8

Are there any cases where a single word request is not welcomed on EL&U?

The FAQ clearly states that users should ask "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems." In which cases would a single word request not suit EL&U? Which information should be provided in the question, for the question to be acceptable?

I am not saying that single word requests don't suit on EL&U. I am just wondering in which cases a single word request should not be acceptable.

  • 1
    Do you have any particular instances that bother you? Without context I feel like all the possibilities for closing are things that would make a single word request, as well as everything else, unacceptable. – Mitch Jun 7 '11 at 0:23
  • @Mitch The question is not about what bothers me, or not; the question is about when a single word request question stops to be acceptable/welcomed. – kiamlaluno Jun 7 '11 at 1:22
  • OK. I misread. Then I'm having trouble knowing what direction of unwelcome you're thinking of...any example or more context? Otherwise, there's no aspect of 'single-word-request' of itself that is objectionable...except... – Mitch Jun 7 '11 at 2:10
  • 1
    Are you thinking of taboo words, neologisms, or something else? – Mitch Jun 7 '11 at 2:16
12

I don't have a problem with single-word-requests that seem non-trivial or can present a common idea or principle that likely has an actual word. I do have a problem with word requests that don't make any sense. Good examples are "false" antonyms:

What is the antonym of three?

What is the antonym of bicycle?

Requests that are far too narrow to be likely are also a problem:

Is there a word for exactly twenty-three animals?

What is a word I can use to describe my company?

Likewise, requests that are too broad get too close to just pounding a thesaurus:

What is another word for blue?

What is a word that describes laughing so hard you are in pain?

But the big problem I have in judging these things that, sometimes, there is such a word and someone happens to know it and turn the entire question into a fantastic vocabulary lesson. My current best way to determine the quality of a single-word-request is by the quality of the answers.

On the other side of the coin, an asker's persistent rejection of perfectly fine examples due to the unspoken circumstances is just annoying.

  • 2
    I share your feeling about the OP rejecting good examples for a non specified reason. In such cases, I guess the question has not been well written, and it is not detailed. – kiamlaluno Jun 8 '11 at 22:28
  • 1
    I think there are few 'good' antonym requests. They are usually trivial or fit into your 'false' category. I think I have downvoted most of the antonym requests I have seen recently. – z7sg Ѫ Jun 9 '11 at 0:59
  • @z7sg: To be fair, I feel like I botched that true/false question. I wasn't expecting half of the network to show up. – MrHen Jun 9 '11 at 1:09
  • 1
    clearly the antonym of bicycle is unbicycle ;-) – Matt E. Эллен Jun 9 '11 at 12:54
  • @Matt: Not tricycle?! What about car?! ;) – MrHen Jun 9 '11 at 13:10
  • 1
    (1) The opposite of a bicycle is, obviously, a unicycle. (2) What is a word for laughing so hard your side hurts? (I.e. that's actually a good question.) – Marthaª Jun 22 '11 at 20:12
  • @Martha: It's not my fault I have a hard time thinking up good bad examples. :P – MrHen Jun 22 '11 at 20:17
  • @kiamlaluno, What do you mean by rejecting without reason? I don't think most people would say "no this doesn't work" without continuing with "because...". – Pacerier Apr 13 '16 at 23:09
  • @MrHen, Why would "What is a word that describes laughing so hard you are in pain" be too broad? How is it broad? – Pacerier Apr 14 '16 at 10:38
10

I doubt that this is the direction you're looking for, but I'll try anyway...the unwelcome single word request I can think of is the insistence on ... a single word.

  • There are desires for single words that just cannot be fulfilled, true lexical gaps; negatives/non-existence is of course difficult to prove, except by authority?
  • the best "thing" for the request is a single idiom which may be a single word, a double word or even a phrase. Brevity is desired but the best thing to capture the concept may not be the absolute shortest.
  • This irks me too. For me "single word request" means "cyan" as the answer for "light blue" for instance. But we have no better tag for "name this concept" or "what's the word I'm thinking of" questions, which is what this tag is often used for, including by myself. The best alternative tag I can come up with is terminology-request. – hippietrail Jun 9 '11 at 8:02
  • I think "idiom" would better suit as name of the tag. – kiamlaluno Jul 29 '11 at 11:46
  • @kiamlaluno, hippietrail, Mitch . Most so-called "single-word-requests" are actually expression-requests. – Pacerier Apr 14 '16 at 10:26
  • @Mitch, Even Alphabet-Inc which has engineered mind-blowing solutions for the world lacks the power to create a complete 99.99% authority on this matter. The reason being there's literally infinite possible permutations for such answers. Besides that, word usages are ever-growing, upping the game furthur up one notch. Computers can never fully supplement worldwide-crowdsourced solutions. Also see meta.english.stackexchange.com/a/7929/8278 – Pacerier Apr 14 '16 at 10:26
6

I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say 'unacceptable', but I certainly have misgivings about a certain class of single word requests.

What I don't much like is when OP is actually looking for a name to be used in some programming or database design context. I don't object to this in itself though - it's oddball cases where OP's preconceptions (or maybe just the nature of the application area being addressed) require a number of (perhaps only loosely-) related entities to be grouped into some named set.

The fact that such a grouping may be meaningful in OP's precise context doesn't imply that the English language itself should have an available word for it, or that it's worth trying to establish one.

Such topics can easily degenerate into a series of not-particularly-interesting proffered names (be they neologisms or just distortions of existing meanings).

  • I wrote "not acceptable" only to avoid to write "not welcomed" for the third time; probably, desirable is a better word. – kiamlaluno Jun 6 '11 at 22:31
  • 2
    @kiamlaluno: Well, saying what you don't like is highly subjective whatever strength of words you use. But I can't think of any other generally-identifiable contexts where I don't like single word requests. I've been caught out before thinking "Oh God! How can he ask for a single word to mean exactly that?". Then it turns out there is one - perhaps even that I knew but couldn't call to mind. Anyway, did you have any other specific contexts in mind yourself? I'm guessing you do, or why would you ask? – FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 22:42
  • 1
    What is welcome in a Q&A site is decided from its community; it's not something that is completely objective. What I am wondering is if there is a limit for this kind of questions. For example, are questions that don't describe for which context the question is being asked, and why the OP necessarily need to use a single word acceptable? – kiamlaluno Jun 7 '11 at 1:10
  • @kiamlaluno: oic. I think the answer is no there aren't. Except (maybe) the one I've illustrated, where I wouldn't mind so much if the questioner did define his context honestly up front. But you can't make it a rule to debar questions that don't have - to your mind - adequate context. Anyway, there's no votes for my answer, and no alternatives, so I think we can safely say the status quo will remain. You can't close for inadequate context, but only with single word requests. Too draconian. – FumbleFingers Jun 7 '11 at 2:06
  • @FumbleFingers, Re "What I don't much like is when OP is actually looking for a name to be used in some programming or database design context"; I often see these are the most upvoted questions. – Pacerier Apr 14 '16 at 10:38
  • @Pacerier: I think you're right about that. I'm sure people with programming backgrounds are over-represented on all SO sites (you and I being at least "partly responsible" on that front! :) Perhaps "casual" ELU users may therefore include a higher proportion of people who are simply interested in the business of naming "entities, processes" in an IT context, without particularly stopping to think whether their natural tendency to look at and vote on such questions is actually in the interests of the site overall. – FumbleFingers Apr 14 '16 at 14:50
  • @FumbleFingers, Actually, why would you not like such questions? Such questions are not local in the sense that they are often asked by a lot of people. – Pacerier Apr 15 '16 at 7:50

You must log in to answer this question.

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