The question What does "make the Iacke go" mean? has received four answers, all of which propose theories as to what the phrase means. Under it are also some comments that, to me, raise an interesting question:

@All Please don't speculate in comments. Write an answer. – Andrew Leach ♦

@AndrewLeach Would you please desist from this monomaniacal insistence on writing answers even when there is no certain answer to be had? – TimR

Even speculation should go into the answer box. A partial answer is an answer, not a comment. Comments are for soliciting further information, as you yourself demonstrate with the existing answer. – Andrew Leach ♦

@AndrewLeach Who says comments must have that exclusive function? I see questions from the past where you yourself are making suggestions in comments. If comments used to be used more broadly, when did their purpose get narrowed down? – TimR

The comments that disagreed with the moderation (I assume some of the more conjectural comments were deleted) received many upvotes, a fact that leads me to ask: is speculation allowed in comments?

I think Tinfoil Hat's comment sums up the issue: "Since this is slightly wild speculation on my part, I’ll risk a comment delete over downvotes on a half-baked answer."

Guidance/Consensus at Answers in comments says:

Partial answers may appear in comments and may be used by anyone who wishes to post a complete answer, with the understanding that mods may still delete the comments at a whim, without notice.

Obviously, that is somewhat related, but I'm not entirely sure if a 'partial answer' is the same as a speculative one, and whether deleting it is truly useful.

Edit: Many of those comments have now been deleted (not to silence discussion, I assume, but because they've been recorded here) and the question is also locked.

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    It would be great if the question could be unlocked!
    – Simd
    Nov 6 at 16:36
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    It is not entirely clear whether the notion of speculating plays a crucial role here. It seems that what is at the heart of the dispute is the general disagreement about whether answers-in-comments should be tolerated, which has already been discussed umpteen times on this meta-site, and is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
    – jsw29
    Nov 8 at 16:12
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    +1 for this question as it is an important discussion worth having; and wish to see more perspectives posted in the answer boxes below.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 10 at 12:12
  • A very similar thing is happening here, although there is also a whiff of on-topic-or-not in play there. Nov 18 at 14:37

4 Answers 4


We are a shoot-askers-down community with a crew of hawkish eagle-eyed downvoters ready to slay and humiliate new users with the temerity to ask a question that they haven't the vocabulary to ask differently or the knowledge to research any better. The weapon of choice with which to club these big-eyed baby-seal questions is: "show more research". I massively overstate the case, of course, but a bit of massive overstatement has never done anyone any harm ever at all. (Never ever)

There is an important point. NVZ (in his post here) and Andrew L (in comments) have started asking users to post unsubstantiated speculations as authoritative answers. Because—so the reasoning goes—speculations are answers, they should go in the answer box where answers belong and where people can upvote them and downvote them.

But answers, too, have minimum standards, which also need to be upheld, just like questions. Answers should be based on evidence or on authoritative sources. This is a site for linguists etymologists and serious English language enthusiasts. People coming here have a right to expect not only that answer posts have some basis in evidence or in secondary research, but that they aren't mere speculation masquerading as knowledgable or reliable information!

Answer boxes are strictly for answers. Real ones.

The spread of misinformation is antithetical to the aims of the SE network. Let us not encourage users to convert interesting speculative comments into answers where they should be as welcome as a bad case of gout or an outbreak of dysentery. We have standards to uphold.

PS: NVZ and AL, respect to your dedication here as mods, which I appreciate greatly. You're both diamonds.

  • Thanks for the appreciation, but what would you have done differently if in a mod role? Where would you have drawn the line, to let the comments contain speculations, answers, discussions that could spark an idea for someone else..?
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 8 at 6:04
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    I don't understand this answer. You say "The spread of misinformation is antithetical to the aims of the SE network" but your actual position seems to be that it's OK to spread misinformation as long as it's in a comment (which lack many moderation tools such as downvotes), based on the idea that every person who sees a comment won't take it as fact because it's not an answer (which can't be the case, not when most traffic comes from people not logged in). There are convincing arguments to allow answers-in-comments, but not this one. Why not post neither a comment nor an answer?
    – Laurel Mod
    Nov 8 at 13:59
  • @Laurel You can put an interesting speculation described as such in the comments. One should not do this with answers. The speculation may or may not help other people with their own research. Re: "There are convincing arguments to allow answers-in-comments, but not this one" <--- Speculations are not answers. That's why they should not be allowed in the answer box (or not without heavy duty highly visible warnings in an exceptional situation). Because they are not answers they should be allowed in the comment box., where answers are not allowed. Nov 8 at 14:19
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    @Laurel You write: "based on the idea that every person who sees a comment won't take it as fact because it's not an answer" <-- According to who? Why do you exaggerate the position? We can advise people to wear seatbelts because it is less likely they will die in a car accident without saying that it's a good idea to wear seatbelts because nobody will ever die in a car accident if they do. Keep speculation out of the answer box. (cont) Nov 8 at 14:22
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    The confusion between answers and comments is something I see regularly from new users (and not just because they can't comment); only people familiar with SE understand the distinction. Either way, our current policy as I understand it is to flag/delete speculation and answers-in-comments. My own preference would be the middle ground: flagging/deleting this type of comment only when it appears to be wrong, incoherent, or duplicates an existing answer. (This is in spite of the downsides that I mentioned.)
    – Laurel Mod
    Nov 8 at 18:31
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    @Laurel "only people familiar with SE understand the distinction [between answers and comments]" I think you knowingly vastly overstate your claim. You may come across some situations where people put the wrong stuff in the wrong box and others where people try to use one where they should use the other - or think that people should. I include you in that group! [And, no doubt, you me]. Let's be clear: people who visit the site pay most attention to the posts that are written in large letters and are prominent on the page. They pay less attention to comments, and deem them less important. Nov 8 at 23:27
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    @Laurel It is patently utterly false, and an indefensible claim (not morally but empirically), that visitors pay the same attention to comments as they do to posts. You could delete all the comments tomorrow and it would take a year or two for the site to collapse (faster than it's doing already). But if you deleted the answer posts it would die within days. Nov 8 at 23:33
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    Be careful you're undermining the role of comments, and the good they create. I think, when done with the best intentions, comments enhance good answers and help visitors understand why some answers are great and why others are weak or simply wrong. Downvotes by themselves do not "explain" why an answer is misleading or weak but oftentimes comments do!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 9 at 0:47
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    @Mari-LouA Is your comment for me? I agree with your comments about comments, but I don't see how they relate to my post here? Nov 9 at 1:14
  • I was referring to your comment addressed to Laurel: You could delete all the comments tomorrow and it would take a year or two for the site to collapse (...).But if you deleted the answer posts it would die within days.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 9 at 5:23
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    @Mari-LouA I agree that comments play a very positive role. That's what I was implying (maybe unsuccessfully) when I said that the site would eventually collapse if they were removed. Of course, it could happen much faster than that, because the community who run things and also answer half the questions may just find being here completely unrewarding and stop contributing. [But removing the posts proper would kill things stone dead, of course. Pretty much instantaneously]. Nov 9 at 13:36
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    Re: 'NVZ (in his post here) and Andrew L (in comments) have started asking users to post unsubstantiated speculations as authoritative answers.'; That's a gross misrepresentation. Nowhere have I (or AL) claimed that speculations are authoritative answers; but that comment-boxes are not the place for them. Any attempt to answer should go in the answer box; speculative or partial, and shall be subject to the usual vetting, voting, flags, or deletion. If a user does not back up their suggestion/speculation, then SE may not be the right place to post them.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 9 at 18:30
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    @NVZ Any answer should be an authoritative answer, and answers are assumed to be authoritative answers. So if you encourage people to enter speculations into the the answer boxes, you are encouraging them to enter speculations as authoritative answers. Speculations are not answers and should not be in the answer box. Please stop deliberately trying to conflate partial answers with speculative answers. It is misleading. You are still trying to get people to enter speculations as answers, which you are aware will spread misinformation. People expect answers to be authoritative. Nov 10 at 9:48
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    @Araucaria-Him Whoever is misled by the speculation in the answer-box, could be misled from the comment box equally, if not more, since comments tag along the question body and are more visible to random visitors than answer boxes which have to be scrolled down towards. Speculations are not good entries to be here, first and foremost, so if it is to be posted, it must be in the answer box, for the nth time, for the vetting to happen. EDIT: This by no means is 'encouraging' or welcoming speculations. We still expect authoritative answers that can withstand the scrutiny.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 10 at 11:44
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    @NVZ Nothing could be further from the truth. Nov 10 at 11:46

I for one (as one of those who provided "an" answer) feel almost anxious about going on participating. Especially because of the "scratching the ridiculous"-level of logical fallacies in the way the system is set up.

I am not able (yet) to leave comments as a new contributor, yet I haven't hesitated to write an answer, based on what I know. But not because it was encouraged, on the contrary - what triggered me to do it in the end, was exactly that notion that even speculation shall be written as an answer.

So I wrote.

And I tried to be careful to present my "answer" as neither "just a thought", nor "as is correct". I reduced it mainly to what I know and tried to position it by that in a neutral stance.

Still, in the comments I was asked what I do think of the use of "Iacke"/"Jacke" in the context of the first-portfolio - to which I responded that I would not dare to give a full analysis/review without having the source right before me.

This was interpreted as a lack of effort and I got a biting comment that I do indeed have the full source before me I just need to follow the link.

And that is the point where I am almost "emotionally done for" regarding my further personal engagement. (If you do not understand why that is, leave it be and under no circumstance comment on that.) Because:

  1. The full source is NOT present, it is an excerpt that is linked.

  2. That full source was only accessible to me after utilizing a VPN.

  3. What I was then able to discover on that site is that it is just a mashed-up collection without any relevant side notes, meaning: it does not contain contextual markings as I noted before in my follow-up comment would be a requirement to be able to give a full review. What the site contains is heavily transformed and mangled by stone-age-OCR without human revision, no hypertext/contextual references, let alone high-resolution photographs at the least. This is the equivalent of how "research" in this area was done for centuries BEFORE networking, hypertext, and computer-assisted-workflows were established - which btw. happened in the 1950s ...

Both points show a lack of effort on the side of the commenter. Because it implies that accessibility is a given and that the aforementioned necessities are met. This is not the case. It is extremely discouraging as it falls in line with the usual "you are not able to google"-comments, which are only spouted by people who never even dare to try to come up with the same results on another person's system - or in another country - only to realize that "search-engines", as well as ANY dynamic website is subject to change at the time of loading and is most likely fully customized to the person searching (or in the Google Search case: The system simply does not offer a non-customized search).

Not to mention the legal barriers, e.g. Gutenberg Project - not fully accessible in Germany.

Personally, I at least got a great example of a revision for my answer, from which I learned a lot.

So why all the fuzz, here?

In the end, if a speculation should be an answer or a comment is a nonsensical discussion, as long as almost everyone participating is more focused on their personal experiences/perspective on that matter than what the system actually allows in the first place and what might be a beneficial compromise.

It does not allow commenting as a new contributor, ergo: the whole discussion is irrelevant. The only way to treat it still as relevant is implying that a community split into those that already have the reputation shall have all rights, whereas new contributors shall have all duties, while at the same time not being able to make notions/comments, participate in the general exchange on-topic.

So the only thing you CAN discuss here - and NO I am not SHOUTING, it's called EMPHASIS - is:

Do you (the ALREADY ESTABLISHED) want to let new contributors be able to participate

.. OR (and this is an exclusive or):

Do you want to keep the status quo to ensure your position?

In the end, this all boils down to a hefty portion of necessary self-reflection, having an intellectual stroll into the not-so-green pastures one is used to, and the resulting awareness of the surroundings of anyone participating.

If you - the people who decide how the system works or how its rules are interpreted and applied - are not ready to fulfill these inherently natural requirements in the first place, there will never be an answer to this discussion, as it simply CAN NOT have an answer.

You may treat this as a rant or for what it is (without fantasizing about the in-between-the-lines, as there is no such thing):

An honest contribution to this discussion is rooted in my awareness and my personal experiences accompanied by an attempt to provoke self-reflection in all participants (including myself).

How does that look from your perspective?

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    I was the person who added the comment asking what you thought the specific use was; I asked that seeing that you had "tried to be careful to present my 'answer' as neither 'just a thought', nor 'as is correct'." I agree that your contribution was sincere and helpful, and certainly too long to be posted as a comment. That said, I don't think any of the comments under your post were "biting" and all of them were just trying to help you expand and improve your answer. I also don't think this is a 'status quo' thing- the thresholds are there for a reason. New contributors can participate. Nov 9 at 14:14
  • I welcome any type of actual discussion/exchange and as i stated i do not write between the lines - i do however make use of "context that represents itself after reading more than one time" (circular self-reference). So the "biting"-attribute i set has to be seen in the context of me explaining the "emotional" impact "when", being "discouraging" once it turned out that the "full source" is not such. I took your comment as encouragement "to shift up a gear" and "do the actual work specifically to the source". So, please keep on commenting that way. If i felt attacked, i would have told "you". Nov 9 at 14:24

mods may still delete the comments at a whim, without notice.

pretty much says it.

Note that the lock now on the question only applies to comments:

Comments on this question have been disabled, but it is still accepting new answers and other interactions.

Anyone is free to post an answer.

For more on the reasons why site moderators prefer for answers to be posted as answer posts rather than as comments, see

Is SE enforcing "no answers in comments"?

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    This does not answer the question. Is this an SE policy, an EL&U policy or the whim of an individual moderator? The lock on the post is totally irrelevant! So is whether mods have deleted said comments. Nothing to do with it. Nov 7 at 18:10

Since SE as a Q&A site's very existence depends on our holding ourselves to some higher standard than a free-for-all-to-speculate-in-comments like Reddit or Yahoo, it becomes our responsibilty to enforce these SE rules, and prior to being entrusted to carry the diamond, we'd have held differing views and posted answers or speculations all over the place at some point, which is likely still around.

I would recommend that it be in the answer box, and not to worry too much about the feedback it gets, be it DVs, or disagreements. This is why we must; as the comments by design cannot receive DVs.

In other words, any attempt to 'answer' the question, should go in the answer-box; be it authoritative with substantiation, partial with the relevant substantiation, and to the other extreme, mere speculation. All these should be 'vetted' by the community with their votes, flags, or other feedback in comments. Abuse of the comment-box to escape this vetting under the banner of 'speculation' would be treated the same way as answering in comments.

This by no means is 'encouraging' or welcoming speculations. We still expect authoritative answers that can withstand the scrutiny.

