A recent question on the main site requests an English equivalent of a Hindi proverb rassi jal gayi par bal nahi. Evidently the poster feels that a key feature of the Hindi expression is an element of sarcasm. Subsequently, however, an editor revised the original question on the basis of a very different understanding of the expression's connotations—and, in a comment beneath the posted question, provided a citation that seems to support this other understanding.

As I write this question, the poster has reinstated the gist of the original question after the editor's initial edit, and the editor has re-revised the question to reflect the contrasting understanding. I'm not interested in this disagreement as a specimen of an edit/rollback tug-of-war, but as an instance in which such a dispute may have a strong bearing on the question's value to the site.

If the editor is correct that the original poster's understanding of the Hindi expression is idiosyncratic, I think that offering a nonsarcastic/nonpejorative English equivalent of the Hindi proverb would be of greater long-term value to EL&U visitors than offering an English equivalent that is closer to the original poster's understanding of the proverb. But even if we suppose that the editor is correct about the actual nature of the proverb, that sense of the phrase is clearly not the one that the poster wants to find an English an equivalent for.

My question is this: In a case where—arguably—the edited version of a question is of much broader interest (because it may reflect a more accurate understanding of the expression at issue) than the original posted version of the question, should we accommodate the better question at the expense of the original poster's actual question, or should we preserve the original question and (in this case) risk misleading site visitors about the nature of the source expression that the poster is asking about?

  • 1
    A thread on Quora contains mixed views of the meaning of the original Hindi expression, so it isn't clear to me whether the original poster or the editor has the stronger claim to the correct interpretation—which in turn suggests that there may not be a correct interpretation in this case.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 6 at 1:28
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    I had not read your post but I could not resist posting a comment addressed to the editor expressing my puzzlement. In fact, it was because these edits had been approved that led me to meta.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 6 at 2:01
  • @Mari-LouA Yes. Easily, moderatprs could have rejected the edits as "no actual improvement". Sven, I feel like the edits didn't change the question at all - it's 'what is an English version of this Hindi phrase?'. Do you see something more general?
    – Mitch
    Jan 6 at 2:11
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    @Mitch: Both the poster and the editor are looking for a way to express the underlying sense of the Hindi proverb—not its literal meaning (which involves a rope that has burned but not entirely given way). Because the poster and the editor disagree about the sense of the expression, it seems to me that they are effectively asking for English equivalents of different proverbial expressions. So it's not so much that the edited wording doesn't improve the question as that it fundamentally alters what the question asks for. ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 6 at 2:39
  • ... The more general question I have is about a situation where a question as originally posted inadvertently misrepresents an underlying expression and an edit corrects that representation. That may not be the situation here at all, but at least hypothetically such a situation could arise. Hence my Meta post.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 6 at 2:39
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    @SvenYargs Got it. Then it sounds like there are two issues: 1) the editor is misrepresenting the OP. 2) the editor is more accurate. (and the problem is that it could be both here). And if you don't know the truth, then it's hard to moderate (which is more important, the OP or the edit) when you don't know if there's a misrepresentation or if the change is accurate. I think there's precedent for not changing the OP's intent (there's a moderator 'reject' option for that. Comments should be made to try to clarify, and answers can try to answer for what they think is more accurate.
    – Mitch
    Jan 6 at 14:09
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    @SvenYargs About this particular Hindi proverb (रस्सी जल गई पर बल नहीं गया), as an Indian, I take it to mean bad habits, pride, or arrogance remain even after losing xyz, and I wish to uphold the OP's question as they intended it to be. I am no expert on the Hindi language, though.
    – NVZ Mod
    Jan 6 at 16:47
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    I think the community has decided that the OP actually had the correct interpretation of the phrase, but maybe not spelled out the best way. In this instance I think the editing process (rolling back to the OP and improving that) has worked well. But your question in general still stands, if it is OK to change a question by making it more general.
    – Mitch
    Jan 6 at 20:41
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    This is not a complete answer, so I am not posting it as such, but the following seem to me to be some of the relevant considerations. (1) If one of these ways of editing would result in a question that ought to be closed, and the other would result in a useful question that fits the site well, the latter should be preferred. (2) If the question already has answers (and particularly if the answers have net upvotes), one should avoid editing the question in a way that would break the connection between it and the answers.
    – jsw29
    Jan 9 at 18:15
  • I come from MO, so my perspective might be skewed, but why isn't the right answer, if the questions meaningfully differ, to leave the original question as it is, and to ask a new question, referring to the original question and explaining how they differ?
    – LSpice
    Jan 16 at 0:07


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