Why had Middle English dropped the leading e- in words borrowed from Old French that began with es-[plosive]-?

I’ll start by giving the passage on this change from Elementary Middle English grammar : James Wright, as a change specific to French loans.

§231. Initial e– disappeared before s + tenuis as Spaine, spȳen, staat beside estaat, stüdien, scāpen beside escāpen, squirel (O.Fr. escurel). Initial vowels also often disappeared before other consonants, as menden beside amenden, prentȳs beside aprentȳs, pistīl beside epistīl. Initial prefixes often disappeared, as steinen beside desteinen ‘to stain’, sport beside disport, saumple beside ensaumple.

Now, as OP points out, Latin > French and Latin > Italian went the other way.

The insertion of an initial e- before a cluster makes a word easier to pronounce; Latin statūs > Old French estat (Modern état) > English estate (state). Lots of languages do this; Turkish is another good example; French station > Turkish istasyon.

So why would English go the other way?

Notice that this change happened to French loans; it isn’t something that happened generically in the language, to Old English words. And ease of pronunciation is not an absolute in a language; after all, plenty of languages do have words starting with st-. Like Latin.

Or Old English.

If a change systematically happens to French words, it might not be motivated by making them easier to pronounce. It might be motivated by making them look more familiar—which can mean making them better aligned to the native phonotactics of the language.

So: did Old English have lots of words starting with an unaccented esc-, esp-, est-? From what I’m seeing at An Anglo-Saxon dictionary : based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth , no: just a couple of words starting with accented est-. As opposed to lots and lots of words starting with sc-, sp-, st-. And of course native stress was on the first syllable: an unstressed initial esc-, esp-, est– would have sounded doubly alien to Old English.

The rule was not regular and overwhelming: we’ve gone back to escape from scape, and we’ve kept apprentice. But—without knowing this for a fact—I think that’s what’s happened.

What is the transliteration for “τίς εὐδαίμων, “ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος””?

tis eudaimōn? ho to men sōma hygiēs, tēn de psychēn euporos, tēn de physin eupaideutos.

Word for word:

Who good-daemoned? The: the on-the-one-hand body healthy, the on-the-other-hand soul good-resourced, the on-the-other-hand nature good-educated.

What are two truths and a lie about you?

Hokay. Let’s dance.

  1. Yes, my first name really is the same as my surname. Just like my three firstborn cousins.
  2. I did not speak to my parents until I was 2. While I was being wheeled in by the nurse to see the doctor about it, I was reading out the room numbers to her.
  3. I learned English from Sesame Street. Which has left me with a lifelong aspiration to to be Oscar the Grouch.

EDIT: The non-truth is #1; congratulations to Dorian Shkëmbi, Abigail (Abbey) Beach, and most especially Delaney Natale, who has clearly been paying attention:

I’m guessing 1, because I think I read somewhere that your first name is “Nick” and not “Nicholas”, which would technically make them different.

Yes, it’s a technicality. Sorry not sorry. But the birth certificate does say “Nick Nicholas” and not “Nicholas Nicholas” (thank the Gods), and I’m going with that.

#2 and #3 are related, and both are true. My parents were giving me mixed linguistic input, English and Greek—which is not a problem with language acquisition as such, it just means that kids take a few months longer as they disentangle the input. Because of it, I had acquired English just fine, but I wasn’t speaking to my parents who were giving me the confusing input.

I was however fluent in American, from Sesame Street (which child-minded me while my parents worked in the fish & chip shop downstairs); and when I’d worked out the nurses were not giving confusing linguistic input, I felt free to make like Count von Count, and count the room numbers. When my parents came in, I said mama, and that was the first word they heard from me.

Oh, btw:

In the early 1970s, following a counting session, the Count would laugh maniacally, “AH AH AH AH AH!”, accompanied by thunder and lightning flashes. He wouldn’t let anything interrupt his counting, and used hypnotic powers to temporarily stun people with a wave of his hands. This practice, however, was discontinued in the mid-1970s because of concern that young viewers would become frightened. In the mid-1970s, the Count became friendlier, did not have hypnotic powers, and interacted more with the characters (both live actors and Muppets). His laugh also changed from maniacal laughter to a more triumphant, stereotypical Dracula-style laugh.

