Isn't having a tag such as inviting questions requiring at least some knowledge of Italian? Isn't 'loan-words' sufficient? Aren't cross-language questions more appropriate on Linguistics?

  • 6
    Since someone's going to ask, the other language tags we have are spanish, french, german, russian, portuguese, danish, swedish, hindi, chinese, japanese, korean, greek, latin, and hebrew. Pace, Batavophones, you may be the largest unrepresented Western European language, but there are no tags for Scots, Gaelic, or Manx either, who beat you on distance.
    – choster
    Dec 18, 2020 at 21:38
  • 3
    What slight did you not intend?
    – JEL
    Dec 20, 2020 at 5:46
  • I'm not anti-Italian, any more than I'm anti-Spanish, anti-French ... (thanks to the others for listing parallel tags), anti-physics etc. I wasn't singling out Italian as a special case; it was the particular tag I encountered. But I've seen one or two (rather interesting) treatises on foreign language topics, downvoted them as flagrantly off-topic, but feel that having dedicated tags only encourages them. Dec 20, 2020 at 15:27
  • Yes, with those tags, the risk is that users ask questions about Italian or other languages. Since questions on EL&U are about English, I would not add those tags. The issue is that on EL&U there are very few users who correct the wrong tags used by the users who ask questions, as if tags were untouchable.
    – apaderno
    Dec 29, 2020 at 10:21

2 Answers 2


An argument can be made (and I believe that at least one prominent EL&U contributor has made it many times) that the tags used at EL&U are completely useless and a waste of time. If so, focusing on which particular foreign language tag(s) should be dumped is rather like trying to to decide which particular deck chair(s) to throw overboard now that a collision with an iceberg seems inevitable.

My view of tags is that they can be helpful in noting particular areas of relevance within a question. For example, a memorable question posted in 2015 asks where, when, and under what circumstances the U.S. English term "pizza pie" originated. Since the word pizza by itself is of Italian origin, it would seem reasonable for the poster to have included a tag for "italian" among the other tags (which currently consist of "etymology," "american-english," and "food").

Although I am broadly interested in the English language's amoeba-like ingestion of words from other languages, I am particularly interested in instances where the appropriated words have undergone some degree of transformation in the course of their incorporation into the body of popular English. In such cases, having a tag that identifies the source of the appropriation as "italian" (or "yiddish" or whatever it is) may be quite useful to readers whose etymological interest doesn't extend to all source languages.

On a more general note, I think it is worthwhile to appraise the value of tags not in isolation but in the context of other tags that may appear in the same question. The fact that posters are permitted to include as many as five tags with a question suggests to me that the people who adopted that policy imagined that posters might use some tags to refine others—as might happen when someone uses a tag such as "italian" to provide greater specificity to a more broadly applicable tag such as "etymology."

  • 2
    You convinced me. Due to what must have been a slip of mind, I've just edited the pizza pie question and added the Italian tag. Makes perfect sense.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 23, 2020 at 7:29
  • I've just discovered that 'Greek' and 'Latin' tags exist. I've just checked the 'first' 100 questions with the 'etymology' tag, and found that only 2½ (I've allowed ½ for AAVE) of them have an additional foreign-language tag. It does seem odd that enquirers can determine that a word is say a French loanword (other lovely languages exist) but are enquiring about the French connection. // To forestall forays into off-topic comparisons with other languages (or even 'FLU'-worthy answers), perhaps 'ex-French' etc tags might be an idea. Dec 23, 2020 at 12:58

My understanding, and use, of tags differs from what is suggested by your question. I apply tags after composing the question, primarily as a means of facilitating the attention of others who might be interested in answering the question, or at least interested in reading it.

Your question seems to be primarily an expression of your disinterest in etymology questions, or questions involving other specific languages but not centered on that other language; many questions tagged might want a (hereafter called )content or subject tag, because that other language (or dialect; Scottish, for example, is sometimes considered a dialect) might be, or be said to be, a source, supply an etymon, etc.

So no, I don't think questions with are "invited" by the tag; no, I don't think is entirely sufficient for everybody's purposes here; and no, cross-language questions about English etymology (among other subjects bearing on English usage) may not be more appropriate on Linguistics.

I seem to recall (through a veil of mild indifference) that it has been established on ELU Meta that there is some disagreement among ELU participants about whether or not etymology (or phrase-origin, etc.) questions are on-topic. This disagreement is sometimes reflected in overly aggressive close-voting by participants with little or no interest in, or expertise on, the topic. I also seem to recall that the perfectly good suggestion for dealing with these circumstances is for those with little or no interest in, or expertise on, a topic to recuse themselves from close-voting questions on such topics.

Whether or not I personally use a tag, have an interest in, or expertise on, a topic, I don't see attempts to do an end-run around disagreement about whether the topic is on-topic at ELU by foreclosing on tags that might be useful to those who do have such an interest, or systematically close-voting questions about the topic, as at all legitimate. Neither are such attempts, at least with respect to foreclosed tags, likely to be successful, because anybody with a certain reputation is likely to simply add the tag back in if they think it's salient.

By way of example, I note that 10 of the 32 questions now tagged are also tagged ; 13 of the 80 questions tagged ; 9 of the 64 questions tagged ; etc. The tag also frequently co-occurs with .

  • It took me about a minute to understand the "slotve" tag. Now I feel like the people with flat foreheads who live close to the Niagra Falls. You know, the ones that wake up every morning and say: "What is that noise? Oh, right, now I remember..."
    – Conrado
    Dec 22, 2020 at 14:07
  • I've looked through about 10 of the 32. I've removed the 'Italian' tag from one ('nb is from the Italian ...') and CV-d a couple ('lei' [not Hawaiian] is not in the lexicon; ...), and find some very dubious as fitting on ELU. However, I concede that the 'Italian' tag remains very appropriate for the odd post. But I have in mind about 10 lines of Italian etymology in one post. Dec 22, 2020 at 15:30
  • 'Your question seems to be primarily an expression of your disinterest in etymology questions' is personal invective. You're implying that I'm complaining about questions concerning etymology on ELU: obviously anti-site-policy. Etymology questions are fine. The usual short dictionary etymologies ('from Old French ...') are fine (but probably LMGTFY). Ten lines in an answer showing the previous development of a word in say Portuguese is not. Dec 23, 2020 at 13:04
  • @EdwinAshworth, "LMGTFY" = "let me google that for you"...I guess I could be expected to know that. You're not doing what you appear to be, that is, implying that short (one line) etymologies are okay, but 10 lines are not? Likewise with valuing Old French etymologies but not Portuguese? In either case, I would think that the pertinence of the etymological source language to a word's adoption and development in English, however long, concerning whichever language, is most important, not arbitrary length or specific source language requirements.
    – JEL
    Dec 23, 2020 at 20:17
  • Here is a question I feel should be closed: How to translate fac...ties-de-descendre from French in the context of a board game [French tag]. And at What lies behind the etymology of the word dandelion? is a sizeable quote from 'a French etymology dictionary'. I'm not querying this question, merely the wisdom of having the 'French' (etc) tag. Dec 23, 2020 at 20:43
  • @EdwinAshworth, I'm not sure what's left to discuss. The central issue is perhaps that you feel the existence of a tag "invites" or encourages off-topic questions. That's hard to absolutely deny with a straight face, although I think the scope of any such invitation or encouragement is less than concerning; additionally, as I mentioned in the answer, the invitation or encouragement is after the fact for those who approach tags as tags.
    – JEL
    Dec 25, 2020 at 7:08

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