Is "hangman" a gender neutral term?

Perhaps the question seems silly or obvious, but I found some information related to it that I think is interesting, and I'd like to be able to post an answer.

It was closed for two reasons: "lack of research" and not conforming to the prescribed format for single word requests.

  • I agree it should have shown more research. But this question has already been posed and the OP was last seen on this site in 2016. Closing it evidently did not have the helpful effect of motivating the OP to show more research. I don't think there is any benefit to having the question remain on this site in closed form rather than reopening it so that I can post my answer.

  • On the single-word-requests front: while I agree that the question isn't good as a single word request, it has some other facets to it. If you look at the title alone, it's not even obvious that it is a single word request at all. People who visit this page in the future may just want to learn information about the specific word "hangman," and I think I could add some valuable content about this topic, even though I can't contribute a useful single-word replacement.

As a practical matter, I doubt any future visitors to this site will look at this question to determine what constitutes an acceptable post on this site. It has a low profile: only 110 views. Also, it hasn't been purged from the site or anything: it's still visible to the public and indexed by Google. The argument that keeping it closed helps deter people from asking bad questions in the future relies on the idea that new members of the site will notice the closure banner and understand its significance, which I think is dubious considering that it seems many people only skim the text of questions. See Grace Note's post here: https://space.meta.stackexchange.com/a/150

You can see my posted answer on the linked page.

Other questions I found that I think are similar and that aren't closed:

  • A thesaurus should have been consulted to clearly exclude garroter. Hanger is also a borderline case of something that should have possibly have been checked. Also, while I'd like to say that the intended effect seems obvious, the exemplary sentence is an absolute requirement and just allowing anybody to add it vaguely defeats any point there might be in having it as a separate closure reason from unclear, which may just be why this question was closed.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 2:00
  • 1
    Well, closures seek to prevent certain maladies, like lazy or inapplicable answers that get over-voted, and any good answers on a closed question may help future viewers. It also serves to show that the rules are applied consistently, and as an example of what not to do. What should really be considered is how the benefits of reopening this outweigh the potential maladies. Your answer looks impressive, but it has the same gist as MetaEd's which mitigates against that. Would you provide a specific analysis of what you think the reasons for close are, and why they shouldn't apply in this case?
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 3:07
  • @Tonepoet: edited post to add some discussion of close reasons.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 3:19
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    If the title isn't obvious, surely the first thing to do is to edit the question to bring it on-topic/consistent/whatever. You can do that while it's closed, and it then stands a good chance of being re-opened. And you might not even need a Meta post because it would go into a reopen queue, which you could accelerate with your own vote.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 6:45
  • @AndrewLeach: There are multiple parts to the question, as I said. the SWR part is not obvious from the title, but that part of the question is the worst and there's little that can be done to improve it (I can't invent an example sentence showing the context in which the OP wanted to use the word, or go back in time to make the OP do research). As I said, I'm interested in answering the question about the meaning and usage of the specific word "hangman," not the SWR. But the SWR cannot be edited out of the question because that would invalidate the existing answer.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 7:15
  • In a nutshell to answer the OP, and not about the history of the term, the original title of the poem should remain as is because there is no gender neutral equivalent. (sarcasm) Why not suggest hang person, or hang human being, or hang Homo sapiens... ?(/sarcasm)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 8:16
  • Perhaps the real reason for the OP not "editing/fixing/including the research" was because he accepted the answer by MetaEd ♦. Evidently, he was satisfied with that sensible, albeit short, response.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 8:20
  • I voted to reopen specifically to give sumelic a chance to post an answer that contains information that sumelic thinks is interesting. The question is now open.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 8:25
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    Unfortunately, I cannot vote to close the question a second time. Because it still lacks research, at least when someone on meta argues to reopen a closed question they seek to improve the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 8:27
  • Although the question may be reopened as par your request Sumelic, you may just want to reconsider what you're thinking of doing right now. I think your answer deserves a better fate than whaat being under this particular question would give it. I think perhaps my solution might also satisfy the dissent of @MariLouA ? We obviously have enough people who can do it, if it's a good idea.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 12:51
  • Closed, open, really what's the big deal? Shouldn't the French version be the masculine 'Guillotin'? Is an assassin's female companion called 'Jill the Ripper'? Is a female surgeon in the UK titled 'Mrs'? Wait, that last one is probably a thing.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 13:33
  • @SvenYargs and other reopen voters: thank you for your help.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:36
  • Unless you are suggesting it should be closed ex-post-facto, I do not think the fisher question is a good example, because it predates the addition of the exemplary sentence requisite to single word requests in Septemper of 2015. I think questions should have general impunity from closure reasons they could not have possibly predicted at the time they were asked, or we risk closing many great questions. Granted, maybe a thesaurus should have been consulted, but my point is, it's not a 1:1 comparison in this regard, and even others too.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 15:47
  • 1
    Boo, now there's a bounty and we can't close it again Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 21:02
  • 2
    @curiousdannii: I do think that feature of bounties is unfortunate and maybe shouldn't exist
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 21:03

1 Answer 1



[Note: In the time that I've been gone, the question has actually been reopened so much of the foregoing might not make as much sense as I would have wanted it to have when I wrote the bulk of it, but I still think it is worth consideration.]

The entire body of the question is a . No answers are valid responses to those.

Grace Note's post is a reply suggests that setting an example is not sufficient reason to prevent deleting questions. That is different from reopening them just for the sake of reopening them. Also, there are at least some possible exceptions to the two possible state rule, and one is a duplicate. Duplicate questions are deemed to be helpful as potential search targets to a canonical question. Also worth note is that some very important, yet unsuitable posts are kept around as examples under historical lock, and don't always delete wrong answers because they serve as exemplars of what advice to avoid taking. Now the principle of every question having two fates, reopening or deletion, may have some hypothetical appeal, but the practical reality of the situation is that we have 21,255 closed questions dating back since the beginnings of the website in 2010 and that list is probably growing rather than shrinking.

Regardless of that, setting a good example for future users was a secondary point of mine at the most. The most important thing regarding these sorts of closed questions is their value to future viewers, as the ultimate goal to every stack exchange website is "to build a high quality library of detailed answers to every question about" its subject. There are some considerations to take into account regarding how we can best achieve this goal. The community bot does not just go on a rampage, deleting every closed question that is even over a year old, but rather checks for votes and acceptance too. It has this check for a reason: Decent answers to have value to people who see them, even on closed questions. The reason this question has not yet been purged in this case is because Meta Ed's answer had some positive reception presumed to be worthy of archiving.

As such, when you suggest the reason that reopening this question would be innocuous is because nobody is looking at it, this is somewhat of a double edged sword. You want to place the great answer you worked so hard on making on the very highest and hardest to reach bookshelf in the least visited section of the library where nobody, except the few of us reading this meta-thread, will even read it. I suppose that is better than complete unavailability, but by how much and for what purpose? This may be one of the reasons the help center asks us to answer well-asked questions. The questioner has already gotten their answer, and you seem to be of the opinion that they will never revisit the website, so it probably is not for their benefit, despite however admirable that would be in my opinion.

There is also not all too much of an underlying principle of fairness to it. We close questions and prevent all incoming answers to them frequently irrespective of their potential merit. If the closure was unfair, and the O.P. could still benefit from seeing the answer, perhaps I could see arguing to reopen it on that basis, but the question was rated fairly, has not been fixed and won't be fixed for the sake of nobody. The close reasons are still applicable. Are we going to start reopening old questions of all sorts? There is also a rather good chance that you might be wrong. New users stumble into old questions frequently, and do silly things that cause us to trigger protection with prejudice. I would also like to repeat that it is not at all useful to the questioner, unlike many of the questions we could probably be petitioning to reopen now on the basis that say, perhaps, research on their part would have been fruitless.

Reopening a bad question in light of these considerations seems like it would be optimizing for sand, not pearls.

Alternative Solutions

I would like to see your question officially published, but in this case, I think there are better ways to go about it.

If the member who originally visited can be safely presumed to never return, I see little to no good reason to keep this question under their stewardship. After almost a year, this appears to be their only post on the website, and it has been negatively received. Recording their contribution has no bearing on the perceived quality of any other post on the website, or any further presumable importance to them.

I see three possible courses of action that might be reasonable to take:

  1. Vote to delete
  2. Make a Duplicate and Make it Canonical
  3. Make a Duplicate to Merge

Option number one makes the most procedural sense, and can be done without diamond moderator intervention, because the question has a negative score, but it costs us MetaEd's answer. This would cost him a small bounty's worth of reputation, which is unfortunate, but is the answer currently worth keeping in its current state? It barely makes a reference to ngrams, and the link to the primary citation of the Canadian government rotted away from the face of the internet. It is unfortunately perhaps, a pretty good example of why questions that can be fairly closed should not be answered.

I am not well versed in the differences between options 2 and 3, other than the fact that they do require moderator intervention and seem somewhat abusive. These options would allow us to preserve MetaEd's answer if it has any lasting value to the website though, and it does not seem like it would be too hard to persuade him to make the extra effort to keep an answer he bothered to write if he still considers it worthwhile.

So what are the benefits to these solutions over reopening?

  1. No editorial constraints regarding O.P's intent: We could change the whole scope of the question if we wanted to do so, to make it better than it was before: Better, stronger, faster than it was before with research, quotations and an exemplary sentence of our choice. The higher quality may garner more views in the grand scheme of things.
  2. A member who more frequently visits the website would have control over the acceptance marker if ownership of the post changed. This allows us to have better discretion over it.
  3. As a new question, it should receive more publicity in the here and now, especially with a fresh slate. Even if we lost a good answer now, if that answer could be reposted it might get more attention in the long run with the improvements in place.

I think in this case, perhaps answering a well asked question, as par help center advice, will yield better results.

  • I upvoted because this seems to be a well-thought out post. I am not sure I agree though. Regarding deletion: it could probably be deleted without much loss, but in practice it wasn't during all the time it was closed. Maybe it would have been best, but I don't feel comfortable voting to delete MetaEd's answer. As you say, my posting the answer is not for the OP's benefit. I alluded to the reason in my post: it's for the benefit of any later visitors to the page. After all, I came across it: other people likely will also. Not a ton of people, but some.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:43
  • 3
    "We close questions and prevent all incoming answers to them frequently irrespective of their potential merit." This may be a good description of current policy, but I don't think I agree that it is good policy.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:44

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