashed and unreserved.

That’s my ideal self. I have only noticed slowly that this wasn’t who I was most of the time; that I had fallen silent much of the day; that I was back in my shell after all.

But not at work, praise be. I’m the guy that the cubicles in the neighbouring office complain about.

And not on here, in the virtual equivalent of the cube farm. I think out loud here, and I live out loud. Not as unabashed as I think my ideal self is: any BNBR violations I’ve gotten have been about tone policing, rather than me actually being un-nice or dis-respectful. But voluble, certainly enough at times for me to have been reproached. And every bit as much the social butterfly and the connector as I seek to be, trying to draw people together, out and engaging with the collective. (Unless those people are shmucks. Then, I just avoid you, because I go back in my shell.)

It’s performance, the dad-dancing and the waving at imaginary crowds and the storming into the office late exclaiming “So! What did I miss?” It’s performance of an ideal self, who is not afraid, and not embarrassed, and not ashamed. You could argue that the real me is not that. You could argue that this is front, to shield the cowering real me, who broods when struck or reproached or found wanting.

You could argue that. I prefer to think that it’s all performance, all facades. The bravado, and the cowering both. They’re all stances and reactions. And if the loud persona banishes the quiet persona for a few hours a day, there’s a reason for it. It feels alive. It feels vindicated.

It sure as hell feels like me.

Why is this language still called English, when the majority of its speakers are not even English?

It’s a good question, Mehrdad, and it deserves a serious answer.

Language has functioned as a cohesive social force, much longer than the nation state has. Language has long bound people within an ethnic group, and those outside the ethnic group who also speak it. Language, it is true, is emblematic of ethnic groups, and is named after them. But that bond has never been so strong that the language has to be renamed, when the language spreads beyond the initial ethnic group.

And in fact, languages do not change name very often. The main motivation for changing a language name is when the old ethnic group no longer exists, and the language becomes primarily associated with a new ethnic group. You can argue that’s what happened with the Romance languages.

But English people still exist, and most Americans don’t object to their language being named after them. The English language is important to American nationalism, but the constitution and the flag are more important. The spelling and the dialect of English are unique to America, and that is enough for American nationalism. The name doesn’t have to be unique as well.

Based on historical precedent, it would take a cataclysm for English to change name. Most likely a cataclysm through which English people no longer understand Americans.

Which changes to Quora would make you leave it?

Nice to see some questions never get old.

As of February 2017, there has been a steady drip of UX changes that seems targeted against the social use of Quora, and following in particular.

The feature without which I would abandon Quora are comments and following. If I wanted unsociable, one-way flow of information, I would time travel back to 1980 and read an encyclopaedia.

What was your first scientific published paper?

Nicholas, N. 1998. To aper and o opios: Untangling Mediaeval Relativisation. In Joseph, B.D., Horrocks, G.C. & Philippaki-Warburton, I. (eds), Themes in Greek Linguistics II. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 159) Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 283-323.

Τὸ ἄπερ and ὁ ὁποῖος: Untangling Mediaeval Greek Relativisation

This was a very tangled paper, that kept tripping itself over.

The paper is about an oddity in legal documents written in official Greek in Southern Italy, between 1000 and 1350. These documents routinely featured τὸ ἅπερ, “the which”, as a relative pronoun. The problem with that “the which” construction is, the “the” was in the neuter singular, and the “which” was in the neuter plural. It is a construction that doesn’t appear elsewhere in Greek (though a singular/singular version does once or twice), and that makes no linguistic sense.

The construction is reminiscent of a Romance “the which” construction, which ended up in English, and also in Greek somewhat later (ο οποίος); but the documents seem too early to allow for that influence. The plural really makes no sense at all, and after tying myself in all sorts of knots trying to make sense of it, I end up mumbling that maybe another linguist’s suggestion that it was some sort of phonetic effect is it.

The really interesting thing was to look at the structure of the land deeds that the construction appeared in. The land deeds were highly formulaic, and the construction kept showing up in the same place, time and again: the definition of the land boundaries. However the construction got into the earliest land deeds, it got into the later land deeds through the monks robotically using those deeds as templates.

The paper has a common fault of my papers: it goes into way too convoluted reasoning, exploring every option and alternative, whether they are germane or not. In fact, the paper explores so many options, it ends up unreadable; several of them did.