In a comment I wrote

because of the inherent implications of "maiden", these days née is often used instead though it still caries a gender reference, e.g. Sunita Lyn Williams (née Pandya; born September 19, 1965) is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer...

I want to explore

  1. Aspects of modern English usage of the term "maiden name" including its potential sexism and other negative connotations
  2. Whether née can be used instead in all cases

but at the same time avoid too much commotion about the question being off topic.

There are successful questions about sex- and other isms here (see below) so this might be possible. But before I ask in the main site I'd like to ask here:

  1. Can I ask "Is X sexist" and "Can Y replace it?" in the same question? Should I in this case?
  2. What can I do to improve it's chances of being well received and minimize distracting irrelevant side discussions, in order to keep the focus on the question itself?

"Successful" question examples:

  • 6
    When answering this Meta question, please take care to answer this question and not the underlying questions about the gendered terms themselves.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Nov 4, 2020 at 7:33
  • 6
    The problem I see with your potentially interesting question is that is may be “opinion based” to some extent. You might focus on usage trends (evidence on née replacing maiden name) with less emphasis on the reasons why those trends are in place.
    – user 66974
    Nov 4, 2020 at 9:22
  • 1
    As long as it's tagged gender-neutral. Minimizing distracting irrelevant side discussions is exactly why I've had that tag on ignore since the chairman question.
    – Mazura
    Dec 29, 2020 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


Yes, it is on-topic.

Asking for questions to elucidate the nuance of meaning in words is one essential use of ELU.

It is not asking for opinions about the meaning (whether you like or support the situation or not). And it is not asking about the just the social situation and how things have changed. It is asking for knowledgeable responses about the words in relation to the social change.

Of course, nuance and strength of meaning are sometimes considered 'opinions' but be assured they are not. There may well be a lot of inter-person difference and that is accounted for in the SE system by allowing more than one answer. If you disagree with an answer, that is not a disagreement of opinion, it is a disagreement over facts. True, these facts are introspective judgements of your understanding, but they can be judged by others.

  • 6
    The question is, indeed, on-topic; it seems so obviously on-topic that it is not clear why the OP felt the need to first ask this meta-question, instead of just asking the question itself . The OP should, however, note that the question would be a duplicate of What’s “maiden name” all about? (which specifically asks whether the term might be offensive), unless special effort is taken to differentiate them.
    – jsw29
    Nov 5, 2020 at 16:41
  • 1
    @jsw That certainly could be a duplicate, and the answers there could certainly suffice for the question here (even though I feel they are distinct enough questions). Anyway, your comment is worthy of a full answer, just copy paste!
    – Mitch
    Nov 5, 2020 at 17:15
  • I've commented
    – uhoh
    Nov 17, 2020 at 9:23

Mitch has already explained why the question would be within the topic of this site and the upvotes, together with the absence of downvotes, suggest that there is a considerable agreement about that. The OP, however, seems to be really interested in how to 'minimize distracting irrelevant side discussions'. Apart from being as clear and focused as possible in formulating the question (which is, of course, something that one should always do), there is, however, not much that one can do to ensure that. Any discussion that one may have about that here, ahead of the question actually being asked, is likely to be futile; the answers to the meta-question cannot be made binding on those who see the question itself and feel inclined to make some irrelevant side-comment (most people who see the question itself won't have seen the meta-question anyway). The most efficient thing to do is to just ask the question and deal with any problems if and when they arise.

The question would, however, be a duplicate of What’s “maiden name” all about? (which specifically asks whether the term might be offensive), unless special effort is taken to differentiate them.

  • 1
    You mean "How can I ask a flawless SE question?" might not receive answers with guaranteed results? :-) Thanks for your insightful answer. it reminds me that the weekend is upon us and it's time to ask, and then reminds me that I hadn't checked to see if it had already been asked! You've may have saved me from a quick closure, I will study that page and see if anything still remains ask-able yet unanswered that I would also like to ask.
    – uhoh
    Nov 7, 2020 at 17:05
  • update: After review and thought, I think there might be a new question here somewhere, especially considering the movement towards finding better ways to say things that don't carry as much gender-specific or gender-assuming aspects, same-sex marriages and male-identified individual also changing their names upon getting married. However I don't know if I have the wherewithal to write such a question well and include all of the necessary prior research. Giving it some more thought...
    – uhoh
    Nov 17, 2020 at 9:22

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