For me, this is the dividing line, the line between what is appropriate for this site, and what is not.

I do not know how it is possible that we have become the site to post trash in the name of free speech, instead of the place to ask serious questions.

Given the continuing existence of this question on the site, I can only conclude that either there are no standards, or they are not the ones I would agree with.

"I digress strained and perplexed ingrained in vertex climbing tittys insane and perfect draw the curtains she deigns to get whipped by a leverton and she's still dick flirtin, a tit bitch like a protagonist in the next Tim Burton agonist while Kim's flirting with a faggot bitch, tits sagging rich she hits my digits quick I can't help but dick fidget my midget dick and rim her ridge her cricket pitch, swim in the smidge of her teen wickets her green spleen thickets I bone her with my boner as she roams and groans as I grope her open like a roman at a gladiator dome and dive in thrice like a vice oh let me scope in,"

This is misogynist, homophobic, and objectionable.

I am no prude; I am an ex-pat New Yorker ex-military that manages to get FUCK into every sentence. still...

There are times when we get asked serious questions about neologisms, as well as new usages still unaccepted by the mainstream, but I believe there must be a limit to our tolerance.

I have seen several posts which I would consider offensive, and I have flagged them as such, but I think that the effort to draw in new users has possibly taken preference.

When an unregistered user posts what I consider to be a thinly disguised attempt to publish their own "ramblings" as literary or lyrical stream of consciousness, we should take more care to preserve the integrity of the site: we have not done that in this case.

If an unknown author is looking for a critique of their work, this should not be the place to do it.

  • 3
    I ran a Google search for the phrase "protagonist in the next Tim Burton agonist," and Google returned three results—one to the main EL&U page containing the excerpt noted above (posted two days ago), one to a blogspot page (posted two days ago) that is headed "What is this rhyming scheme called?" and one to the entire rap (undated). It does seem possible that the purpose of the EL&U posting is simply to gain some exposure for the author's literary effort. Whatever the cited piece's merits as art, I think the question "What kind of grammatical structure is this called?" verges on nonsensical.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:48
  • @SvenYargs Thanks..if you could post a safe link to those sites...I did a search, and did not find those. Seriously, I think we been had. And I hate that feeling...like I have been taken for a fool. We should be better than this. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:58
  • 1
    The links to the non-EL&U matches are randompedi.wikia.com/wiki/… for the full production and cfxtrjtrk.blogspot.com/2019/01/… for the blogspot question. I didn't stick around for the latter to appear, however, because it loaded slowly enough to discourage me from waiting for it.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 0:24
  • 1
    absoloodle...the first looks like self-promotion. @SvenYargs The last is garbage. I am beginning to think the Q should be marked as SPAM. I was assured by Andrew (mod) that if there was some type of trolling it would be detected...are we the ones that detect it? Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 0:32
  • 2
    I just flagged it as rude and the question ended up being deleted as a direct result of that. Anyway, two wrongs don't make a right cascabel and you know the rules regarding offensive words titles, and that particular word is no exemption. I'm reverting the title of this question to what it was originally. Please don't take it as an insult: It's nothing personal.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:07
  • 1
    BTW@Tonepoet It was this post about shitfire that I was talking about...they only left me with the S****...completely unscanable...kinda pissed off about that coz I think it should be findable with google and that ain't doing it. There are not a lot of reputable sites giving the info I got there. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:33
  • 4
    @Cascabel The long standing consensus on ELU has been to bowdlerize titles, because they are viewable by everyone, but allow socially unacceptable things in quotes in content because we want to allow open discussion about language, which may include unpopular things. However the content was so awful that I now realize it is the right thing to close/delete that. There were also other closable reasons (self-promotion, lack of depth in the question) without the awful subject matter.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:53
  • 1
    @Mitch The mod team on ELL had to deal with this after I deleted instead of closed a post asking in detail which disgusting sex act Nikki Minaj was describing in her lyrics. I think if we wouldn’t be comfortable reading the question aloud to a colleague and asking them to answer it, it should be deleted. If someone at work emailed me that question and asked me to review it, I would construe it as harassment. There’s a difference between that and, for example, questions ELL got about a book on how to seduce women that was repugnantly medieval in its POV, but not graphic in its language.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:53
  • @ColleenV I was unfortunately oblivious to the content of this particular question. Some content is frivolous or gratuitous and there is no justification for keeping that. I think there are reasonable questions that should be allowed about taboo situations (vulgarities, epithets, etc) that are in good faith (linguistic), but if the content is irrelevant and problematic, it should be changed/removed. But I would think that a non-graphic but otherwise repugnant POV would also be changeable/removable (since it might be harassing).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 18:41
  • @Mitch I agree there’s a judgment call as far as what is bad enough to merit deletion. It would be so nice if it was as easy as “if someone flags it” but we know that’s not possible. There was a good portion of the community interested in answering the questions (if only to admonish the reader to not embrace the book's POV) and the content of the questions wasn’t patently offensive. With the new CoC I wonder if we might have gotten some moderator flags strongly objecting to them, but at the time, the complaints were more that it was distasteful.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 19:07
  • 1
    Also, we haven't 'become the site to post trash'. This isn't some pattern, it was just the one dude. But yes, that content was needlessly awful.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 12:25
  • 1
    I find it amazing that four people upvoted that ghastly piece of trash.
    – ab2
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:02
  • Sorry @Mitch...I wrote that outa frustration. I know this is not "the site to post trash", and I regret any strong language I had to resort to. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 19:22
  • 1
    I cannot find your recent question, was it deleted by the community or did you decide to delete it yourself?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 8:15
  • sorry @Mari-LouA...I suspended myself for a month or 2 to cool down. I deleted the Q...although it had been closed, I noticed that there were 4 votes to re-open. As you said in a com, perhaps it was a clarion call, and I apologize if it was offensive. I believe we need to reconsider what constitutes a serious Q, and where the limits of acceptability lie. What is "good faith"? What is offensive and to whom? You may have noticed by now that the user that I was originally complaining about is now suspended network-wide until 2024. This may not be vindication of my objection, but it comes close. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 21:48

