Which word begins with "y" and looks like an axe in this picture?

Apparently, the question no longer deserves to be open and was locked on January 9, 2018. Is this a surprise for anyone? Maybe a discussion was held somewhere, maybe on meta, maybe on chat? I don't remember seeing it. Can someone post me the link, please?

A question which was upvoted 440 times. An answer that was upvoted an incredible, and jaw-dropping 837 times. (I'm counting all the upvotes)

The question, posted on June 23 2017, and visited 91,835 times is now locked. Seemingly, forever. No one can ever upvote or downvote any post.

I really don't recall any ballyhoo about the quality of the answers posted, but there were a few users who sustained the question was off topic but it was never closed by the community. Never. Despite the thousands of visitors and the hundreds of votes cast.

Does the community realise that the question, one day, can now be silently deleted without anyone being consulted? Without anyone knowing.

We should have a discussion, there should be greater transparency between users and elected mods. I would like to hear if there are users who support locking this question, and perhaps, one day look forward to seeing it being deleted.

It's been pointed out, in the comments below, that locking a question is not the antechamber leading to its deletion. However, if a question is locked because it does not comply with ELU"s standards then it stands to reason that it's more likely to be deleted in the future despite the considerable attention and votes it attracted.

In fact, popular questions with good answers have been silently deleted in the past. In addition, I submit the following observation where a respected user is undecided which disturbs him the most…

(b) that a question 'not [...] an ELU level question [, and ...] not answered by English, but by contacting certain people about a toy ball' [and not appropriate on ELL either] took so long to be deleted. (c) that the voting system allows such an endorsement of a question that so clearly violates the intended purpose of ELU.

I respect this user and his opinion, I appreciate the reasons given for his lack of enthusiasm but would he agree that the question should have been locked or deleted without consulting the community? It's the second most popular question, vote-wise, on EL&U. This is the point I am trying to make.

Moreover, it's not just about Dan Bron's answer, some of the other answers on "Y" questions are of a similar high standard. For example, the answers by Theraot, 1006a and ab2 were serious attempts at answering the English language question, not about the “toy ball”. Locking the OP hints that Bron's superb research, plus the time and effort spent in crafting his answer should not be held as an example of a "high-quality" answer. Did the mod who locked the post consider this aspect?

And finally, the non-native speaker, who posted the question genuinely wanted to know why a child's toy ball had a picture of an ax(e) next to the letter Y.

Can someone help me identify which English word is depicted in Y?

Can someone please explain why that doesn't qualify as an English language question?

UPDATE January 15 2018

Anything in particular you would like to know via this meta? Is this a call to unlock it? Or just looking for "why" it was locked? Something else? @NVZ

I was looking for an explanation as to how the second most popular question (based on the number of upvotes) which was never closed by the community, that was praised and rewarded by the Stack Exchange team, could suddenly, and inexplicably, be locked from one day to the next without any forewarning. For users who may be interested, please see Andrew Leach's ♦ comment and tchrists's ♦ closing knell.