He’ll always be maniacal laughter and thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening me, as far as I’m concerned.

And yet, I put down the Grouch as my role model. I know. It was a close run!

I couldn’t find the Oscar the Grouch and Yitzhak Perlman duet, so I’ll have to settle for this:


What are good free websites to learn Klingon?

If you’re at all serious about learning Klingon, you need to be on the Klingon Language Institute site—if for no other reason, to access the list of words that have been added to the language since the publication of The Klingon Dictionary. The best way to get any practice at the language or feedback is to join the tlhIngan Hol Email Discussion Group.

You’ll still need to learn the grammar and vocabulary from The Klingon Dictionary, which is under copyright.

Is the Spanish version of Quora more or less “problematic” than the English version?

I was given the following information a month or so ago by someone who was formerly on both Spanish Quora and English Quora. My source is a native speaker of Spanish. I am not in a position to verify it myself, and am passing it along as one person’s perspective.

1. Quora Spanish effectively has zero moderation, with an employee operating in the wrong time zone [for Spain], little familiarity with the local language or cultures, and B2 level language skills.

There is no enforcement of Real Name, due to lack of cultural knowledge: no one from a Spanish speaking country has one name unless they are a football player. They appeared to think that all Spaniards had 1 first name and 1 last name.

2. Quora outsources their translation of community rules, with the translated materials being provided by people unfamiliar with the state of the local language product and its features. This leads to weirdness where key policies being described are for features that do not exist. The translations are also often problematic.

For example: they posted a recent answer on Spanish Quora about rules. The whole post? About blogs. Guess which site lacks blogs? Spanish Quora.

3. Quora does not have any lawyers investigating local regulatory issues, and appears to be setting itself up for problems both employment and content wise.

Quora can’t even enforce policy to make content legal in Spain. They have said nothing about the right to be forgotten.

People in Spain can go to jail for things they write on the Internet. So say you say something like, “Oh? 43 whores were killed by their husbands? 43 dead whores isn’t enough. More whores should die.” Write that publicly enough and you can get reported to the cops, and enough of that and you can get them on your doorstep arresting you. Condenado a dos años de prisión por denigrar a las mujeres en Twitter.

4. Quora has no one on the ground in Spain or France.

They kept having meetups in Madrid on like days when half the people left town.
Then they’d pick times like Wednesday night at 7PM with a week’s notice. You don’t do 7PM if you want people to show here. You do 9:00 PM, more realistically 9:30 PM. They also picked a place where the reviews for one place were, “Staff stole my stuff” and “My laptop was stolen by staff.”

5. Quora Spanish has a huge gender gap issue, which makes English Quora look great. Quora has not dedicated resources to this and alienated users best placed to assist in fixing this back when it was fixable.

The gender gap problem Quora has on English Quora is about 10 times worse on Spanish Quora. It is no more than 10%. I went 2 months without a single woman appearing in the digest. It also enables questions like these:

¿En qué errores cae el feminismo contemporáneo?

¿Por qué el feminismo moderno es tan irracional?

¿Por qué hay mujeres que no les puedes contar todo lo que sucede sin que lo tomen mal?

And they have an awful tendency to refer to women as men. Spanish is a gendered language. “Top Writers” is gender neutral in English. It is NOT in Spanish.

Quora does gender neutral, and hires American Spanish speakers who are not formally trained as translators. Or they hire shitty translators. In either case, same result in that they often have embarassing translation issues.
In at least one case, they pretty much decided that fuck it, masculine it is.
Picture writing to maletopwriters@quora.com if you had any questions about top writers. This might appear like little stuff with the gender thing, but it is highly noticable to native speakers, and especially female native speakers.

In ancient Greek, how is the root determined in τὸ τεῖχος?

Humphry Smith’s answer is right, but let me spell it out a bit more.

We come up with stem suffixes in proto-Greek, to explain the diversity of case endings of classes of nouns—a diversity between dialects of Greek, as well as trying to make intuitive sense of where they came from. The nouns in your details, neuter teîch-os, masculine triē´r-ēs, proper name Themistokl-ēˆs, are all explained by proto-Greek stems ending in –es-.