4 Answers 4


TL;DR: I've reconsidered: I don't think the post meets our site's standards. The solution is to flag the question as "rude or abusive".

When I first read the offending question (pun intended), my reaction was (a) it's not trolling but (b) it's misogynist and offensive but (c) so is a lot of rap and (d) there's a legitimate question of language usage here, even if the example given is awful.

I posted a comment straight away, because I think it's important that men speak up against the misogyny of other men. I downvoted the question, because I thought its merits as a legit question are outweighed by how inappropriate the "example" is. And I upvoted Mitch's answer because it's a good generic answer that skilfully avoided reference to the unsavoury elements of the question's text - and I loved the clever irony of "[freestyling is] a stream of consciousness flow through any of the usual hip hop subjects, from self-aggrandizement to the travails of life to explicit bodily functions."

But I didn't flag it, because I thought we should try to be liberal about these things.

This Meta post has given me an opportunity to reassess. The issue is not the question itself –

What is the rhyme scheme called where near rhymes flow into pure rhymes then back into near rhymes?

– but rather the example provided. As Mr Lister commented, it's likely that the OP has used their own self-written doggerel.

Well, there's no rule against providing your own self-written example to illustrate the question, and the example itself does indeed illustrate the rhyme scheme being asked about. And like Cascabel, I'm no prude: if someone wants to ask about the correct use or etymology of an offensive phrase, or they have offensive personal views but ask a legitimate question, I can accept that.

However, I agree with Cascabel that this particular post seems to cross the line. The question is, what action should be taken? There seem to be four broad options:

1. Downvote, and move on

I think this is a cop-out. If it's a legit question, why the downvote? If it's bad enough to downvote, then I think that points to it being bad enough to remove.

2. Edit out the offending elements

I don't think this is an option, as some of the offending words form part of the rhyme scheme. In any case, the OP could roll back the edit. Someone could replace the entire example with another example of freestyle rap, duly attributed, that wasn't (so) offensive. But again, the OP could roll it back.

3. Flag it as "should be closed"

Not really an option, since it's not unclear, it's not off-topic and it's not POB. Which just leaves...

4. Flag it as "rude or abusive"

The flag's guidance says this is used when "A reasonable person would find this content inappropriate for respectful discourse", and links to the Code of Conduct. The latter describes the following under the heading Unacceptable behaviour:

No bigotry.
We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion — and those are just a few examples. When in doubt, just don’t.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the OP has chosen to include an example that is likely to "offend or alienate people" based especially on gender but to a lesser extent on sexual orientation. I think we have a duty to call out this kind of language, in the same way that we call out racism. The integrity of our site as a safe place for all classes of people must take precedence over any interest in adding another question to our library. And I think the gratuitous nature of the offence is pertinent, since the OP could easily have chosen (or written) an example that perhaps might have used vulgarities but wouldn't have denigrated entire classes of people.


Upon reflection, I agree with Cascabel that this particular post is unacceptable and should be removed from our site. It clearly meets the requirements of the "rude or abusive" flag, and I have therefore raised that flag. As a community-moderated site, it's up to our EL&U community to decide whether to flag, close and delete the post.

