The solipsism of Quora comments

“We all have our little solipsistic delusions, ghastly intuitions of utter singularity”: David Foster Wallace.

Triggered by a discussion thread at…: thanks to Josephine Stefani, Philip Newton, and Nirmalya Kajuri. (All my comments are showing in recommended. How come?)

If you leave a comment for an answer, it will show up under Recommended—as far as you can tell. Don’t let that go to your head: for everyone else, it may still show up under the All bucket, depending on your PeopleRank (or something).

Reason why this is a feature: you want to see your own comments when you look at the comments field.

Reason why this is a bug: the longstanding critique of Quora UX as “mystery meat navigation.” (Who came up with that, Erica Friedman?)

Mystery Meat

With which popular traditions, tales, and legends is the cuckoo related in your country’s folklore?

Cuckoo – Wikipedia

In Europe, the cuckoo is associated with spring, and with cuckoldry, for example in Shakespeare‘s Love’s Labours Lost.

In fact, cuckold is derived from cuckoo.

In Greek, the cuckoldry association has not captured people’s imagination: that’s all about horns (presumably via deer). The proverbial expressions about cuckoos are quite unlike the associations the bird has in English:

Κούκος – Βικιπαίδεια:

  • solitariness—cuckoos don’t have their own nest, being parasitic, but they also don’t spent a lot of time in the host nest they take over; hence, various variants of “lonely as a cuckoo”. Also, Τρεις κι ο κούκος “three plus a cuckoo” = “almost noone”, the cuckoo being the Greek equivalent of tumbleweeds. (Apparently there is an anticipation of this in Aristophanes, Acharnians 598.)
  • cheapness, low quality, compared to a nightingale: Θα σου κοστίσει ο κούκος αηδόνι “A cuckoo will cost you a nightingale” (i.e. you will be ripped off)
  • harbinger of spring: Ένας κούκος δεν φέρνει την άνοιξη “one cuckoo doesn’t bring spring” (as opposed to the more common “one swallow doesn’t make a summer”, which dates from Aesop)
  • going silent (in summer): Βουβάθηκε σαν ο κούκος τ’ αϊ-Γιαννιού “he’s gone dumb like a cuckoo on St John’s Day” (24 June)

Why is aponeurosis named as such? I know the “apo” part. What’s the word root: “neurosis”?

To expand on Raul Hernandez’s answer:

aponeurōsis = apo ‘away, from, of’ + neurōsis

neurōsis = neuroō ‘to equip with sinews, to put strings on (a bow, a lyre)’ + –sis ‘nominalisation suffix, -ing’

neuroō = neuron ‘nerve, sinew’ + – ‘verb suffix, often factive: to make something be or have X’.

So aponeurosis literally means ‘a sinewing out(wards)’.

Aponeurosis: Aponeuroses (plural of aponeurosis: απο, “away” or “of”, and νευρον, “sinew”, and pronounced ap·o·neu·ro·sis) are layers of flat broad tendons. They have a shiny, whitish-silvery color, are histologicallysimilar to tendons, and are very sparingly supplied with blood vessels and nerves. When dissected, aponeuroses are papery and peel off by sections. The primary regions with thick aponeurosis are in the ventral abdominal region, the dorsal lumbar region, the ventriculus in birds, and the palmar and plantar regions.

It’s a Neo-Latin coinage, and an awkward one: the -(ō)sis ending refers to an action, not to the result of an action, which would be -(ō)ma (e.g. sarcoma ‘a fleshening’: not the action of fleshing something out, but the result of it). And because Greeks actually know how Greek suffixes work, aponevrosi in Modern Greek means ‘root canal’: you are removing the nerve ending from the infected tooth. So not ‘a sinewing outwards’, but ‘de-nerving’.

Of course, this is Neo-Latin’s world, we Greeks just live in it. From what I see in this article on Plantar Fasciitis Πελματιαία Απονευρωσίτιδα, Greeks also call aponeuroses aponevrosis. In fact, it looks like Greek is ahead of English, in insisting that Plantar fasciitis is actually an aponeurositis, because the Plantar fascia is actually an aponeurosis.

And if I knew the difference between an aponeurosis and a Fascia, I’d be speaking with a bit more conviction…

Why did Quora introduce the endless scrolling feature?

It was all the rage in 2010. In fact, I’ve spoken with old time users who said that in 2010, it really did look like the hottest thing out there, and now, not so much.

Pros and cons of infinite scrolling are offered in this article from way back in 2013:

And inevitably, the venerable Nielsen Usability Voice Of God has weighed in:

Quora gets away with infinite scrolling because its ranking algorithm bubbles up good enough answers to the top of the page, that it does not get annoying. For most users, in most contexts. But if you’re doing something different, like looking for collapsed answers, or the oldest piece of content, or a chronological search halfway through all your edits ever, infinite scrolling is your enemy. The When Infinite Scrolling Fails section of the first article is a microcosm of Quora; and the article does recommend a hybrid approach.

