Someone voted to close my question for a reason that I do not understand. It looks to be a straightforward question about the usage of word in the English language. What would be the reason for these accumulating votes to close because it "does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center."

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because nothing to do with ELL – Fattie

My question seems to be well received, has generated positive discussion and two thoughtful answers that have both been well received as well.

In fact, the two answers disagree with each other, and right now one has 6 up votes and the other has 10. So really, is this not actually quite a good ELU SE question?

As I see it, so far this site has not converged on an answer. There is not agreement or consensus here. This is still literally an open question. How is the goal of SE achieved, and how are future readers best served by closing it so quickly, in this state?

I've accepted one answer because it makes the most sense to me, and I think it is correct. The problem seems to be with the shorter definitions relying on the term "unclear" without the context of there being an audio recording in which the spoken words might be unclear, rather than the speaker's meaning.

Why must further discussion be prevented?

screen shot

note: There are more comments since this screenshot.

  • 2
    FWIW, your question has 4 close votes. Only one of them is "has nothing to do with ELL". The other three are for "general reference", which, reading your question, I assume the consensus among those 3 non-Fattie users was "well, you have obfuscate in hand, did a mosey through a thesaurus starting there bear fruit? If not, what did you find, and why didn't it meet the need?". But I'm not a mind-reader, and I'm not one of the close-voters, so that's the best I can tell you.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:22
  • @DanBron It would be an unethical experiment to do, but I have a hunch that if one decorated a random sample of questions from new users with low rep with the kiss-of-death "I'm voting to close this because it has nothing to do with X" that these would often collect additional reflexive (as in knee-jerk) close votes that wouldn't have occurred otherwise. I can't prove it because I'm (trying to appear to be) ethical. So that first, bold "I'm voting to close" needs to be done thoughtfully, with purpose. I'm asking what the purpose was in this case. Question is about usage; why the thesaurus?
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:31
  • 2
    Fattie's close vote looks like the most recent, not the first. And it's on a totally separate "reason", and Fattie was the only one to vote for that reason, so that particular close-vote did not trigger a pile-on effect. In general, while I see an unmistakeable pile-on effect for up- and down-votes, rarely do I see them for close-votes. The close-vote UX is actually subtle enough that it doesn't draw the eye at all, unless one is already look directly at that element, which is usually only if one has already decided to click it. That is, when I've already decided to closevote.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:37
  • @DanBron thanks for the information about the reasons. I believe there was only one close vote when that first (now deleted) message was there (2017-9-10 in the five minutes between 21:30:18z and 21:35:37z), and that's the reason I asked. Later the number was 2, and then 4. That's what I recollect and that's why I questioned the user as soon as I saw it.
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:43
  • Oh, I see. Well, I can't tell you any more than you can see yourself. I personally doubt Fattie's vote tipped any scales on that question.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:45
  • 1
    @DanBron OK, Fattie didn't tip the scales.
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


I'd welcome additional answers that help me understand why (at least) three other users felt the question should be closed.

But for one of the votes there is a definitive answer:

I have no idea what you mean. I typed the words "has nothing to do with ELU" in the www form. As I have said some, seven? times now, I gave little thought to what I typed there. (In the future, to avoid problems like this, I will simply type nothing, which is what almost everyone does.) – Fattie

Edit: A clearer reason has now appeared:

"Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic." – David, Rory Alsop, Edwin Ashworth, Josh

In some SE sites if the prior research which is already present in the question was considered insufficient, a helpful comment asking for it would have appeared fairly quickly, or at the very least the first close vote would have indicated the proper reason, instead of "has nothing to do with ELL (sic)" in this case, which seems to have served more to mis-direct me than to help me improve the question).

Anyway, I will try to look deeper into how to discern between insufficient and sufficient prior research. I'd appreciate any helpful comments about how I could have improved it in this case. Thanks!

  • 3
    You can't "type nothing" into the "custom close reason" box. Well, you can copy/paste invisible Unicode characters, but that's a lot of work and I don't think I've ever seen it actually done for close-voting. The closest to "typing nothing" I've seen is precisely typing "blatantly off-topic, nothing to do with English" (e.g. asking for relationship advice). Precisely because you can't type nothing, and typing something is more work than tying nothing, people do try to avoid being the first to enter a custom close reason.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 12:02
  • 3
    But after that, choosing that reason is as easy for the next close-voter to choose as any other, so people will pick it if they think it's the most fitting close reason, and otherwise will close-vote (or not) as they would have if that reason had never been posted.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 12:03

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