  • 1
    As a matter of fact, I actually raised that flag, and it was rejected. Perhaps now that there is more support, it will be accepted. I went through all the usual processes (ie down-vote, comment, flag, etc.) but I had to come here to highlight my difficulty. Gracias. Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 1:25
  • 2
    I agree with all this. Even though it might be allowed through our policy of use/mention, it was just so beyond in vulgarity that there's no need to promulgate. If it weren't for the excessive vulgarity, there'd still be problems, but I answered because a lot of people are really uptight (and in some platonic realm, that answer was an excellent answer to some more palatable question).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 17:00
  • 2
    You're quite right. I chose the first option (Downvote and move on), within a couple of minutes of it being posted (there were no comments at the time suggesting that anyone else took issue with it). But in retrospect that was indeed a cop-out. I should have flagged it as "rude or abusive" - which may or may not have affected a mod's decision sometime later to explicitly adopt a "wait and see" approach, but at least I'd have been able to justify (rather than excuse) my own reaction later. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 16:16

For the mostpart, offensive language is not permitted anywhere on the Stack Exchange network, except in accordance with specific exemptions. The most significant of these exceptions is the use/mention distinction which permits offensive language when an analytical need for using it exists, and ev. Censoring a word makes it difficult to discuss that word in the body of a post seriously. From the recently updated code of conduct we have this provision:

No bigotry.
We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion—and those are just a few examples. When in doubt, just don’t.

No harassment.
This includes, but isn’t limited to: bullying, intimidation, vulgar language, direct or indirect threats, sexually suggestive remarks, patterns of inappropriate social contact, and sustained disruptions of discussion.

Similar provisions were in the old be nice policy too, so this should be nothing new or surprising.

The cumulation of borderline offensive words is pretty bad on its own, but words like b—h and ts are words that we have always censored from titles because of their sexist connotations, the term rep. whore was retired for similar reasons and we don't even allow boobs. F—t is widely considered one of the three very most offensive and alienating slang words in the language.

Maybe, just maybe if we were informed that this was a quotation and its necessity to the question was explained, we could let it slide as use/mention distinction, but the questioner did not make the specific need for using this particular language clear.

I do not believe that determining what type of rhyming scheme "near rhymes flowing into pure rhymes and back" is requires the use of any particular words, let alone vulgar language. We should probably devise our own rhyme of similar nature and edit the old one out if the question is worth keeping, or delete the question altogether if it is not. I am leaning moreso towards the latter since making a rhyme of this nature may prove to be more trouble than it is worth for us, and I believe the current answers are predicated on a misunderstanding of the question: Neither answer is related to identifying the described rhyming scheme, unless I misunderstood Mitch's answer.

Flag it as rude.

  • Done did it, dude. Got rejected. (Flag) Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:00
  • 2
    @Cascabel Yeah, I know. It was the wrong call in my opinion. I wrote that for procedural reasons.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 2:07
  • 1
    My flag from a few hours ago has been marked "helpful", so maybe it depends who reviews it - or maybe this Meta question has been influential... ;-) Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 4:21
  • 2
    Yes, you misunderstood my answer. Most highly structured poetry rhymes at the ends of lines with the ends of words. This example had lots of internal rhymes, partial rhymes, and assonance. Also @Cascabel's answer of doggerel, as a description of the rhyme and meter scheme, is accurate though culturally from a different world.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:56

I saw that "question" a minute or two after it was posted, and I immediately downvoted it. I didn't closevote, because I thought that was unjustifiably "dignifying" it - imho, closevotes are supposed to at least admit of the possibility that a badly-presented question could be edited and thereby made acceptable.

I didn't bother to actually flag it for moderator attention either, because I assumed it would very quickly get many more downvotes (perhaps naively, I also assume mods automatically get notified if a question rapidly starts attracting downvotes, for this very reason).

But what bothers me what one of the mods wrote in a comment quite some time later...

this is an answerable question about a particular genre

Please upvote this answer if you agree with me that the particular mod involved there (who ordinarily I have the greatest respect for) needs to re-examine his thinking in this area.

