Retronym [Noun.]

A new word or phrase coined for an old object or concept whose original name has become used for something else or is no longer unique. For example, acoustic guitar – guitar used to mean ‘acoustic guitar’ but can now also refer to an electric guitar.

22/v mmxiii

It was almost 2,300 years after the ancient Greeks suggested both the idea of, and the word for, atoms that they were actually proven to exist.

English: cow

Bos Primigenius also known as the Cow

The ancient Greeks and Romans thought butter fit only for barbarians. Their words for butter, buturon and butyrum, mean cow-cheese.

There have been 12 Greek popes.

Greece invented democracy, but Greek women only got the vote in 1952.

Asbestos is Greek for ‘inextinguishable’. The Greeks occasionally wove handkerchiefs out of asbestos.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Ambivalence Theory

‘According to this concept of humour, our laughter is the symptom of an internal battle between opposing emotions. In 1653 Louis Joubert sowed the seeds of this theory when he proposed that comic laughter is an emotion located in the heart. When we experience a conflict between joy and sadness, the heart shakes the diaphragm, resulting in laughter.

A century or so later James Beattie wrote that laughter is evoked by ‘an opposition of suitableness and unsuitableness.’ William Hazlitt also contributed to this school of thought, noting in 1819 that ‘the jostling of one feeling against another’ was an essential element of the comical.

In recent years the platform for this debate has been increasingly philosophical rather than psychological – less emphasis on shaky diaphragms and even shakier anatomical knowledge – but for all these theorists, laughter is an outward sign of an inward conflict.

Psychologist J. Y. T. Greig asserts that all humour is based on a conflict between love and fear, while George Milner suggests that the clash between culture and nature is to blame. […]

“Cleanliness is next to impossible.”
– Audrey Austin

According to ambivalence theorists, laughter is essentially a wobble of uncertainty – even, perhaps, a snort of embarrassment, of not knowing how to react.

It’s a nice theory, but its a bit sweeping. For a start, not every ‘jostling of one feeling against another’ results in humour – far from it. Ambivalence about such existential oppositions as love and fear is more likely to result in uncertainty, brow-furrowing, and panic attacks, even though joking about it might help to diminish the angst. You could also argue that the tension between nature and culture defines the human condition, and just the psychology of humour.

As human beings, we are essentially apes aspiring to the condition of angels. The results of this struggle seldom rise above the farcical. So, in effect, all the ambivalence theory tells us is what we think, therefore we laugh.’

– Carr J., Greeves L. 2006. The Naked Jape – Uncovering The Hidden World Of Jokes London, Great Britain: Penguin Books (2007) p. 94-95

Georgian Sexual Affairs

One very striking indicator of the way the 18th-century sexual revolution petered out was embodied in the Royal Family. It used to be said that George III had 58 grandchildren, only one of whom was legitimate.

Willem IV van het Verenigd Koninkrijk.

William IV of the United Kingdom

This turns out to be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is nonetheless true that the sexual antics of Queen Victoria’s dissolute uncles — the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) with his ten illegitimate children by the actress Mrs Jordan, the innumerable mistresses of the Prince Regent and so on — do make our Prince Harry’s occasional indiscretions in nightclubs seem pretty tame.

Prince Edward, Victoria’s father, lived with his mistress, Madame St Laurent, for 27 years until the only heir to the English throne — Princess Charlotte — died in 1817. He duly did his duty, chucked his mistress and married a German princess in order to produce the future Queen Victoria.

His brother, the Duke of Clarence, was trying the same in a race to produce an heir. He dumped Mrs Jordan and had a baby by the future Queen Adelaide — sadly, they lost the child.

The Victorian era, noted for its middle-class values of homely monogamous prudery, introduced quite a different tradition at court.

Schools of Ethics Compared

Deontological ethics
Analyses the actual action.

  • Goal: Morality is a question of adhering to a set of rules.
  • How it works: Judge which norm (moral rule) is the most important in which particular situation.
  • Pitfall: “Befehl ist Befehl” (an order is an order).

Teleological ethics (Consequentialism)
Analyses the consequences of the action.

  • Goal: Morality is a question of realising ideals.
  • How it works: Judge what behaviour contributes most to realising the requested ideal.
  • Pitfall: “The ends justify the means.”

Virtue ethics
Analyses the intention of the action (behaviour) in question.

  • Goal: Morality is question of wanting to be a good (virtuous) human being.
  • How it works: Look in the mirror and decide who you want to be.
  • Pitfall: “I meant no harm.”

See other: Admin’s Choice Posts


For centuries, the Judeo-Christian moral code has defined the official relationship standard in western-society – the monogamous relationship:

  • monogamy, an exclusive relationship with one partner.

There are quite a number of variations on the ‘standard’ monogamous relationship. The blanket term is non-monogamy. This phenomenon is also defined as polyamory, in which participants have not one but multiple romantic and/or sexual partners. Forms of non-monogamy include:

  • infidelity, in which a person has a sexual ‘affair’ outside of an otherwise monogamous relationship;
  • casual relationship, an emotional relationship between two unmarried people who may also have a sexual relationship;
  • open marriage, in which one or both members of a committed couple may become sexually active with other partners;
  • swinging, several open relationships which are commonly conducted as an organized social activity;
  • ménage à trois, a sexual (or sometimes domestic) arrangement involving three people of either sex;
  • orgy (also known as, a sexual relationship involving more than two sexual participants at the same time;
  • polyfidelity, in which participants have multiple partners but restrict sexual activity to within a certain group;
  • polygynandry (also known as a group marriage), in which several people form a single family unit, with all considered to be married to one another;
  • polygamy, in which one person in a relationship has married multiple partners;
  • polyandry, in which women have multiple husbands;
  • polygyny, in which men have multiple wives;
  • plural marriage, a form of polygyny associated with the Latter Day Saint movement in the 19th-century and with present-day splinter groups from that faith.


In chess, the fianchetto, ‘little flank’ in Italian, is a pattern of development wherein a bishop is developed to the second rank of the adjacent knight file, the knight pawn having been moved one or two squares forward.

The fianchetto is a staple of many hypermodern openings, whose philosophy is to delay direct occupation of the centre with the plan of undermining and destroying the opponent’s central outpost.

One of the major benefits of the fianchetto is that it often allows the fianchettoed bishop to become more active. Because the bishop is placed on a long diagonal, it controls a lot of squares and can become a powerful offensive weapon.

However, a fianchettoed position also presents some opportunities for the opposing player: if the fianchettoed bishop can be exchanged, the squares the bishop was formerly protecting will become weak and can form the basis of an attack. Therefore, exchanging the fianchettoed bishop should not be done lightly, especially if the enemy bishop of the same colour is still on the board.

‘Strictly speaking, fianchetto is a noun – a diminutive of an Italian word meaning wing or flank – but the English have long misused it as a verb. The true pedant, however, will always refer to a ‘bishop in fianchetto’, and never a ‘fianchettoed bishop’.’

– Hartston. B. 1997. Better Chess London, United Kingdom: Hodder Headline (2004) p. 26

Linguistic Diversity

According to the Swedish linguist Mikael Parkvall: ‘Languages are very unevenly distributed among the countries of the world.’ He lists the world’s countries with the largest number of languages:

  1. Papua New Guinea [823]
  2. Indonesia [726]
  3. Nigeria [505]
  4. India [387]
  5. Mexico [288]
  6. Cameroon [279]
  7. Australia [235]
  8. DR Congo [218]
  9. China [201]
  10. Brazil [192]
  11. United States [176]
  12. Philippines [169]
It’s curious how the linguistically most diverse country in the world is Papua New Guinea – because it’s also the place with the biggest biodiversity anywhere, one of the last places in the world where new species get discovered regularly. It leads one to wonder whether there could there be a single explanation for both phenomena?