Quora Compass

Poll: Where are you on the Quora Compass?

Purpose: Much as the Political Compass tries to simplistically plot peoples’ political orientation, the Quora Compass tries to simplistically plot users’ attitudes towards Quora, on two axes that I find of interest: “Loyalist” vs “Insurgent” (substitute your own epithets), and “Knowledge Repository” vs “Social Media”.

Deadline: No rush.

Submissions: Where are you on the Quora Compass?

Thanks: Jennifer Edeburn


Not that recondite a word, but any soupçon from the Magister is welcome here:


I just want to say, publicly, and despite the possibility of offending some friends, that I thought the fake death gag puerile and unhelpful.


1. Immature, especially in being silly or trivial; childish.

2. Archaic Belonging to childhood; juvenile.

Notice that the second definition is archaic. Literally, the word means “of a child”; in a legalistic sense, I suppose that encompasses teens. Not all that children do, though, is childish; and not all that adults do is mature.

And yes, some things that children do are childish.

How Reddit trolls have infiltrated Quora

I am passing this on from a source who prefers to remain anonymous. For obvious reasons.

Some weeks back, an Anonymous poster wrote how some people were deliberately posting trolling questions. The answer in question was posted on Facebook, but it appears that the Quora moderators didn’t take any action, if the recent reappearance of trolls is anything to go by. Quora users User and Hardik Chopra are two troll accounts that have been made to post questions like this.

Meanwhile, it turns out some users from Reddit are responsible for it.

Reddit links:

I want to point out that most people on that subreddit are *not* deliberately posting questions like this. It was made just to laugh at silly questions and answers by Indian Quorans. But some people have now deliberately started to post questions like this in hope of getting a response and annoying others.

For those of you who are not Indians, IIT’s is merely the Indian equivalent of Ivy League. Their chief obsessions is attacking IIT’ s and IIT’ians on Quora because they think that IITians get far too much attention here from Indian students who are preparing for its entrance examinations and also from other people.

overview for gdchgdxht0 is Hardick Chopra

overview for 9852174563_ is User

Why is Athens still the only capital city in Europe that doesn’t have a functional mosque?

How about religious rights of muslims in Greece?

… Yeah, how about them? 🙂

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why does the Greek Orthodox Church have religious hegemony in Greece?

When the Modern Greek State was founded, Orthodoxy became the state religion quickly; and it was considered coextensive with Greek national identity. That has allowed it a hegemony that Western Europeans are uncomfortable with; the Church of Greece gets veto, for example, on building places of worship for any creed, which is why there still isn’t a mosque in Athens. Is the 180 Year Wait for an Official Mosque in Athens Finally Over?

Why do some Greek surnames end with “oğlu” which means “son of” in Turkish?

The proper answer is Kutluk Ozguven’s: Kutluk Ozguven’s answer to Why do some Greek surnames end with “oğlu” which means “son of” in Turkish?

Turkish Republic did not enforce surnames to its population before 1934. Turks had patronymous names like in Arabic countries or Iceland.

However Greeks and Armenians used family surnames of their choice. Unlike post-nationalist myths Greek Orthodox and Muslim populations were closer and more dependant to each other […]

Population exchange between Greece and Turkey was from 1923–1933. […]

Since Oglou was a sign of Turkish migration who were scorned upon in their arrival, many might have changed to more mainland Greek surmames.

Some didn’t bother.

Indeed: –oglou is a patronymic suffix specific to the descendants of refugees in Greece from Asia Minor; I’m not aware of any serious traditional usage within Greece in the 19th century. As Kutluk pointed out, Christians took up Turkish surnames in Turkey before Muslims did.

Often, that surname suffix was dropped by the arrivals in Greece, in favour of something more Hellenic. And nothing is more Hellenic than the Ancient Greek patronymic –ides. (Because of how memes happen, –ides also supplanted the Greek Pontic patronymic –ant[is], as in Ypsilanti[s].)

So if you see a surname ending in –ides, chances are the bearer is descended from Asia Minor. (Or Cypriot, where –ides also came into vogue. And these really are matters of vogue: in Crete –akis is universal as a surname suffix, and it was unknown before the 19th century.)

The surname Σαλπιγκτίδης Salpingtides, for example, is quite Hellenic, and rather challenging to romanise (you’ll usually see it as Salpigktidis in English.) It’s Ancient Greek for “bugler-son”—and it’s a transparent Hellenisation of Borazancıoğlu.

Some refugees refused to switch their surnames. The father of my coauthor George Baloglou was a refugee from Sille, near Konya. He kept his surname, which is Turkish for “honey-son”. Most of his extended family switched it to the Hellenised Melidis.

What reasons are there to not use Go (programming language)?

Tikhon Jelvis has just followed me, and I don’t want to annoy him by liking Go. 🙂

And I do like Go. But treating Golang as a general all-purpose language is silly and hype-y.

