While I'm not entirely opposed to “single word requests” I get pretty anxious when I see questions like this one, where there is (to my knowledge) no real answer, and then people take this as an invitation to start coining words.

I really don't feel comfortable at all with our site becoming a place where people go who want a word invented. While I delight in exciting new words being invented and promulgated, I think we will rapidly lose our reputation as a place where people can get authoritative answers if many answers are not authoritative but just merely inventive.

I went ahead and closed this question but I was hoping to gauge the community’s feelings on this issue.


I changed my mind and reopened the question on the off chance that such a word does actually exist, but I'd like to know if anyone has any ideas for how to discourage people from posting made-up answers like the two that are on that question.

  • 1
    If my made-up answer is off-topic, perhaps that should be stated in the FAQ? Or else I think my answer should be undeleted. Commented May 29, 2011 at 6:26

6 Answers 6


While I'm not entirely opposed to “single word requests” I get pretty anxious when I see questions like this one, where there is (to my knowledge) no real answer, and then people take this as an invitation to start coining words.

That doesn't really sound like the OP's problem -- if there isn't such a word, answerers should have said that; I don't know why they took that as an invitation to just invent words on the spot, but he definitely didn't ask for that


As the original asker, it certainly wasn't my intent to ask a question with no real answer. Like I said, I was 99% sure there was a word for it and I just didn't know it; but if no one knows it, maybe the person who originally told me made it up themself.

I was actually thinking about what should happen should no word be found. Closing it seems reasonable to me, at least after a certain amount of time, or just straight-up deletion.

  • 4
    Should no word be found, I think what actually happened with the question under discussion is good - the top answer is now one explaining that there probably isn't a single word in English, and it's still tagged single-word-requests. I think that's better than closing or deletion (assuming the answers do not become invented/frivolous) because it helps anyone with the same question in the future.
    – aedia λ
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 15:03

It seems to me that the core of the problem is the demand for a single word above all else. This is when people have to start getting inventive if no such word exists. And I agree with the idea that very much of this is a bad thing. These invented words have little to no utility in the real world, as they are not recognizable to anyone. It's particularly bad if the person answering the question doesn't make it clear that this word is made up.

  • 4
    A side note: I generally find it a funny thing in English that you can take a super-simplified definition of the concept, convert each word in the definition to Classical Latin/Greek, and shove those words together, and people will say, "yup, it's a real word!" Even if the word would be unwieldy at best, or even useless, in conversation. If I love peaches, of course it's not a real term if I call myself a "peach lover", but if I use the made-up word persicophile, explaining that persic- is a Greek root meaning "peach", then people will accept it as true.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 13:23
  • 3
    I fully endorse Kosmonaut's judgment. I am not bothered by the occasional made up word, and the "one-headed" post was (to me) obviously an invitation for creative neologizing. But when participants get too excited, sometimes they invent words without making it clear that they have done so. This might give people the impression that these words actually exist, and when they find out that they don't, it denigrates EL&U as a reliable site. At the very least, posters should be very clear when suggesting a non-existent word. Better yet, maybe we should have a tag for coinage (or do we?).
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 14:42
  • 1
    I am new here and I posted "idemdiemling" in the spirit of fun after concluding that no real word existed. I'm upset to see my answer deleted but I'm understanding now why it may have been off-topic. Commented May 29, 2011 at 6:30
  • @TimLymington: Any word can take on more than one meaning.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 20:21
  • I agree that the answers to that particular thread seemed to go off in a direction (frivolity) I didn't care for and I don't think was appropriate for here.

  • Sadly the answers seem to have been removed for that particular question.

  • Here's another question, Word for person with one head that went even further in that direction but was very popular and not even considered to be closed.

  • I think the standards and process exist already to judge these questions.

    • Humor and attitude (and invention) are acceptable but preferred in comments rather than answers.
    • closing is by voting (I'm a bit annoyed by single person closing)
    • this your question helps us with setting those standards...maybe someone should say in a comment that 'coining' is not appropriate as an answer, and not really appropriate to be asked for.
  • 2
    For the 'one headed' question, it turned out there is a history for a legitimate word. That is, you never know until you ask.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 13:41
  • 1
    that, and in case you haven't noticed, joke answers on the on-headed question got killed, too. So it's not like we apply an entirely different standard to popular questions.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 18:53

The way I have currently been processing it:

  • If the question isn't a real question, vote to close
  • If the question is specific enough to justify a term for something, I ignore plausible attempts at term invention as long as the answer gives a good reason and evidence for doing so
  • If an answer "invents" a word without help from an outside source, I downvote it
  • If an answer tacks on a new definition to an old word, I downvote it unless it provides a good explanation, reasoning or reference for doing so

For instance, my answer to Is there a word to describe a highly desirable cursed treasure? offers a new term; but it did so after offering a handful of close calls and explained why. I feel that the suggestion was okay because it was (a) appropriate and (b) not the entire content of the answer.

  • I suggest that "idemdiemling" deserves to be granted limerency; it was certainly appropritate although I admit that I didn't do any research to justify it (aside from determining that it doesn't exist). Commented May 29, 2011 at 6:44

Nohat, what you say really makes sense. When I first joined up not long ago, I instantly felt that this site could really help my problems, if I had any at hand. However, if standards got slack, in future this site would deteriorate rapidly. It will no longer hold, as nohat said, its reputation, as well as losing trust. Some sort of unwritten law or standard has to be established and understood among those who have access to moderator tools. It is their responsibility, as this is a community site. That, was my two coins and someone else's one coin.

  • Third Idiot, your request for Latin tutelage must have been sarcastic! It is not a tone that can easily be communicated in text. Authority can, and the FAQ does not mention coinage. Commented May 29, 2011 at 7:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .