The Dancing Plague of 1518

Vitmor Gomes recently shared on Quora one of the most fascinating Medieval stories I’ve heard: the dancing plague of 1518. In July 1518, in the town of Strasbourg, Alsace (now France), something unexpected happened. A housewife, called Frau Troffea, came out of...

The Epicene Pronoun and Singular They

Back in 2016, I had written about the appeal and long history of singular they. I recently found myself referring to this old post on Quora, during an argument with someone who claimed its use was a mistake. “Singular they” is a so-called epicene pronoun:...

Unsung Heroines: Susie King Taylor

In honor of Women’s Day, I thought I’d share with you the story of Susie King Taylor as told on Quora by Karin Muller. Susie King Taylor Every day at 9 am, Susie King Taylor and her brother would walk the half a mile to the small schoolhouse, their books...

How Latin Became Modern Italian

In my last post, I explored some ways in which a new language is born. This post examines one of the best-known historical examples (at least for anyone in the West): the way that Latin became modern Italian. As Luca Guala explains on Quora, the road taken was neither...

A New Language Born

So, you have decided to go full-Tolkien and create your own language. But wait – how are languages formed, anyway? I mean, we know that languages die all the time. But are new languages ever born? This is exactly what Simge Topaloğlu discusses on Quora. As he...

Early Wheat Recipes

I recently wrote about what ancient Greeks and Romans used to eat. But how about earlier people? If your fantasy takes place in a neolithic or even paleolithic setting, then you can spice it up (pun intended) with these early wheat recipes, courtesy of Alice Twain of...

The Real Robinson Crusoe

Everyone has heard of Robinson Crusoe. But how many know the real-life inspiration behind the character? As Alex Turner explains on Quora, this would be Alexander Selkirk: Selkirk was a Scottish sailor, born in 1676. He was a rather hotheaded man, who tended to look...

A Wizard’s Hat

Have you ever wondered where the pointy wizard hat stereotype stems from? Someone on Quora did and Wendy Carolan had the answer. Where Does the Idea of the Wizard’s Hat Come from? As you can well imagine, the question here refers to the stereotypical pointy blue...

Are There Any Primitive Languages?

Once again, Quora has a great answer on linguistics — and the emergence of language in particular. As Thomas Wier points out, the faculty of language is far, far older than our own species. And that, surprisingly, explains why there is no primitive language. Early...

Old Anglo-Saxon Character Names

As someone who knows how hard it can be to choose a character name for your fantasy novel, I came across some interesting discussions on Quora (here and here). They concerned the letter Æ and the evolution of old Anglo-Saxon names. I hope you find it as interesting as...