Golang is a low level, strictly typed language. It is almost as pleasant as a low level language can get: a lot of syntactic sugar has gone in to hide pointers and types from the developer, and to backdoor void * through the empty interface. (The interface is the one thing about Golang that I still bristle at.)

But the low level stuff is all still there. And it makes more sense to deal with low level stuff in applications where you need to, than in naturally high-level or prototype-y code. It makes more sense in context where it is useful to have a compiled binary.

I’m using Go in messaging infrastructure. I’m happy to, it makes sense to use a low level language there, and I’d rather cut Golang code than C code. (25 years of cutting C code does not make it any more congenial.) But I’d hesitate to use Golang in natural language processing.

(I find Python much more abhorrent than Golang, but in natural language processing, the library (NLTK) is king. If only Ruby had gotten there first.)

Performance, from what I gather, got better: my CTO was very enthused about the recent upgrade to v1.8 in the compiler, and you don’t care about compiler upgrades in more mature languages. The maturity nevertheless has come along, it seems, compared to earlier versions. The code is still low-level looking, and not at all as readable as Ruby or *shudder* Python; but because of the sugar, it is easier to write and to read than C.

What does Genie’s case illustrate about first language acquisition?

The linguistics textbooks will tell you that the unfortunate case of Genie (feral child) demonstrates that puberty delimits a window of opportunity for language acquisition, past which full language acquisition is not possible. Genie learnt enough English for the first time at 13 to communicate, but her English was never grammatical.

There are plenty of horrors surrounding Genie’s case, and quite apart from the monstrous lapses in ethics around how she was handled, any scientific conclusions gleaned from her are problematic.

Genie was cut off from any linguistic or social input, because her father was convinced she was brain damaged. If she wasn’t before, his abuse guaranteed that she was after. If she was handicapped before, which we have no way of knowing, her ability to acquire language may well have been compromised anyway.

On the other hand, she seems to have developed an adequate command of sign language (itself a political football between linguists and psychologists, while they were belly flopping on their professional ethics all around her). Sign language was the psychologists’ idea, not the linguists’, so we don’t really know how much better her sign language was than her spoken language. In any case, once she was released from the lab to endure further physical and sexual abuse, her command of sign language seems to have been impaired as well.

What have we actually learnt about first language acquisition from Genie’s case? Probably not as much as people like to think. And hopefully, we will never have the opportunity to repeat such an experiment again.

What are some good books to read about language families/language evolution/general linguistics?

Very broad question. I’m going to give you one recommendation:

Understanding Language Change by April M. S. McMahon. 1994.

Magnificent, and goes into a lot more of the mechanics of language change, informed by sociolinguistics, than the older treatments.

Is there such a thing as “taking things too literally”?

Yes, and there’s a linguistic pragmatics set of principles at work there, over and above the inherent limitations of language pointed out by Daniel Bamberger : see Daniel Bamberger’s answer to Is there such a thing as “taking things too literally”?

The Cooperative principles defined by Grice are a way of making sense of how people don’t take things literally. The underlying understanding, when you’re talking with someone, is that your interlocutor is not being an arsehole, and is not talking to you just to troll you. You assume that what they are telling you makes sense and is relevant. So if their literal meaning comes across as trolling, you try to think up figurative and indirect meanings, which make what they’re saying make sense.

This kind of second guessing of literal meaning underpins humour, figurative language, metaphor, literature, wit, allusion—all the potent stuff in language. The fact that the meaning is indirect in such expressions, and has to be teased out by listeners assuming that you are not trolling them, is a big part of their potency.

And of course doing that teasing out of indirect meaning requires a large amount of emotional intelligence and social context—which notoriously puts autistic people at a disadvantage. But yes, there is a societal expectation that you will use Gricean principles to make sense of figurative language, and if you fail to do so, you are taking things too literally for that social norm.

Is Khalisi a weird name for a baby?

For starters, the proper Dothraki pronunciation is [ˈxaleːsi], not [kʰaˈliːsiː]. That’s not canon from GRRR Martin, because GRRR Martin is a language dolt, but Peterson’s Dothraki is not mere funny-looking English.

Of course, it only matters what you heard the actors say on the TV anyway.

I agree with what Lara l Lord said: Lara l Lord’s answer to Is Khalisi a weird name for a baby?. I’ll add that, because “creative” names are reasonably recent in English, they remain contentious and subject to mockery, in ways that places with a more longstanding tradition of creative names won’t have: see discussion starting at https://www.quora.com/Is-Khalisi…

The mockery of people called Tarquin? Dharma? Neveah? Quest? The mockery of the names of Destiny, Mysteri and Cross, Carlton Gebbia’s kids from Real Housewives of Beverley Hills? It’s real. And it serves a social purpose. You may think you’re an untrammelled individual, and there’s no such thing as society. But there is such a thing as society, and mockery is how it enforces its norms.

See also Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why do English-speaking people often have strange first names?