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    I wasn’t aware. Thanks for bringing my attention to it. I’d be interested in MetaEd’s reasoning. I’m not miffed, but I am now curious. Thanks for asking this Q. – Dan Bron Jan 13 '18 at 0:33
  • @DanBron so no one even hinted to you that the question could be locked. No one told you before tonight? Allow me to be miffed on your behalf. – Mari-Lou A Jan 13 '18 at 0:35
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    Haha. Thank you for the moral support! I mean it! But I’m a regular user, and the mods are under no obligation to consult me before making mod decisions. And it would be a little ungrateful and precious of me to whine that I won’t be able to earn any more than a measly 837 upvotes ;) (Though I was secretly hoping to see if I could hit the 1K threshold in a year or two.) – Dan Bron Jan 13 '18 at 0:39
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    It was a one hit wonder and not really an ELU level question. It's not answered by English, but by contacting certain people about a toy ball. It was fun while it lasted, but not exactly a material that should encourage future visitors to think fits ELU topic. – NVZ Jan 13 '18 at 0:42
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    Re "Does the community realise that the question, one day, can now be silently deleted without anyone being consulted?" I think nobody can delete a question that has a "historical lock" except moderators (who are always able to delete any question anyway). I would not see this as a step towards deleting the question; in fact, I think it's now more protected from deletion than it was previously. – herisson Jan 13 '18 at 1:26
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    Maybe I'm showing my age. But I remember some of the discussions when that question was asked. It seems a bit young to be considered historical. – Lawrence Jan 13 '18 at 5:52
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    The question was about English. (Is there an English word that starts with Y and means the thing in this picture?") The answer did the almost impossible job of proving a negative. "There is no English word that starts with Y and describes the thing in this picture." the answer then went on to explain how a Swedish word crept in. If any future user can write a question which will lead to a comparable level of detective work about English, have at it! If any future user can come up with an English word that answers that question, I want to hear it. Protected, sure. Locked, no. – ab2 Jan 13 '18 at 11:17
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    I'm not sure which disturbs me most: (a) that 'a question [...] can be silently deleted without anyone being consulted' / (b) that a question 'not [...] an ELU level question [, and ...] not answered by English, but by contacting certain people about a toy ball' [and not appropriate on ELL either] took so long to be deleted / (c) that the voting system allows such an endorsement of a question that so clearly violates the intended purpose of ELU. The question is predicated on a mistake (made by the ball manufacturers) and sensible research is contacting them. It's lit crit, if you like. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 13 '18 at 13:53
  • @EdwinAshworth fair enough, I said some users believed that the question was off;topic but the vast majority did not. Let's have this discussion about locking a question that is not even a year old, a question posted when EL&U standards were firmly in place. – Mari-Lou A Jan 13 '18 at 13:59
  • I've said quite often on ELU that voting patterns are sometimes harmful to the site's stature. 'It's actually Elbonian' 837: 'The container metaphor, JL' 7. I love such questions as this, but not on a site aimed at linguists and dedicated to the serious study of the language. If voters can so distort the apparent acceptability of such questions, I've got to say that a college system (uber-policing by an elected panel) is better than a free-for-all, until it itself gets out of hand. I don't think it is near that point yet (though/and I think one 'college member' was reined in a few years back). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 13 '18 at 14:11
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    Locking it is not a step closer to deleting it. – NVZ Jan 13 '18 at 16:44
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    My take on this issue is that the ELU community is not “mature” enough, not yet, to be able to deal with a question like this, which, IMHO, don't pose any real threat to the moral integrity of the site. The prevailing idea that the question would be taken as an exemple by new users to make similar ones is totally unsubstantiated – user 66974 Jan 15 '18 at 19:48
  • @user159691 let's assume out of the bazillion visitors to that question, at least a few would be inspired to ask a similar one. The more visitors the question has, the more likely that there are inspired users. If it was an obscure "tumbleweed" question, locking it would not be necessary; even closing it would not be that necessary seeing that nobody is ever likely to visit it. – NVZ Jan 15 '18 at 20:59
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    @NVZ - if questions which have been put on hold have ever been of any guidance to new users, why do we still regularly receive every day more and more off-topic questions by them. I am convinced that the dynamics in play have little if nothing to do with imitation of past questions. That’s my personal opinion of course. – user 66974 Jan 16 '18 at 6:47
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    @Mari-LouA Even if it were deleted; the asker or answerers would not lose even 1 rep point. And we don't delete useful content, even though it's off-topic. That's the very purpose of having historical lock notices. So there's that. – NVZ Jan 16 '18 at 18:12

My thoughts on this...

I had never crossed with a Historical Lock post before, so I firstly tried to understand what it is and what it means. I found this reference on meta. The relevant parts of it, IMHO:

What is the purpose of a historical lock?

A historical lock preserves content that was very popular when it was originally posted, but is now off-topic or otherwise out of scope for the site it is posted on. Historically locking a post ends the debate over whether a question should be kept on the site or deleted, and is often the final state of a question that has been deleted and undeleted more than once.

The first sentence above gives two reasons for a post to be historically locked:

  1. Very popular when originally posted
  2. Now off-topic or otherwise out of scope

The y-axe question was very popular when originally posted and that's a fact! The 2nd most upvoted in a SE-site with over 90,000 questions and 6 years of age surely qualifies as being popular.

