Subscribe to Blog via Email
Day: July 4, 2017
Why was Heracles named after Hera, when his real mother was Alcmene?
The in-universe explanation (to treat Greek mythology like fantasy fiction, and that’s not that absurd really) is He was renamed Heracles [“glory of Hera”] in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify Hera. (Heracles – Wikipedia) Stepping behind the curtain, in his monograph on Greek religion (p. 322), Walter Burkert says the name might be a coincidence; […]
Why don’t most Modern English speakers rhyme “thou” with “you”?
From OED, the dialectal survivals like Yorkshire thaa reflect unstressed variants of thou (which were short); thou is a long vowel that has gone through the Great English Vowel Shift—just as house has an /aʊ/ vowel, and is still pronounced huːs in Scots. The irregularity is you, and apparently the yow pronunciation was around in […]
Why are there so few forests on Crete island?
The forests of Crete were renowned, and were going strong even in Venetian times: Cretan Renaissance literature abounds with pastoral scenes, and tales of deer hunting. These are the kinds of mountains I grew up seeing in Eastern Crete: They do have shrubbery. But actual trees are long gone. The first time I saw trees […]
Where does the Greek quote “βίᾳ ἤρχεσαν οἱ τριάκοντα τῶν Ἀθηναίων και τὸν δῆμον ἤδη κατελελύκεσαν” come from?
The quote as given does not appear in the Ancient canon, or even the Mediaeval canon. Nor in fact does the phrase βίᾳ ἤρχεσαν “they had ruled with force”. The phrase is a little odd; it’s very much a tendentious summary of what happened in Athens with the Thirty Tyrants, which would be out of […]
Is there an upper bound to the amount of words a language will realistically contain?
If a language is agglutinative, or has a halfway decent derivational morphology, you can keep making up words based on other words for as long as you like, and those words will be perfectly acceptable. So there is not much of a limit. There is a limit in how many building blocks of words (morphemes) […]
How can a taboo word show friendliness or intimacy when it is inappropriate?
Appropriateness is always relative. We might like to think that there are universal norms applicable to all people and all situations. It simply does not work like that. Profanity signals intimacy, because it presupposes a level of trust that the addressee will not take offence, and it situates the interlocutors as both being rebels against […]