Why do people think I’m a snob because I always speak in standard English?

This is Tony Mulqueen’s answer. I’m just being a little more abstract.

There is a popular misconception that the primary purpose of language is to communicate.

Language is a social phenomenon, practiced by social beings. And one of its primary functions is to demonstrate allegiance to the groups the speaker belongs to.

If you speak Greek, you are demonstrating allegiance to Greekdom. If you speak in a camp voice, you are demonstrating allegiance to gaydom. If you say “cuck” a lot, you are demonstrating allegiance to the alt right.

It is the same with standard forms of a language. Standard languages did not drop from the Heavens, as instruments of pure dispassionate logic. They were formed in a social context, and they demonstrate social allegiances.

Standard languages are also not native to all social groups within the speech community: they have to be learned. If they didn’t have to be learned, there wouldn’t be any need to standardise to begin with. And if you use the standard language in a social context where a different native form of the language is expected, then you are demonstrating greater allegiance to the standard language’s values, than to those of the group you are amongst.

In other words, you are behaving as a snob. And possibly a class traitor.

The main context where using the standard form of the language is appropriate (if it is not already your native language variant) is in the workplace. Hence, African Americans saying “I can speak Job Interview.” Hence also the Greek Cypriot derogatory term for Greeks from Greece being “pen pushers” (καλαμαράδες). As far as they are concerned, only a pen pusher should be speaking standard Greek.

My friend Marija’s father Ambroz arrived in Australia from Croatia in the 50s, and went straight to the nearest factory to apply for work. He’d learned standard English back home, of course. And the first thing he said in English when he got there was, “To whom should I speak to apply for work?”

Yes, standard English. Spectacularly inappropriate on an Australian factory floor.

In response to these social realities, you can rail against everyone else being peasants, and not appreciating the virtues of the linguistic standard. Or you can admit that there is no such thing as linguistic superiority, only linguistic fit-for-purpose. Ambroz was not demonstrating linguistic fit-for-purpose by using standard English where he did.

There is no such thing as linguistics superiority, but there is such a thing as social subordination. Make sure you don’t mistake one for the other.

Why do Greeks break plates when dancing?

See: Konstantinos Konstantinides’ answer to Why do Greeks break plates?

As pointed out in Valya Doncheva’s answer to Why do Greeks break plates when dancing?, there are old folk antecedents to the practice—and indeed, similar practices are not uncommon among people who get drunk in general, as witnessed with any rock group that ever trashed a hotel room.

Per this article from the City of Athens Museum: Το σπάσιμο των πιάτων και η καθιέρωσή του

It seems that because of the financial crisis the custom of breaking plates at nightclubs is dying out, so we are taking care to recount it. Since time immemorial whoever came into a good mood (μεράκλωναν), especially at bouzouki clubs, would smash whatever they found at their table: chairs, painting frames, even pianos. Afterwards they would pay for the cost. So the number of those who’d pay for the breakage was limited.

[“Pay for the breakage”, πληρώνουν τα σπασμένα, is a proverbial expression. And it predates the Pottery Barn rule]

A clever businessman in the nightclub trade, Babaveas, opened the Folies d’été cabaret at the end of Herodes Atticus Road in 1931. With intoxicating Argentinian music, Parisian butterflies passing through, and a Russian ballet, he got his club into the centre of Athens nightlife.

The businessman would not charge his good customers for the breakage. But when the partiers (θεριακλήδες) increased in number, the old regime was restored. If you broke it, you paid for it, and you paid for it dearly. Three decades on, the custom was known, but it was not as well established or excessive. The spread of the phenomenon was aided by the movie Never on Sunday and the song The Lads of Peiraeus, in the early 60s. Plate smashing turned into a national pastime. That’s when the use of lower quality plates was established, whereupon the custom became daily practice.

Jules Dassin needed to reshoot the plate-smashing scene for Never on Sunday several times. He used defective plates that were factory rejects. In the 60s, there were up to 100,000 plates smashed per month, and some 50 workshops were established employing around 1000 people to cover the needs of partygoers (μερακλήδων). Later on they started using plaster copies of plates, to prevent injury and reduce costs.

Per Greek Wikipedia, Σπάσιμο πιάτων – Βικιπαίδεια,

Plate-smashing is a Greek folk custom, which reached its peak in the 60s and 70s. It was usual in nightclubs, as an example of Greek celebration. After it was banned by the Greek dictatorship, it retreated in the early 90s, but has made a return despite the financial crisis.


The only remaining workshop making plaster plates in Greece is Tsiourlis Bros. in Evosmos of Thessalonica, established in 1975. The practice of plate smashing seems to have been replaced by throwing flowers onto the stage, something inaugurated by the singer Marinella.