About the second point, of the question now being off-topic or out of scope, honestly I don't consider myself qualified to judge that. I'm not much of a contributor here in English SE. Not that many questions or answers. What I can tell is that when I wrote the question it surely was about English Language, after all, I had a ball with 26 pictures with letters and 25 of them were easily recognizable as English words. The ball had no brand, trademarks, nothing that could help me. Stack Exchange is the network I use to solve my questions and English SE seemed like the correct place for it. To imagine that a ball could have 25 English words mixed with a single Swedish one would made me laugh, unless there was a very good, long and detailed detective work, like Dan Bron did. It makes me feel that English SE was the right place to solve that mystery.

Surely the community, high-reps or mods may all have their own opinions on what's on-topic and on-scope for this site and I trust them to do it. If the y-axe question is now considered off-topic, I'm fine with that.

Lastly I would like to thank for the question being historically locked, since this is (as stated earlier) often the final state of a question, so it (probably) won't be deleted. Makes me think that if the question was not that popular because of Dan Bron's brilliant answer, it would be rightfully deleted. So thank you mods, honestly!

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    Really, after all we've been together. Dan Brown? Dan Brown? And I thought we had something, you and I :'( – Dan Bron Jan 18 '18 at 1:43
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    Oh man...The quality of my readings is decreasing rapidly. From Dan Bron’s superb answer to Dan Brown’s somewhat overrated books! I’ll stop reading his books and read more of your answers! After a Y bugs my life, now a W will do it! – gmauch Jan 18 '18 at 2:02
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    Hahaha! Nicely done. You have redeemed yourself by the grace of a pun. Please do ask more questions soon! – Dan Bron Jan 18 '18 at 2:03
  • @DanBron A wise clown once said, "if you're good at something, never do it for free". You should get hired as a detective sometime. ;) – NVZ Jan 18 '18 at 3:00
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    There was no debate as to whether your question should be left open or closed. None. The question was never deleted and undeleted. That's the whole purpose of my question on meta. Saying that, I really admire and respect your gracious acceptance of the "inevitable", but allow me to say and repeat again, your question was on-topic, and it was well crafted, it was not a LQQ. If newcomers are inspired by your question and by Dan Bron's answer it will be for its breadth and detail, not because it was it is a crossword puzzle question. And why nobody supports me on this, baffles me. – Mari-Lou A Jan 18 '18 at 11:52
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    @Mari-Lou A You got support in comments. But I agree that it is puzzling that no one wrote an answer recognizing that the Q was a perfectly good SWR and that the answer was to begin with an outstanding piece of English research and then morphed into a sui generis piece de resistance; the site is better for having it. (My excuse for not writing an answer is some serious pain from a hip that is due to be replaced.) Does the comment of sumelic that he thinks a Q under historical lock cannot be deleted give you any comfort? Is it worth clarifying this via another Meta Q? If so, I can do. – ab2 Jan 19 '18 at 23:23
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    @ab2 I appreciate the support and vote of confidence, but when both the author of the question and its answerer have accepted the mod's decision, there is not much more that can be said. Actually, there is a lot more to be said but it's not my battle. I can only voice my dissent. – Mari-Lou A Jan 19 '18 at 23:44

Just my thoughts...

I'm a big fan of Dan Bron's answer — it's one of a kind, and I've never seen anything like it, and in fact, I think that's the major reason people were interested in the question and how it became a viral hit; a bigger hit than it would have been if it were to hit the HNQ without his answer.

I've voted up the answer and the question, and some other answers along the way, and I'm pretty sure others would've voted up the question similarly, and it was a fun read, and there's no denying that a lot of people loved reading it all.

But imagine seeing such a question: "what is a word that starts with..." and that it did not reach HNQ or get a Dan Bron-y answer, and ask yourself whether you would have considered it on-topic for ELU.

I think most voters would have closed it, and maybe even said it's like a crossword puzzle that the OP should've asked elsewhere, or that they should contact the manufacturers of the toy ball, who are, in the end, responsible for putting those images against each letter.

Now, about the state of a locked question: being locked is not a step closer to getting it deleted since moderators can delete any content anytime anyway, so having it locked or not, I for one think, is not an issue.

And I'm not that convinced about the benefit in having it unlocked and open to new answers, comments or votes: comments would most likely follow the likes of "wow, great, amazing", and a few extra votes coming every now and then, to the already idle rich users, probably means nothing, and new answers would probably add nothing new to the page.

The downside of having it stay without a special moderator notice such as the "historical lock" would be that new users would see the question and think of asking something similar, which would not be received similarly well, I think.

