Quora Question: What is the meaning, in every interpretation imaginable, of the expression: “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

It is another way of expressing the fundamental point made by the proverb “Physician, heal thyself” (quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:23), and it relies, for its effectiveness, on the irony inherent in the situation it depicts. It is the same sort of irony that is expressed in the jibes of the scribes and elders who stood by at the Crucifixion and mocked: “He saved others; himself he cannot save” (Matt. 27:42).

A similar sentiment is expressed in the proverb “Charity begins at home.” In the light of this proverb, the implication in the saying about the cobbler is: How good a cobbler can he possibly be if he cannot provide shoes for his own children? The fact that his own children go shoeless calls into question his ability as a cobbler—not to mention his ability as a parent. Just as one’s charity to others is worth nothing if one is not charitable to one’s own family (or one’s immediate associates), so one’s metaphorical cobbling (that is, one’s outward display of good works) is of little value if one cannot (or will not) metaphorically cobble for one’s own family.

There is, thus, in the saying a veiled accusation of hypocrisy on the part of the metaphorical cobbler: he or she does not apply the same standards to himself (and his family) as he does to others. The saying is, then, a perhaps not-so-gentle rebuke of the hypocritical, rather than merely a sardonic comment on some simple irony of life.

What is the meaning, in every interpretation imaginable, of the expression: “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”?

Quora Question: What is the difference between a metaphor and personification?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

In personification, something that is not human is imagined to be human and given human characteristics. This is often done for inanimate things as well as for concepts and abstractions.

For example, in the sentence: “Misfortune stalked my grandfather all his life,” misfortune is imagined as a person stalking (following or chasing or going behind) my grandfather.

Another example: If a writer describes a rainstorm with the words: “The heavens wept,” he or she would be personifying the heavens (the sky) by creating the image of the sky crying (the rain being the tears that fall from the sky’s “eyes”).

Here is yet another example: In English, we have a well-known saying, “Fortune favours the brave.” Here, fortune is personified, that is, it is imagined as a human being with a mind that can bestow favour on people and things—or withhold favour, if that is what it chooses to do. Fortune is said to bestow favour on those are brave, just as a king, for example, might bestow favour on one of his generals, or on someone who pleases him in his kingdom.

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare writes: “Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief ….” Here, Shakespeare personifies both the sun and the moon. He imagines the sun as a person who is going to kill the moon. Similarly, he imagines the moon as an envious person who is sad and therefore sick and pale.


In metaphor, something is presented or described in terms of something else that has some important characteristic(s) in common with the original thing.

For example, if a writer describes an old person as being in the evening of his or her life, the writer is using evening as a metaphor. Here, “evening” is being used as a metaphor for old age. Just as evening comes at the end of the day, so old age comes at the end of a person’s life. This common element is what connects old age and the evening and makes evening a suitable metaphor for old age.

In metaphor, there is no requirement that the image that is used should be treated or described as a person. A thing can be used as a metaphor for a person; a person can be used as a metaphor for a thing.

For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare writes: “What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Here, Shakespeare is using the sun (a thing) as a metaphor for Juliet (a person). She is bright and shining, just as the sun is bright and shining. Shakespeare uses this common characteristic to create his metaphor of Juliet as the sun.

On the other hand, in Sonnet 18, Shakespeare writes: “Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines ….” Here, he is using the eye (a part of the human body) as a metaphor for the sun (a thing), without even mentioning the sun or saying that the sun is the eye of heaven. He simply refers to it as “the eye of heaven” and we know from the context that he is referring to the sun. The metaphor is simply substituted for the thing it stands for.

What is the difference between a metaphor and personification?

Does the use of chiasmus infer a false dichotomy in rhetoric?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

Before I answer your question, I should point out that the word “infer” in the question should be “imply.” People infer things from what they hear and see and read. What they hear, see, and read—those things imply something.

Now to answer your question:

First of all, the chiasmus does not essentially involve an “either … or” choice. It is merely a reversal of words or an inversion of meaning for special effect. It may produce an “either … or” choice in some situations, but this is not an essential feature of the chiasmus, as will become clear below.

A very common chiasmus is the saying: “Some people eat to live; others live to eat.” Notice how the word order is reversed and the meaning inverted in the second half of the statement, but there is no “either … or” choice and therefore no “false dichotomy.” Both parts of the statement are true, and because they are juxtaposed in this very special head-to-toe way, they strike the listener as particularly meaningful. The statement is an indirect indictment of gluttony, and it is very powerful even though it does not directly say that gluttony is a bad thing. Notice that both parts of the statement cannot be true at the same time: if you eat in order to live, you will naturally stop eating when you have had enough sustenance to meet that goal, and you are automatically prevented from being a glutton (that is, “living to eat”). There is indeed a dichotomy here, but it is not a false one at all.

