The Stack Overflow podcast is back! Listen to an interview with our new CEO.
2 edited title
| link

What is the appropirateappropriate state of this question regarding feminizing girls?

source | link

What is the appropirate state of this question regarding feminizing girls?

Is there any verb for making a girl more girly? is closed, but I am having difficulty placing my finger on just why that is. I am not suggesting that it is a great question, but it does seem to meet the bare minimum requisites of the website.

Regarding Research

The first three close votes were for lack of research, and in the comments there was the following exchange:

"Have you looked up feminize in a dictionary? What did it say?" —Juhasz

"Google Dictionary says that it should be used on male."—Salman Khan (The Questioner)

Seeing that the questioner had done some research, and the source of confusion was explained in that second comment, I felt confident that I could lend a helping hand congruent with Stack Exchange's editing guidelines, which encourage us to edit in relevant comments and related resources. I did not comment because Stack Exchange's commenting guidelines advise against suggesting corrections that do not fundamentally change the meaning of the post. As such the best option seemed to be to lend the user a helping hand with using the system.

Stack exchange also requires citation for any material written by people other than the poster, but English Language & Usage specifically has local guidelines prohibiting the citation of Google's dictionary. This is not because the Google Dictionary is a bad resource; we know they presently license their dictionary from Oxford University Press. It is moreso because they are neither the primary resource, and they have been historically unreliable and nobody can say if or when they will decide to change allegiences to say, Merriam-Webster if a better deal comes along. They used to use some Cabridge definitions if I recall correctly.

So in knowing that the definitions were the same, I instead decided to cite an Oxford University Press source instead of google. When given the choice, I prefer to cite an indelible physical textbook, to safeguard against linkrot. It shouldn't make much diference to the meaning of the post in my opinion, since the information is provided is the same. To verify that assertion, here is a screenshot I took of the present Google results:

feminize Verb Make something more characteristic of or associated with women *induce female sexual characteristics in (a male)

This is clearly not a case of the questioner having have claimed to read something they did not since the comment matches the secondary definition. The specific citation I chose was the Oxford Dictionary of English, Third Edition. I chose that particular source to safeguard against link-rot. The idea here is that if Oxford's definitions should ever be taken offline, then a skeptic could verify the research using one of the many indelible hard-copies of the book. I also like citing the book, because it gives specific credits to the members of the lexicography team behind it. I figured changing the choice of citation would not matter so much just, so long as the information was the same as what the questioner saw, and we can check to see on Google Books to see that it is.

Also, yes, I realize that we are not supposed to answer general reference questions. but part of the test to determine if something is General Reference is not just if the resource is found through a web-search, but if it is well presented and easy to interpret. The questioner demonstrated difficulty parsing the resource, and I believe it is because the commonly available resources are poorly presented. Moreover, the present research standard exists in part to help prove that a question is not just general reference. If other people reach the same misunderstanding, I think a proper answer to an issue such as this can help.

Therefore, everything seems to be in accordance to due procedure for all practical intents and purposes in this regard, except for perhaps one thing. Usually we expect questioners asking to look in a thesaurus to make sure there are not any immediately obvious synonyms. Perhaps it is for this reason the question is closed, but it is worth noting that if there were synonyms, they probably would have been listed alongside Google's definitions.

Crossreference with these google define results for beauty:

A screenshot showing synonyms for beauty when used as a noun, including beautiful woman, belle vision, charmer, enchantress, venus, et cetera.

Perhaps just as importantly, if not moreso, if we check the results, which are based on Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus 3rd edition it still shows no synonyms. Oxford Dictionaries sometimes lists synonyms, but again none show up there. I think the questioner's efforts would have returned a result here.

If this is the problem, would I be correct in assuming that "no results found" does not conflict with the questioner's intention, and that we could rectify this with an edit, or would this be beyond the scope of editing because the questioner had not expressed this?

Regarding Single Word Request Requirements

Aside from the minor thesaurus problem, which is more of a research issue and a debatable one at that, everything seems to be in proper order here. The closure reason reads as such:

Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests"

Now admittedly, this is not the most detailed question in the world, but it has all of the core elements regarding context specified in the questions checklist:

  • Does the question describe exactly in what context you want to use a single word?

There is a quotation which demonstrates the sort of context being used. This also serves as the exemplary sentence.

  • Does the question specify the criteria by which the suggested word will be accepted? (How will you choose the best word? What is "best"?)

The answer should be accepted if it is a verb that can be used to describe making females more feminine.

  • Does the question list which words you didn't like, and why they aren't suitable?

Feminize was considered, and it was discarded because consultation with a dictionary implied that the word in question could not be used for females.

Does the question show that you searched for a suitable word before asking the question?


Note that while the information states that there must be a sample sentence, it does not suggest that it must be in the form of a fill in the blank sentence. For all intents and purposes, i think the exemplary context provided suffices.

It seems to me like this question should certainly not be closed for this reason. Am I mistaken, and if so, why? I mean I know the question is short, but I do not think we have strict guidelines on length beyond the minimal character count. This might not be a great question, but closure seems like an extreme and purposeless response in this case.

Regarding Formatting

The reason I titled the question this way is that besides the reasons that affect open/closed status, there was also a slight editorial dispute regarding my personal revision of the question, regarding how I formatted the quotation. I specifically wrote it like this:

Make (something) more characteristic of or associated with women
"as office roles changed, clerical work was increasingly feminized"
Induce female sexual characteristics in (a male).

Jason Bassford launched a complaint regarding this:

The most recent edit to the question is conflating two different senses of the word in a way that is misleading. The source material shows a square before the secondary meaning of the word, delineating the fact that the second sentence is a secondary meaning—not part of the definition of the same sense. This is made apparent by looking at the online definition that was provided in an earlier comment.

I do admit that there was some intent behind the particular way I formatted the question. However, it was not to mislead anybody. Instead, I was concerned with properly representing the Cause of the problem, which I believe to be poor presentation. I do not believe either Google or the Oxford Dictionary of English do a very good job of formatting the entry in question, I could not figure out how to represent the square even if I wanted to copy oxford.

More importantly, I specifically wanted to format the quotation in a way that represented what the questioner saw, which is how it is presented on Google. If you re-examine the above screenshot, you will see that there are three lines that are squished relatively close together, and there are limited tools in markdown to represent that. Perhaps on second thought I could have formatted it like this to try and get the bullet point in:

Make (something) more characteristic of or associated with women
"as office roles changed, clerical work was increasingly feminized"

  • Induce female sexual characteristics in (a male).
  • But not only does that look ugly, at least as rendered in my browser (the Windows 10 64 bit Firefox version 67.0), but it looks very different from what Google presented.

    Shortly after Jason made the complaint, a third party editor decided to clean things up, which is congruent with editing guidelines like so:

    • Make (something) more characteristic of or associated with women "as office roles changed, clerical work was increasingly feminized"

    • Induce female sexual characteristics in (a male).

    It also obscures the problem somewhat in my opinion. Is this a legitimate concern, and if so what sort of solution do I have available for that? Would it be permissible to include a google screenshot as a related resource, and if so what would be the best way to do that?

    I was not going to bother asking about it, but I figure I might as well since I am asking about it on meta anyway.

    In closing there are three issues:

    1. What is wrong with the provided research, do editing guidelines allow us to fix it ourselves given what we know, and if so how?
    2. How does this fail to meet requirements?
    3. What is the best way to format this question to accurately represent what the questioner saw?