Why do we do that? Because if you look at the cases other than the nominative, they’re pretty similar. We account for that by saying they’re actually underlyingly the same.

A few things to keep in mind whenever we’re reconstructing proto-Greek:

  • First: Attic contracts vowels (mooshes them together); Epic Greek tends not to contract them, and proto-Greek is more obvious if we move back from Homer rather than Attic. So (interleaving the masculine noun triērēs where it’s different):





See that -e- in the Epic? You can’t see it as clearly in the Attic. That’s part of the reason why it’s an -es- noun.

Oh, and Themistocles? The uncontracted form is Themistoklé-ēs. The only difference between Themistoklé-ēs and triē´r-ēs is that Attic contracts the last two vowels.

  • Second: Proto-Greek -s- between vowels is deleted. (In Latin, its equivalent turns into -r-.)

So our Epic paradigm now becomes:

teîch-os, triē´r-ēs

And that’s where the -es- stem comes from.

The catch is that horrid nominative singular, teîch-os, triē´r-ēs.

  • Third: When you’re reconstructing nominals, always leave the nominative singular till last. They tend to be… different.

The masculine nom. sg can be understood by compensatory lengthening. As you’ll know from other third declension nouns, the nom. sg. masc ending here should be -s. The stem is -es. So Proto-Greek nom. sg ‘trireme’ would have been triē´r-es-s. When the first s drops out, the vowel before it lengthens to compensate: triē´r-es-s > triē´r-ē-s.

That leaves the neuter singular -os. In fact, cracking open my copy of Sihler: New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin §296, the nominative singular is as old as Proto-Indo-European: it’s –os all the way back.

Now, whenever you see o in Proto-Indo-European, you immediately think of the ablaut alternation of ø/e/o. Sihler notes (§297) that “Scholars have long maintained that the nom./acc. form -os, albeit of securely PIE date, is secondary; presumably the zero grade nom./acc. of the the type krewH̥2-s [Greek krea-s] is a relic of a more original state of affairs.” What he’s saying is that the -o-s looks suspicious, and it may be a ø/e/o alternation; the word for ‘meat’, which has nothing rather than e or o in front of the -s, was the original way of doing those neuters.

Did Caesar say “I could kill you faster than I could threaten to kill you?”

At a first stab (so to speak):

Plutarch • Life of Caesar

After this speech to Metellus, Caesar walked towards the door of the treasury, and when the keys were not to be found, he sent for smiths and ordered them to break in the door. Metellus once more opposed him, and was commended by some for so doing; but Caesar, raising his voice, threatened to kill him if he did not cease his troublesome interference. “And thou surely knowest, young man,” said he, “that it is more unpleasant for me to say this than to do it.”

ταῦτα πρὸς τὸν Μέτελλον εἰπών, ἐβάδιζε πρὸς τὰς θύρας τοῦ ταμιείου. μὴ φαινομένων δὲ τῶν κλειδῶν, χαλκεῖς μεταπεμψάμενος ἐκκόπτειν ἐκέλευεν. αὖθις δ’ ἐνισταμένου τοῦ Μετέλλου καί τινων ἐπαινούντων, διατεινάμενος ἠπείλησεν ἀποκτενεῖν αὐτόν, εἰ μὴ παύσαιτο παρενοχλῶν· „καὶ τοῦτ’“ ἔφη „μειράκιον οὐκ ἀγνοεῖς ὅτι μοι δυσκολώτερον ἦν εἰπεῖν ἢ πρᾶξαι“.

The Greek literally says: “and little boy, you are not unaware that it would be harder for me to say it than to do it.”

The quote is attributed to an “official at the Roman Treasury” (I could kill you faster than I could threaten to kill you.) Plutarch says: “When the tribune Metellus tried to prevent Caesar’s taking money from the reserve funds of the state, and cited certain laws, Caesar said that arms and laws had not the same season.” I guess that makes Metellus an official at the Roman Treasury.

Can I say? Apparently Carlin is a podcaster who tries to make historical figures sound sexy and badass, but I don’t think he’s improved on the original.