The chiasmus is used far more often in literature than it is in rhetoric. It is primarily a literary device. Its use in rhetoric is derived from its effectiveness as a literary device for placing things in sharp contrast to each other in a very compact and clever—and therefore memorable—way. John F. Kennedy’s famous chiasmus is so easily remembered precisely for this reason: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Bill Clinton said in one of his speeches, “People around the world are more impressed by the power of our example than by examples of our power.” Once again, the switching of the word order make the statement immediately memorable, since all that the listener has to do is remember two words and reverse their order. It is in this simplicity that the power of the chiasmus resides.

When the chaismus is use as a literary device, it is very effective in driving home profound truths. When it is used as a rhetorical device, it may be used duplicitously to win an argument or to ridicule one’s opponent in a debate—but not necessarily so. Duplicity is not something inherent in the chiasmus. Other literary and rhetorical devices can also be misused or used duplicitously. Shakespeare did indeed use the chiasmus frequently, but not always was duplicity involved. In Macbeth, in the opening scene, the three witches declare: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”—in a very dramatic foreshadowing of the entire play, which is about how Macbeth turns the normal social order upon its head.

The chiasmus is not generally associated with alliteration. It would be extremely difficult to produce an alliterative chiasmus, and much of the chiasmic effect would be lost in the alliteration. The power of the chiasmus resides in the switching of positions of very different sounding words. In order for the listener to recognizes that the position of the words has been switched, the words have to be sufficiently different from each other to make the switch noticeable. Thus, a alliterative chiasmus would not work very well.

The sound of the chiasmus was always the point. It was developed by the Ancient Greeks (and other ancient cultures) at a time when the primary mode of communication was the spoken mode. As I mentioned earlier, the reversal of the sounds of the words was what made the chiasmus a very memorable and effective literary and rhetorical device. However, the sound is only secondary to the meaning. What enchants the listener is the very profound truth that emerges from a simple reversal of words and the resulting (often dramatic) inversion of meaning.

The chiasmus often involves word play. Thus, words may shift their meaning slightly as they get moved around in the second part of the chiasmus. Notice in Bill Clinton’s chiasmus quoted above—”the power of our example” and “examples of our power”—both “power” and “example” shift their meaning slightly as they get reversed in the second half of the chaismus. Comedians often use the chiasmus for comic effect to drive home profound truths through ridicule and this often involves word play as well. For example, the comedian Chris Addison is reported to have said: “The right to bear arm is slightly less ridiculous than the right to arm bears.” Notice how he puns on the meaning of the word “bear” and how the shift in meaning makes the chiasmus even more powerful than it would otherwise have been.

I could go on, but I hope that answers your question.

Does the use of chiasmus infer a false dichotomy in rhetoric?

Quora Question: How do I insert in-text IEEE-styled citation in Word 2013 with incrementing index?

Question details:

When I insert citations for more than one source the index stays [1] it never adds up. How do I make it increment automatically e.g. “… text …. source 1 [1] … text … source 2 [2]”


Answer by Mike Mendis:

I am not sure what problem you are referring to, but I will describe how the citations are inserted under various scenarios. I have no difficultly adding and inserting citations using the method described below, so I hope this description helps you.

  • Click on the References tab.
  • In the References tab, beside the “Style” option, select IEEE.
  • When you need to insert a new citation into your text for a source that you have not cited before, click on “Insert citation.”
  • From the drop-down menu, select “Add New Source.”
  • A window will pop up and you will be able to enter the details for the new source.
  • Repeat the last three steps listed above each time you want to insert a citation to a new source. Microsoft Word 2013 will automatically insert the appropriate next number in the sequence into your text. So, if the last citation you inserted was [3], Word will insert [4] when you cite the fourth new source.
  • If you are inserting a citation to an already listed source, that is, a source that you have already cited before, click on “Insert citation” and from the drop-down menu, select the source that you want from the list of already entered sources (listed in alphabetical order at the top of the drop-down menu). Microsoft Word 2013 will insert the appropriate number into your text, corresponding to the number of the source.
  • If you want to enter multiple citations one after another, repeat the last step just listed for each additional citation., doing so one directly after the other. Unfortunately, you have to remember the order in which you entered your sources, since the drop-down menu lists the sources in alphabetical order rather than the order in which you referred to them.
  • If you cannot remember the order in which you entered your sources, then follow this procedure: Move the cursor to the very end of your text. Then, in the References tab, click on “Bibliography” and select “References” from the drop-down menu. This will insert a References section at the point where the cursor is located. Here, in the References section that has just been created and inserted, your sources will be listed in numerical order [1], [2], [3], etc. Use this as a guide to help you select the source in the correct numerical order from the alphabetical list mentioned above.