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    All fair points. +1. – Dan Bron Jan 14 '18 at 12:40
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    The OP couldn't contact the ball manufacturer, there was no name printed on the ball. The OP was perplexed and probably thought there was a word beginning with Y that also meant "ax". For a time, I also wondered if that was a possibility. – Mari-Lou A Jan 14 '18 at 14:34
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    @Mari-Lou-A And in fact there was at least one word in an English dictionary beginning with Y for an axe-like object, but It wasn't suitable for a child's toy. I think it was yatigan. A good deal of (not very visible) effort went into proving the negative, before the visible, fun part started. – ab2 Jan 14 '18 at 15:03
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    Did you ever vote to close it for being off-topic? At the time did you think it was off-topic? Did you think the question was not a good fit for EL&U? (I'm just waiting for an official answer, but these are the questions I would ask them) – Mari-Lou A Jan 14 '18 at 15:47
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    @Mari-LouA I did not at first. See: english.stackexchange.com/review/close/241412 But cycles later I did. See: english.stackexchange.com/review/close/269658 – NVZ Jan 14 '18 at 15:51
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    Now I get why it was 'suddenly" locked, someone voted to close it on the 6th January, but it passed the review inspection and when it was clear the question was not going to be closed, a mod decided to lock it. Democracy wins, thumbs up! – Mari-Lou A Jan 14 '18 at 15:55
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    @Mari-LouA I just visited the axe question for the first time on the regular, not mobile, site, and the lack of voting arrows looks so weird. Can't they have "ghost" arrows or something? It's so offputting and odd looking. – Dan Bron Jan 14 '18 at 16:41
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    @Mari-LouA Anything in particular you would like to know via this meta? Is this a call to unlock it? Or just looking for "why" it was locked? Something else? – NVZ Jan 14 '18 at 16:45
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    It's a call for clarity, it's a call for openness, it's a call for why was this decision taken single-handedly when the question did not cause controversy. It's call to ask why the question is "now" considered off-topic, but not 8 months ago when the ELUian standards had been pretty much fixed by then. – Mari-Lou A Jan 14 '18 at 16:51
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    @AndrewLeach Pity those "valid points" were not expressed by the person who undertook that decision, singlehandedly... on a question that did not cause any controversy, on a question that was never closed, that the developers, TPTB of Stack Exchange, thought well to award a special bounty to. On a question that was posted less than a year ago when the elusive and mercurial standards had been pretty much fixed. – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 '18 at 19:54
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    @Mari-LouA Moderators discuss; while only one can take any action, because only one vote is necessary, it doesn't mean that it was actually unilateral. It is also the case that moderators deal with flags which users raise drawing matters to their attention. Other users don't get to see those, and it's not usual for such flags to be discussed on Meta prior to taking action. If you would like the lock lifted, please argue why it should be: what is the lock not achieving which would be achieved if it were lifted? – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '18 at 21:26
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    @Mari-LouA Oh but that was indeed the exact request in the flag: that an historical lock be applied. The matter was considered and dispensed with. If every flag is something to be debated on Meta, nothing will ever get done, but it's up to everyone to decide what they think merits community engagement and what merits only a flag. – tchrist Jan 15 '18 at 22:10
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    @tchrist The 2nd most popular question and the highest upvoted answer in the history of EL&U did not deserve a listening, a general consensus? A discussion on meta? Well, it took two days but I finally got an answer and an explanation. I suppose the 10 votes that, supposedly, agree with the request for greater transparency count for nothing. – Mari-Lou A Jan 15 '18 at 22:20
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    @Mari-LouA I'm looking at this thread right now. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. – gmauch Jan 16 '18 at 19:15
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    @Mari-LouA What is the lock not achieving which would be achieved if it were lifted? – tchrist Jan 17 '18 at 1:37

I didn't know the yellow ax question had been locked. Did you?

Not until I saw this hot meta post, no. Though I'm glad attention has been brought back to it, I've now re-read it and found a lot of DanBron's later research that I previously missed.

Is this [the locking as historic] a surprise for anyone?

It's not particularly surprising, no. I think the original question was valid and interesting, but the answers ended up off-topic (and demonstrating that the question itself was probably off-topic). But as everyone loved it so much, keeping it as historic rather than deleting it seems sensible.

So I'm of the opinion that the best thing has been done. I'm happy with that.

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