I noticed that How is "whinge" pronounced? was closed as being off-topic.

I once noticed somebody spelled "whine" as "whinge" and thought it was an egregious and hilarious typo. But it turns out that "whinge" is an acceptable spelling among writers of the "Queen's" (British) English (I've never seen it written that way by an American).

So: how is "whinge" pronounced - the same way as "whine," with a long "i" (but a silent "g")? If it is pronounced otherwise, is it a long or short "i"? And is it a silent "g", a soft "g" ("j") or a hard "g" (as in "goat")?

However, the help center indicates that pronunciation questions are on-topic:

Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

  • […]
  • Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
  • […]

Nothing in the "off-topic" section contradicts this.

As a native U.S. speaker who occasionally reads British literature, I've run across the term and had a similar reaction and the same pronunciation question.

Is this question actually off-topic for this site? If so, why, and should the help center be updated accordingly? If not, why would it have been closed as such? Is this part of a category of questions that a segment of the community views as off topic which the majority of the active community disagrees with?

  • Alas the answer here made it all the easier to close the question english.stackexchange.com/a/197883/44619
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 6:47
  • @Mari-LouA I'm afraid I don't follow. What about that answer impacts or illuminates the suitability of the question for the site or whether it's on topic?
    – M. Justin
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 6:52
  • 1
    The author says the answer is googleable, which it is, and that explains why two users/moderators closed the question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 6:57
  • 1
    Ah, I think I got it. In the help center is implied, but not quite outright stated, that "simple and basic questions" that "can probably be easily answered by looking it up " are not on topic.
    – M. Justin
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 7:09
  • @Mari-LouA I've expanded this realization into a full-fledged answer to my question.
    – M. Justin
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 7:29
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    I don't know if anyone has answered the question, but imagine the word 'hinge' having the initial 'h' replaced by a 'w'. Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 8:52
  • 3
    whinge and whine are completely different words. It is most definitely not a BrE/AmE spelling thing. And any basic research would have shown that. So, yes, it is a simple and basic question ...
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 16:53
  • BTW, there's significant variation in how whinge is pronounced, within both AmE and BritE. Wikipedia says "In most dialects it is now pronounced /w/, but a distinct pronunciation realized as a voiceless w sound, [ʍ], is retained in some areas: Scotland, central and southern Ireland, the southeastern United States, and (mostly among older speakers) in New Zealand." I don't know why Australia wasn't included here, as I have the same pronunciation, and it's not uncommon amongst older middle-class Aussies.... Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 0:58
  • ... See also voiceless labialized velar approximant. Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


The What topics can I ask about here? help center page implies, but does not outright state, that simple & basic questions that can be easily answered by looking them up are off topic:

If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, then you may find common online internet resources to be of some help. View our list of community recommended resources to find some that may be of help to you.

  • Try a dictionary if you want to know what a word or phrase means, how it evolved, or how it is pronounced.
  • Try a thesaurus if you want to know words or phrases that have a similar meaning to one you already know. Of course, if your question isn't adequately answered by these resources, feel free to ask here on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!

The help center page references an answer to the meta question How much research is needed?, which goes into further detail:

It's perfectly reasonable for reviewers to assume that a common expression can be explained by consulting ordinary reference works. They shouldn't have to do that search. If it can't be, it's up to the asker to demonstrate that it can't be. […]

Doing the research may find something relevant, but it might be unintelligible or not completely helpful. In that case, show what you found. […]

In common with other Stack Exchange sites, ELU should not simply be asked gimme the codez — we expect an amount of independent research, and understanding of what the problem is, to be evident in the question.

The answer to "how much research is needed?" is "Enough to show:— that you have done some; that you understand what you are asking about; and you can explain all of that to people who have no prior knowledge of the problem at all." Every question needs at least one of those criteria to be satisfied; most need more than one and many need all three.

This was a bit unexpected to me as my primary Stack Exchange history is with Stack Overflow, which doesn't spell out nearly this same level of required research in its help center. Granted, evidence of effort is required, but in programming a lot of time some times just the problem statement (requirement and expected output) is presented, as it may not be at all obvious for the asker how to even begin solving the issue.

It wasn't obvious from my initial reading of the help center page that such questions would be considered off topic for this site. A section titled "Where can I find answers to simple and basic questions?" doesn't seem obvious to me that it's defining community expectations, especially when that expectation isn't even stated there — it's stated within a link titled "mention the research you've done". Both of these facts make it super non-obvious that it's defining community expectations for on-topic suitability.

Therefore, it seems like it would be helpful to explicitly call out the unsuitability of such topics within the help center Ideally, this would be in either of the bulleted sections, as those are the obvious place to check. I'm specifically referring to the bulleted lists preceded by "Questions on the following topics are welcomed here" & "But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.".

  • 4
    One reason for the difference between SO and ELU is that English dictionaries are an obvious source far more readily available and easy to find than references for some computer programming languages. And on a site for "linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts" we might reasonably expect people to know about their existence and purpose. That said, there may well be scope for enhancing the help text again — it's gone through several iterations, but constructive suggestions are always welcome. Thank you.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 8:53
  • 1
    "gimme the codez" did you mean gimme teh codez ? Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 8:53
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey It's an accurate quote of what I wrote in 2014.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 8:55
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach I don't know if leetspeak is susceptible to correction anyhow. Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 9:01

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