How do I insert in-text IEEE-styled citation in Word 2013 with incrementing index?

Quora Question: I’m having trouble understanding the difference between Monophysitism and Dyophysitism, and how the Catholic Church views these ideas

Question details:

Were both positions rejected by the Catholics via the councils or is Dyophysitism a Catholic Christology? The more I read about these ideas, the less clear they become. It seems to me that each position is so malleable that the distinctions are difficult for me to see. And this was a big big deal back in the day, so I want to understand it. I understand how Apollinarism was sort of an “over reaction” to Arianism but when I go into the details it just seems like a lot of splitting hairs. I know it is important to clarify Christ’s identity, but it seems like the “clarifications” just make it less clear (for me, anyway).. Please help.. thank you!


Answer by Mike Mendis:

Monophysitism is the view or teaching that Christ had only one nature, either entirely divine or, in some versions, a seamless blend of human and divine such that the two were inseparable. The Roman Catholic Church rejected this view as a heresy at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 C.E.

Dyophysitism is the view, teaching, or doctrine that Christ had two distinct natures in one person, united and in perfect harmony, but nevertheless separate and distinct. This is the orthodox Roman Catholic teaching today and has been since 451 C.E., when the Council of Chalcedon endorsed dyophysitism. The concept is paradoxical in much the same way as the doctrine of the Trinity is paradoxical: the trinity calls for three persons in one God; dyophysitism calls for two natures in one person. It is a paradox within a paradox (somewhat like Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels).

The Church had to insist on dypohysitism in order to salvage the doctrine of the atonement and the idea of salvation through the death of Christ. Monophysitism would simply not do, for if Christ had only one nature (the divine), he could not have died, and the doctrine of the atonement would fall apart. Even the “seamless blend” version of monophysitism would not do, for it did not allow for a proper death. Dyophysitism was the only way to preserve Christ’s sacrificial, redemptive death: it made it possible for him to die in his status as human and yet remain God (and thereby immortal) by virtue of his divine nature.

Apollinarianism was the view that Christ had a human body and a human soul but a divine mind, this divine mind being the Logos of John 1:1. It was a sort of compromise position that attempted to smooth over the  paradoxes and contradictions inherent in Christology that were becoming increasingly apparent by the fourth century C.E. As is obvious, the prevailing view of human nature among Christians at the time was a tripartite one, namely, that human nature consists of three parts: body, soul, and mind, a view that was endorsed in the epistles of Paul. Apollinarianism was a way of getting out of the seemingly absurd position that Christ had both a human mind and a divine mind. This sort of problem did not, of course, arise with the body and the soul, since the divine nature was not tripartite, like human nature. God’s only attribute (in terms of his “composition”) is mind. Thus, Apollinaris argued that the human mind in Christ was replaced with the divine mind, as a way of blending the divine into the human.

Quite naturally, the Church rejected Apollinarianism as a heresy, because it diminished the humanity of Christ, even if it preserved his divinity intact. If Christ did not have a human mind, he was not completely human and this, again, diminished the value of the atonement. In order for the atonement to have its full salvific value, Christ had to be fully human and at the same time fully divine, paradoxical though this might be.

If you feel that this is hair-splitting, you are quite right: it is. But it was a hair-splitting that was indispensable if the Church was to maintain an internally consistent system of beliefs.

Having trouble understanding difference between Monophysitism and Dyophysitism, and how the Catholic church views these ideas?

Quora Question: How do I use “whole” and when to use “entire”?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

“Entire” is a slightly more formal synonym for “whole.” Their meanings overlap considerably and for the most part they can be used interchangeably, keeping in mind the slightly different levels of formality and the differences in grammar (see the next paragraph).

As far as grammar goes, “entire” is always an attributive adjective (that is, it can appear only in front of a noun), whereas “whole” is both attributive and predicative (that is, it appears after a linking verb or directly after a noun).

To illustrate the difference between attribute and predicative adjectives, we can quite correctly say: “This is not the entire chapter,” but we cannot say: “This chapter is not entire.” However, we can say: “I am not whole” or “I do not feel whole” to express the idea that something is missing in my life. We would never, of course, say, “I am not entire” or “I do not feel entire.”

Another example of the predicative use of “whole” would be: “He swallowed the goldfish whole” (where “whole” comes directly after the noun). We would never say: “He swallowed the goldfish entire.” Clearly, “entire” can be used only directly before the noun in all cases.

There is one use of “entire” that does not overlap with that of “whole,” namely, its use to mean “absolute, complete, unconditional, unqualified, unreserved.” Here are some examples:

  • That’s entire guesswork on your part. (absolute, complete)
  • I am in entire agreement with you. (absolute, complete, unconditional, unqualified, unreserved)
  • The report is based on entire speculation and has no grounding in reality. (absolute, complete)

In these cases, you cannot use “whole” in the place of “entire.”

