A recent question used the tag for what was really an etymology question, so I retagged it appropriately. (Or at least I think it was appropriate.) Now I'm wondering what the tag is even for. It currently has no usage guidance.

It's got 25 questions under it, of which the five oldest are about the construction "reason why" itself.

Then, there a few other questions under that tag that are rather etymological in nature (Why is it specifically a "rainy day" (rather than some other metaphor) when you need extra money? and Why do we refer to car manufacturer as 'Make'?).

Some of the other questions there ask for explanations of linguistic/dialectal phenomena.

The rest of them seem to be random taggings.

I'd like to know:

  • What should we be using this tag for?
  • What should its wiki say?
  • Should it be used in conjunction with /?

I have two questions that I think could go under that tag, but I'm waiting to see what the community thinks about the tag's use:

Are these and their ilk to be tagged under ?

  • 1
    Is it useful to group questions on ELU by whether they are asking for "a reason why" versus asking for something else?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 18:22
  • 1
    I have a hard time understanding what -any- tag is for, if all it does is repeat some keywords that should already be in the question (eg 'why'). That said, 'reason-why' for questions asking about why a certain phenomenon occurs doesn't seem any more unreasonable than most tags.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 18:39
  • 1
    My rule of thumb is that a tag should be something I would use alone or in conjunction with other tags to try to find a potential duplicate or related question. It can be difficult to identify relevant content just by doing a text search. For example, [articles] [abbreviations] can really narrow a search (8 results) while [sentence] [grammar] doesn't (465 results). The oldest questions tagged reason-why is about the phrase 'reason why', not asking for a reason why. If people don't know how to use it without a description, that's also an indicator it may be a bad tag.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 19:10
  • @ColleenV - that's a good point. What's unclear to me is whether [reason-why] has the potential to be helpful when searching for dupes. (Re your last point, see my second 'paragraph'.) Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 19:13
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    In general, I think it is a bad idea to tag questions with the words they are asking about unless there is something about those words that make it difficult to search with a regular text search (to-for or at-in for example). ELL has a tag for "as" because learners have a lot of questions about it and it's impossible to effectively narrow a search down using it as text in the title or body.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 19:21
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    In this answer, John Lawler states one reason why the phrase "the reason why" has grammar like no other phrase. As he says, there is only one "reason noun" that can precede "why" in this construct, and it's "reason". "the reason why" can be followed by a clause, or it can be a NP on its own (e.g. "Tell me the reason why."). Moreover, there are no similar phrases with that same grammar and different relatives; "the method how", "the place where", "the person who", "the purpose what for" don't work as NPs.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 10:44
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    @RosieF What does that have to do with whether the tag is worthwhile?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 14:54
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    @ColleenV Before you posted your comment, the word "worth" did not occur anywhere on this web page --- nobody had even raised the issue of anything being worth while. My point is that the grammar of the phrase "the reason why" is a fair topic for a question, and because it is specific to that phrase, [reason-why] is as good a name as any for the tag.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 6:32
  • 1
    @RosieF It’s a fine topic for a question but it’s a terrible tag.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 9:03
  • Since terminology is randomly used on this SE, in answers, comments, and tags, I see no reason to use the existing tag system for anything. Best to ignore it, since it's overblown and full of nonsense. Like making sense of political polls in partisan media. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 14:52
  • Coming to this question from Hot Meta Posts with only a title and no context, I'd assume the tag was a meta-tag asking for a reason, and apparently, I was wrong (and also showed that it's ambiguous/prone to be misused)
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 15:50
  • It has veered off its original intent because there are no usage guidelines, obviously. It went from reason-why to a part thereof (just reason or why) to 'what is the reason for anything.' They were just grasping for tags, I think. Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 5:31

1 Answer 1


Well, given that it's been two months since I've asked this question and it still hasn't been answered, it seems that nobody really knows what it's for. I really think there should be some consistency in the tagging, so here's my proposal for how they should be retagged:

  • Remove it from questions that ask about the phrase "reason why". This is because there is probably a limited amount of questions that can be asked about that phrase, and searching for title:"reason why" is enough to find most of them.

  • There seems to be a bit of a blur between this tag and the tag. I think that when retagging we can ask ourselves if the question is about how a phrase took on a meaning or about why it took on that meaning. The how questions can use the tag.

  • Use it on questions that ask about explanations for linguistic phenomena.

How does that seem? I'm not steadfastly set on any of these parts of the proposal- this can be discussed, tweaked, or even overhauled as the community sees fit.

I got ahead of myself and retagged a few of the questions already; I've reverted those changes to allow for more discussion about the tag's usage.

  • 1
    I see the grammar tag was left alone in this post, was it because it's more informative than the reason-why tag? Where's the harm in tagging this common type of question? Is the reason because nobody answered, no one really cared. Fine, no one objected, so does that gives you the all clear? Your meta post hardly got an overwhelming call of support, the tepid response didn't give you carte blanche.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 18:47
  • @Mari-LouA - I rolled back my edits and re-framed this answer into a proposal rather than a plan. Sorry for violating etiquette. Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 16:19
  • Nobody knows what the tags are for and nobody can use them. It's like somebody took all the words they'd ever heard about English grammar and made a tag out of it; then somebody else, with no idea of what the original creator had in mind, wrote a description for it out of their experience, which was then edited and argued over by hundreds of other people. Naturally it's random and arbitrary. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 17:01

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