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I read that some lyrics questions are on topic and some are not. Is it the same for subtitles? This could come up if someone watches a movie in a language other than English, and has a question about an English subtitle. Is this another "it depends" situation?

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  • I haven’t seen many of these, so maybe we can take them case by case, but my gut level suspicion is if we do get such questions they’d almost certainly be from ELLers, and so would be better asked on ELL. Do you have any examples you could rough out for us? – Dan Bron Dec 16 '19 at 13:45
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    As with anything, it's on topic if it's on topic already by other principles. If you question is "Is this subtitle 'blah blah blah' correct for 'bleuh bleuh bleuh'?" with no link and no explanation of why you think it is wrong, and no context of the other language and the question not being primarily about the English, then no it is not on topic. If the question is about the idiomaticity or register or grammatical structure of the English result (you should specify the details desired and the details of the nuance of the original) then I'd go in the direction of 'yes'. – Mitch Dec 16 '19 at 14:45
  • @DanBron - I'll be honest. I wanted to compare what the rules are here, to use as a starting point for figuring out how we want to handle this at Spanish.SE. Someone is using a Netflex series as a learning tool, asking about discrepancies in (a) subtitles (in English) vs. the spoken dialogue, and (b) plot inconsistencies. It's driving me a bit nuts and I wondered if there's some clear red line that can be used to close some of them. We've had maybe two dozen in about two weeks. I was hoping to find something analogous to "no criticism, discussion, or analysis of English literature." – aparente001 Dec 16 '19 at 18:45
  • Frankly, as a translator, I am interested in translation questions. However, unless the question is about English and English structure, it's really off topic. That should be the same in Spanish. It's a pity that accurate or inaccurate translation is not really addressable whereas good or bad Spanish or English would be. I see many, many questions hovering around translation (in Portuguese, French and Spanish) that would be better addressed on sites other than SE sites as only the accuracy or inaccuracy of the target language is really on topic on SE sites regardless of the source language. – Lambie Dec 20 '19 at 21:13
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I'll go with Mitch's sentiment:

As with anything, it's on topic if it's on topic already by other principles. If you question is "Is this subtitle 'blah blah blah' correct for 'bleuh bleuh bleuh'?" with no link and no explanation of why you think it is wrong, and no context of the other language and the question not being primarily about the English, then no it is not on topic. If the question is about the idiomaticity or register or grammatical structure of the English result (you should specify the details desired and the details of the nuance of the original) then I'd go in the direction of 'yes'.

We have more than enough rules or conventions about what is on-topic. It shouldn't matter what the source material is; if the question is on-topic, it's on-topic. It might help to have a link to the right point in a video clip, but since video can't be searched and isn't particularly accessible, the question should contain everything it needs in plain text.

If the text of the question makes it clear it's a good question, that's fine. If the text of the question indicates it's a bad question, it can be dealt with accordingly.


With regard to the specifics of what prompted the question, translation issues can be on-topic, but it's not easy to get right. Plot inconsistencies don't relate to the nuts and bolts of the English language and are more-or-less guaranteed to be off-topic.

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  • Thanks. Now, what are the most common ways of cataloguing the off-topicness in this case? – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 19:15
  • @aparente001 Spanish.SE may have different standards than ELU. If the question is mainly about the plot then off-topic. If mainly about the language, motivated by implications of the plot, then maybe. 'Is this sentence right?' is usually not a good fit for ELU, whereas ELL may be more accommodating. But if it is about an interesting turn of phrase, not a simple dictionary look up, then maybe. As to an explicit list of 'these are some examples of off-topic reasons but not all' isn't that in the ELU FAQ somewhere? But that's still just ELU, Spanish.SE may be different. – Mitch Dec 17 '19 at 20:35
  • @Mitch - We're trying to figure this stuff out. Traditionally the site has been extremely tolerant. // One of the problematic questions I noticed involved a plot detail that didn't make sense. Another was a discrepancy between the spoken line and the subtitle. I'd like to know what specific close reasons are given at ELU for these issues, as a point of comparison. – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 20:40
  • @aparente001 I just took a look. All those questions by AE seem to fit the situation you're talking about. Again, I don't know Spanish.SE, but they seem superficially OK to me (if they were on ELU, mutatis mutandis, or again maybe better on ELL). Even though subtitles or original text from literature is 'made up' (like lyrics or poetry) and so possibly unanalyzable art, it's still objective to ask what is going on grammatically or semantically about a short phrase (that is, not artistic analysis). – Mitch Dec 17 '19 at 20:41
  • @aparente001 My understanding of the situation on ELU is that the general close reason is whether it is a question about art (close) or about language (well, there' may be other things to close for). I don't think this is written down anywhere explicitly. – Mitch Dec 17 '19 at 20:44
  • @Mitch - I agree, most of them are on topic (aside from the fact that most of them are variations on a theme of ethical dative, so sometimes a duplicate). But when they are off topic, I want to get better at catching those. – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 20:45
  • @Mitch - It's okay if that isn't written down yet. I'm asking about common practice. Thanks for looking at this with me. – aparente001 Dec 17 '19 at 20:45

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