The reverse is also true. That is, there are contexts in which “entire” cannot be used to replace “whole.” There are certain terms and expressions that must use “whole” because they have taken on the status of technical terms. Here are some:

whole foods; whole wheat; whole grains; whole milk; whole cloth; whole number; whole language learning, whole body massage, whole brain teaching, whole brain stimulation, etc.

We cannot use “entire” instead of “whole” in these terms and expressions. Here, “whole” has the idea of “in one single piece” or “not having anything missing.” This is a meaning that “entire” does not have, and that is another reason why it is not interchangeable with “whole” in these expressions. This is also the case with sentence about the goldfish given above.

How do I use whole and when to use entire?

Quora Question: What was lost when the first word was written?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

We lost our capacity to commit large amounts of information to memory (though not immediately, of course). We also gradually lost a rich oral tradition of ballads and balladeers, of storytelling and storytellers, along with the public enactment of myths, legends, and didactic drama (along the lines of the medieval passion plays and the Punch and Judy show).

We lost community and collective identity and opened the door to individuality and individualism. Prior to writing, the communitarian spirit resided in the shared memories of members of the community. When that shared body of memories was committed to written texts, community gradually dissolved.

We lost intergenerational connectedness, a space in which family traditions and community lore were passed down orally from one generation to the next. The elderly became redundant, since their experience and “wisdom” were no longer needed. History became something to be written down in books and studied in school rather than something to be learned from those who had lived it or who had known people who had lived it.

Of course, the losses were offset by gains. That is the other side of the story, and it should not be ignored.

What was lost when the first word was written?

Would reading and studying Shakespeare closely help me build up a better vocabulary as a native English speaker?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

Yes, but a lot of words that Shakespeare used are now out of date or at least have dropped out of common usage—words such as “moiety,” “forsooth,” and “contumely.” You would never come across these words in contemporary English and you would make heads turn if you used them in everyday conversation.

The best reason for reading and studying the works of Shakespeare is to develop insight into human nature. Shakespearean vocabulary will not help you very much in the twenty-first century. There are other more recent authors whose writings would serve that purpose better.

Would reading and studying Shakespeare closely help me build up a better vocabulary as a native English speaker?

Quora Question: Is “To refuse to deny” equal to “To admit”?

Question details:

In the sentence, “Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to deny reports that  border officials paid people-smugglers to take boats full of  asylum-seekers back to
Indonesia,” does “refused to deny” the same as “admitted”?


Answer by Mike Mendis:

“Refuse to deny” is typical political and journalistic language, used by both politicians and journalists to avoid making direct statements one way or the other. It is typically evasive and deliberately non-committal in order to offer protection to the politician or the journalist who is using it. As such, it is technically not equal to “admit.”

However, readers of the statement will naturally wonder why the Prime Minister refused to deny the report. If the report was false, he could have said so. If he did not know whether the report was true or false, he could also have said so. Refusing to deny the report tells the reader that the report may very well be true, but that the Prime Minister cannot, for political reasons, admit that it is. Nobody is fooled by the evasive language, but the Prime Minister and the journalist who reported on the story are protected by the way the sentence is worded.

This kind of language comes under the broad category of what is known as “plausible deniability.” In this particular case, the Prime Minister can later on say that he did not lie, if it is proved by some other means that the report is true. The journalist, too, can say that he or she did not say anything that was false with regard to what the Prime Minister said.

Is “To refuse to deny” equal to “To admit”?

I can speak English and I understand English. But, I am unable to understand even the basic terms of English grammar? What can I do?

Answer by Mike Mendis:

First of all, you need to think carefully about whether you really need to put so much effort into understanding grammar. For normal purposes, if you can communicate fairly well in English (and it seems, from your question, that you can), then an in-depth understanding of grammar is not really necessary. If you are considering becoming an English teacher or entering a profession in which English is central to what you do, then it would be worth your while to undertake the task of developing a thorough knowledge of grammar. However, if this is not where you are headed, then your time would be better spent immersing yourself in English by reading and watching English movies and TV programs and communicating with native English speakers, and thereby developing an intuitive sense of the idiom of the language.

The vast majority of native English speakers have about as limited an understanding of English grammar as you do (and some even less). Yet they manage to use the language with sufficient facility for most practical purposes. So, unless you need an understanding of English grammar for professional purposes, I would advise you not to worry about it and to put your energies into improving your English through pleasurable activities, such as those mentioned above.

If you still want to improve your understanding of English grammar, you can always use Quora to ask questions about the things that you find confusing or unclear, and you will find no shortage of people who would be willing to help you.

I can speak English and I understand English. But, I am unable to understand even the basic terms of English grammar? What can I do?