Context is this question: What does drenched book mean?

I think, initially, that it was an on-topic question, to which the only reasonable on-topic answer is: no, there is no English definition of "drenched" that aids in understanding this phrase in this context.

I speculated it had some meaning to whomever originally scanned/uploaded the book (maybe indicated the software used, or the person who scanned it, or something else). Someone else speculated it indicated the book was disposed of after scanning.

But in any case, it is no longer a question about the English language.

Compare, if you will, this closed question about the phrase "two days either side of a dash". The question was fine, but the answer required knowledge of a particular story/allegory, and wasn't really about the plain English meaning of the words themselves.

Or imagine if someone posted a question asking: Someone said to me: "Luke, I am your father", but my name isn't Luke, and I have no kids. Is there some hidden meaning of the word "Luke" or "father"? This question clearly has an answer, but it isn't an answer on-topic for English.SE.

2 Answers 2


A question about a word used by a Library with a large collection of English books and a website in English, however arcane the usage of that word, should be on topic on ELU.

I took the direct approach. I e-mailed the Library at their "contact us" e-mail address.

Dear Sir or Madam: The use of the term "This book has been drenched" has aroused great interest on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. See https://english.stackexchange.com/tour.

The particular question that brought "drenched book" to our attention is at What does drenched book mean?. I am one of the users who attempted to explain the usage, but although I think I know what you mean -- that the book was deaccessioned after being digitized -- none of us know why the word "drenched" was used. Can you kindly explain your selection of the word drenched?

Naturally, if our interpretation is incorrect -- that the books were deaccessioned -- we hope that you will give us the correct explanation. I am asking for your help as one of the users of the site; I am not an official of the site.

Thank You. -- [My Real Name] --

  • 2
    +1 BRAVx (select appropriate x from {a,o}). Aug 30, 2017 at 17:59
  • Did you get a reply? Mar 4, 2019 at 17:32
  • @TimLymington -- No, I did not get a reply.
    – ab2
    Mar 4, 2019 at 21:35

I disagree that either question is not on-topic. One aspect of ELU's purpose is to tease out unusual uses of English.

In the question What does drenched book mean? we have a documented highly esoteric use of a word. It's arguably so esoteric as to be wrong. Does that make the question off-topic? No: the meaning of the word has been found and explained. What is missing from the accepted answer is why that word was used; but a partial answer is still valid.

In the question Meaning of "two days either side of a dash" (from a motivational speech) the answer does not "require knowledge of a particular story/allegory". It might be a cultural reference, but it is referring to a typographical mark used in the representation of dates in English. The language problem is distinguishing this dash from dash as "sprint", and then explaining that the use of days would be better referring to dates.

A question about "Luke, I am your father" is likely to require knowledge of the Star Wars saga and characters' relationships and history within that world, and then refer that to the asker's situation. That would not be "the nuts and bolts of the language" which I use as a convenient shorthand. However I would argue that the two questions linked here are on-topic.

  • Well I'm not convinced that someone's post to a random 2012 usenet thread means the strange phrase has been "found and explained", but I suppose you're being consistent.
    – BradC
    Aug 30, 2017 at 17:19
  • @Brad I don't think the original question has been answered satisfactorily—yet. So far we've got two answers that speculative. Asking a library is a great idea, and I've done that at least once before in regard to questions asked here. Aug 31, 2017 at 16:00

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