  • 1
    Mods actually have to go into the review tools and look at the stats to see questions with extreme votes (which I do every so often, but not regularly). Members must flag for moderator attention to be sure that the mod team will be aware of a problem when we view the site. We do get notifications of excess commenting and possible edit wars, but not votes. Flags are also good because we can leave them “unhandled” to get another mod to review what we did if something seems sensitive.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 19:12
  • 1
    The mod also added, immediately, If it is trolling, I'm confident we will find out soon enough which signifies he was not wholly convinced and was giving the user the benefit of the doubt. I am more troubled that it needed one user to actually say "Am I the only one that thinks this is unsuitable, and possibly even trolling?" and for them to post on meta before that post was deleted. I saw the innocuous looking title on the main page but I did not read the page at all.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 19:18
  • @ColleenV: I assume it's part and parcel of the job that mods sometimes have to bend over backwards to be "accommodating", but I'd have thought it was a bit of a no-brainer in this particular case that the entire point of the post was to be offensive. Not that I'd want to incite disagreement between mods - and it wasn't on "your" site anyway - but being honest, would you not have have immediately and summarily deleted it? As opposed to actually commenting that you were going to "wait and see"? Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 14:49
  • 1
    It’s easy to second guess. As a woman, I’m more sensitive to this type of offensive, but honestly it could depend on my frame of mind, what I had read or handled immediately prior and how much attention I was paying. In an ideal world, I would be totally focused but almost any mistake I make is fixable, so I often use the community and other mods as a safety net. I don’t think it’s productive to dwell on a mistake that’s been fixed. Mods are under a lot of pressure to not be too heavy-handed, so sometimes we get it wrong.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 15:00
  • @ColleenV: I don't know all the details on this one, and I have no wish to pillory the specific mod involved. If he's freely admitted that he "made a mistake" (for whatever reason) then I'm perfectly happy. Shit happens, and everyone takes their eye off the ball sometimes. Me more than most, and in retrospect I can't deny my only justifiable response to the offending question should have been to flag it as "rude or offensive". As you say, it's been fixed, so maybe we should all just move on. But I'll leave my answer here (if only to remind myself that I was quite "outraged" yesterday! ;) Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 15:30
  • Your attitude towards close votes makes no sense whatsoever to me. You're saying that, if a question could possibly be answered in the future, it should be closed and it if could never become answerable, it shouldn't? Isn't that the exact opposite of what's supposed to happen? Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 21:06
  • @DavidRicherby: I was never particularly interested in whether the offending question could be answered (when posted, or at any future time). I just wanted to get rid of it (the quickest, easiest, or "best" way) because it offended me! Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 17:16
  • @FumbleFingers Now I understand even less, since you seem to be disavowing the reasoning you claimed in the question. Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 17:22
  • @DavidRicherby: It seems pretty straightforward to me. I wanted the question closed immediately, but the method I chose (downvoting, in the expectation that several others would rapidly follow suit) didn't work. But even if I had flagged it for moderator attention, apparently the mod wouldn't necessarily have done what I would have expected (close it forthwith, not raise the issue of "potential answerability"). Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 17:56
  • OK, but downvoting doesn't cause questions to get closed. If you want the question closed, vote to close it and/or flag it as abusive. Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 20:04
  • @DavidRicherby: I know that now! What I didn't know until this specific question came up was that the site mods won't necessarily agree with my definition of "gratuitously offensive" (and should therefore be immediately deleted). My only reason for posting this answer was to alert others to the potential for mods to be what I would call excessively indulgent. Apparently as many people disagree with my point as agree with it, but at least we should all know where we stand now. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 14:57
  • 2
    One thing down voting does do if enough people vote @DavidRicherby is take the question off the “home” view of the site which is where most people end up if they use the hamburger menu to navigate between sites or use English Language & Usage. That helps mitigate offending posts while the mod team is getting up to speed.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 17:02
  • @ColleenV This is true. I think the magic number is a score of -4 or lower. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 17:04
  • @DavidRicherby Also I think the “rude” and “spam” flags automatically downvote a post.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 17:31
  • @ColleenV Yes, and you can manually downvote on top of that, so two people downvoting and flagging is enough to get the question off the homepage. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 18:05

Once again freedom of speech is curtailed on the site that ostensibly explores language and usage. The question was legit.

Don't like the content of the question? Move on, like you would with any other question.

Nothing in the post was illegal to say in public. And the proffered text illustrated the type of verse the question was asking about.

  • 7
    What freedom of speech? The user did not express a political viewpoint of any kind. The user did not express their opinion about anyone online. They posted an extremely vulgar text. If that text is freedom of speech then I suppose it's OK for anyone to post graphic pictures of diseased genitalia, as long as the question is about language and usage. Actually, come to think of it, that would be acceptable but I can imagine many users would be offended/shocked/disgusted. So do you ignore their right not to see or read such risqué material on a website that is devoted to the English language?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 11:35
  • 4
    Just as a restaurant can insist that you wear shirt and shoes to be served, this community can set standards for the content it wants to allow on the site. If you feel the community standards are too Puritan, you may want to go find a more like-minded community.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 15:14
  • 11
    Freedom of speech, in the American sense, is about freedom from governmental restrictions on public speech. It doesn't give you the right to come into my house and spout whatever garbage you want, or prevent me from kicking you out if you do. Stack Exchange is not a public forum; there are rules here, which this post violated. Now, passing some kind of law preventing SE members from deleting such a post would be a violation of free speech.
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 15:51
  • 5
    Legality isn't the point. In fact, you're confusing "freedom of speech" with "decision to publish". The point is that it's the publisher's right to choose whether to publish that post on the publisher's website, and this publisher, Stack Exchange, has delegated the decision on each post to moderators and community users. And they, in turn, have made a decision to withdraw the post from publication because it doesn't meet the Code of Conduct that guides our published content. Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 0:08

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