A hybrid approach you can actually hack yourself: Hidden pagination feature. by John Gragson on Bug? or Feature?

When will Quora implement pagination on long answers?

There is a pagination option as a hidden parameter (an Easter Egg, if you will) in the Quora URL:

Hidden pagination feature. by John Gragson on Bug? or Feature?

What’s the one-word translation of the word ‘cuckold’ in Greek, when the husband knows (and does not care) about his wife’s infidelity?


As it turns out, reading Cuckold – Wikipedia, there was an Elizabethan term for someone who was aware of being cuckolded, but cuckold wasn’t it:

One often-overlooked subtlety of the word is that it implies that the husband is deceived, that he is unaware of his wife’s unfaithfulness and may not know until the arrival or growth of a child plainly not his (as with cuckoo birds).

A related word, first appearing in 1520, is wittol, which substitutes wit (in the sense of knowing) for the first part of the word, referring to a man aware of and reconciled to his wife’s infidelity.

Wittol is of course antiquated, and the kink associated with cuckolding (which is all about the partner being aware of the fact) is a pretty recent phenomenon. Wikipedia in fact makes a point of saying that this usage as a fetish is distinct from the traditional use of cuckold.

The Greek for cuckold is κερατάς ‘horned’, and has been since at least Michael Psellos in the 11th century, who documented the term. As OP notes, the Greek expression, like cuckold originally, is unaware of being cheated on; per Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής its secondary meaning is ‘a sucker, someone clueless’. (How the tertiary meaning ‘someone cunning, scoundrel’ comes about is one of those routine oddities of language.) (Hi, Melinda!) would be the obvious place to find an expression for something like this in Greek—even if they are expressions made up by site contributors. But I didn’t. The closest I got there was calling someone a Reindeer or Rudolph (τον/την έκανε τάρανδο, ρούντολφ – for being repeatedly cuckolded. As in, having really big horns.

I find Quora’s “infinite endless scrolling down on a never-ending page” maddening. Is there any way to have it just show me X questions/answers, then offer to let me go to the next page of same?

How is it possible that we perceive irony?

Grice. Grice Grice Grice Grice Grice.

Paul Grice did seminal work in the philosophy of language, on how we recover meaning from an interlocutor’s words. It is clear that we routinely understand more—or less—than what our interlocutor says. To make sense of this, Grice developed a notion of conversational implicature. This is what we consider to be implicit in what the other is saying; but unlike logical entailment, it is fallible, and defeasible (more information or clarification can establish that our guess was wrong: it works as a default assumption, rather than a universal truth).

We arrive at conversational implicatures, in turn, through assumptions about how conversation works. Grice’s maxims are the ones that get taught in Undergrad Pragmatics, but the underlying Cooperative Principle is what matters here. It is the assumption that the person you are talking with is not a psycho, and that what they are saying somehow makes sense, is relevant to what we’re talking about, and is situated on the same planet as you are. Or, to put it in his terms,

Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

That assumption is what makes irony work, and for that matter what makes humour work. If someone gives you a response that is manifestly untrue and irrelevant, they could be being a psycho. But your assumption under the Cooperative Principle is that they are not being a psycho, that what they have just said is relevant, and that you have to dig a bit deeper to work out what the relevance is. People in fact expect that you will do that digging, which is why a lot of those seemingly psycho irrelevant responses become conventionalised—and the implicature of what they mean becomes a conventional implicature: an implicature that is still not the literal meaning of what is said, but which we by default associate with the expression anyway. (E.g. “sounds legit”.)

What follows from that is that we have strong expectations of what someone should be saying at any point, and of how the world works. And if they say the opposite to what we expect, or of how we know the world works, we assume that they are somehow joking. In fact, humour relies on us assuming that they are somehow joking.

How come the Hebrew words for 6 and 7 are so similar to their Latin counterparts, while the other digits aren’t even close?

There has been speculation that Indo-European borrowed its words for ‘six’ and ‘seven’ from Semitic, or that they reflect a common ancestral (Nostratic) element. Nostratic is not a mainstream theory, and there has also been significant scepticism about borrowing, especially if the Proto–Indo-European for ‘six’ is closer to *weḱs than *sweḱs.

I’ll note that PIE borrowing numbers from Semitic is not as implausible as it might seem. There is widespread suspicion that PIE borrowed some words from the contemporary prestige languages of the time, Sumerian (isolate:…) and Akkadian (… ); the words for ‘silver’ and ‘bull’ are the most commonly invoked of the latter. And in a time of early numeracy, borrowing the words for ‘six’ and ‘seven’ is plausible.

See also