See also Plate smashing – Wikipedia, and Dimitra Triantafyllidou’s answer to What is the history of the Greek tradition of breaking plates and yelling “ooopaaa”?

Which is correct, “Describe who you are” or “Describe whom you are”?

I am going to refine Justin Franco‘s reasoning, while agreeing with his answer.

Justin says that it’s “describe who you are”, because

We wouldn’t answer “Who are you?” with “You are him.” We’d answer it with “You are he.”

Oh really?

The explanation is not that all predicates of linking verbs in English are always nominative. A lot more people say “it’s me” than “it is I.”

The explanation is that there are two different registers of English at play here, with different grammatical rules. And, as Christopher Ray Miller’s answer has pointed out, belonging to different centuries.

Whom belongs to the centuries older variant of English, the one where people could say “it is I, Hamlet the Dane”. Whom is alien to the contemporary variant of English in which one can say “you are him”. And that is why the acceptability of “you are him” is irrelevant to the usage of whom: you don’t say “describe whom you are,” because back then you didn’t say “you are him”.

Where do the distinctive Greek names for chemical elements come from?

My thanks to Konstantinos Konstantinides, Joseph Boyle, and Jorvon M. Carter, who have answered most of this; this answer is based on their work.

My agenda, more cynically, was “which country did Greek copy, and where did it decide to do its own thing.” Languages did decide to do their own thing occasionally; the Russian (and hence Slavic) word for silicon, kremnij, for example, is a 1834 coinage based on Ancient Greek krēmnos, ‘precipice’.

For most of these, if Greek hasn’t patterned with English, it’s because it has patterned with the actual prestige languages of the time, French and German. My guess is, German unless German used a Germanic term, in which case, French.

  • N: French (German has Stickstoff)
  • Na: German
  • K: German

If a Greek term was used early on and then abandoned, Greek would be delighted to hang on to the Greek term.

  • F: Phthorion (suggested by Ampère in 1810)
  • Zn: Pseudargyros was used by Strabo, and identified with Zinc. Greek was certainly not going to pass by a term with classical pedigree.

And for three elements, Greeks did their own translating:

  • Pt: Greeks seems to have been desperate to avoid the Spanish Platinum; I’d have thought the 1752 description of it as a “white gold” would have been an obscure place to go, but clearly not obscure enough.
  • Si: Pyrition “flint-ium” is a translation of the usual European term silic-ium.
  • Al: Argilion “clay-ium”, based on the presence of aluminium in aluminium silicate, the basis of clay; aluminium in the West was instead named for alum, which also contains potassium. The decision by Greek to go a different way with the naming of Aluminium is puzzling; all the more so because Wikipedia cites the 1782 French paper by Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau, who first proposed the name alumine—and who expressly rejected a name like argilium as redundant:

“La seconde terre est celle qui sert de base à l’alun: en la nommant argille, il faudroit chercher un autre nom au minéral, qui n’en recèle jamais qu’une portion; il faudroit, suivant notre second principe, substituer le mot argilleux au mot alumineux, pour tous ses composés. Il est plus simple de conserver le dernier, & en tirer un substantif, pour indiquer l’étre primitif. Ainsi, l’on dira que l’alun ou vitriol alumineux a pour base l’alumine, que la Nature nous offre abondamment dans les argilles.”

(The second earth is what serves as the base in alum: by naming it “clay”, one would have to seek another name for the mineral, which never harbors even a part of it; one would have to, following our second principle [for naming chemical compounds], substitute the word “clay-ish” for the word “aluminous” in all its compounds. It is simpler to retain the latter and to draw a noun from it, in order to indicate the primitive entity [i.e., element]. Thus, one will say that alum or aluminous sulfate has as [its] base alumine [i.e., aluminium], which Nature offers us abundantly in clays.)

EDIT: from exchange with Joseph Boyle in comments, there’s one possibility for why Greeks avoided the literal translation styption of aluminium: alum, being an anti-bleeding agent, was a traditional remedy for, among other things, haemorrhoids. In fact, I remember thinking “there’s something disreputable about stypsis in Greek, and I can’t quite remember it”: that must have been what I was trying to remember.

If you met yourself in a parallel universe but the opposite gender, would you fall in love with yourself?

100+ answers to this, and not one of you citing Asimov’s filk about the subject?

The answer is, Asimov would. I’d… think about it.

As the YouTube comment put it: “This was very very funny in the 70s, I’m assuming.”


And via links from Screw Yourself / Quotes – TV Tropes, this appears to be germane:

Felicia Day: “I’m flirting with myself AGAIN!”