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    This is unacceptable. If you are now seconding AL's decree, you need to send us to a page somewhere that backs this up. This is a community with written rules, regulations and guidance. It's not a regime where the police make up the law. If someone has a speculation that may be useful to the poster or other users and it is not based on evidence or expertise, they should not post it as an answer. And it is this that separates SE from other platforms. To encourage people to post speculations as answers from experts is to actively promote disinformation on the web. SE's word enemy. Nov 7 at 18:06
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    @Araucaria-Him 1. Exactly this; your disagreement with reasoning is welcome under this answer, and any and all down votes; which otherwise if I had written in the comments under the question would have made the process difficult. SE works because it does not claim every answer is the answer. Each answer, along with the votes it hold, and the substantiation made, are to be judged by the reader. 2. There was no decree. We are volunteers, acting in good faith, unpaid, bound by certain signed paperwork.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 7 at 19:41
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    @Araucaria-Him unfair to let Andrew carry the responsibility. Tchrist has also done their bit of locking questions, migrating comments in chat, etc. Frankly, I don't recall that significant a number of comments speculating as to the meaning of Iacke but maybe I arrived too late at the party.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 7 at 20:02
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    @NVZ Floodgates? Really? Compared to seven or eight years ago, it's so quiet on EL&U it feels almost like a ghost town. Many years ago, or so it seems, there were lively, thought-provoking discussions on the nuances of certain words and the origins of words and phrases. I don't see that any more, the once intelligent, fluid and eye-opening observations have all but dried up.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 7 at 20:30
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    @Mari-LouA I remain mute here on posts being locked and comments being removed. That may be an issue for many users, but it's not the one being asked about by OP. The issue is whether speculative ideas, which are therefore not authoritative answers, should be banned in comments. And also whether moderators like NVZ or AL should be allowed to unilaterally decide that they are now acceptable as answers and thus make SE and EL&U a site infested with misinformation. Nov 7 at 22:04
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    @NVZ Speaking of misinformation, your comment to Mari-Lou wrongly makes out that speculations have always been disallowed in comments and encouraged to be submitted as answers. This is completely untrue. It is misinforming readers here. This is a new and very unwelcome development. // Regarding your points to me, you keep falsely insisting that non-answers are answers and thus need to be subject to voting etc. As they aren't, they shouldn't be, and it would be dangerous if they were. Speculations should not be upvoted as authoritative answers - or downvoted when they weren't answers anyway. Nov 7 at 22:25
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    @NVZ Lastly, if you unilaterally start telling people t behave in a certain way that is not SE policy, has not been put to the community, then that is a decree. It doesn't matter that you do this role because you want to. It's not relevant to the discussion at hand. Nov 7 at 22:30
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    @NVZ The comment thread there is good, but we should not confuse partial answers, which provide some part of an answer, based on evidence, authoritative sources and knowledge, with speculation. Similar, but not the same. The former are helpful, the latter are dangerous when presented as answers. Nov 8 at 8:58
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    @Araucaria-Him Agreed partly, but then answer-in-comments would be disguised as 'speculation' to bend the rules. Speculations without ample substantiation would get voted out of view, and while it is around, the information on it is available for everyone to make use of anyway, much like if it was in the comments section.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 8 at 12:09
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    @NVZ If you want to pursue this as a policy why don't you take it up on Meta? Nov 8 at 13:35
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    I am not sure who is 'we' in this answer. I can't help having an impression that the insistence on enforcing the no-answers-in-comments rule comes only from the moderators, while the rest of the community (including many of its long-term, respected members) finds such contributions useful, or is, at least, happy to tolerate them.
    – jsw29
    Nov 8 at 16:10
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    @Araucaria-Him Speculations are really not authoritative answers, and the expectation is that the experts on the subject matter can 'vet' these speculations; help add the resources to substantiate; or nudge the speculation writer in the right direction. Comment boxes do not have the same features; are ephemeral by design, and at best, post-it notes.
    – NVZ Mod
    Nov 9 at 14:25
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    "Speculations are really not authoritative answers, and the expectation is that the experts on the subject matter can 'vet' these speculations" - but by posting as a comment, as opposed to an answer, the commenter is acknowledging that it's a mere guess. Your thing about 'experts' is useful, but if they are truly qualified enough to 'vet' the speculations and have access to substantiating resources—you seem to think so— they can simply add it as their own answer themselves, can they not? Nov 9 at 15:28
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    @NVZ One might get away with defending the policy of not allowing anything in comments including speculations. However, encouraging users to write speculations as answers is indefensible. Nowhere does SE encourage people to write bad answers on the basis that they may be turned into good answers by established users. And it's certainly not up to random individuals to tell established users that their job is to suck up a whole slew of new bad answers and spend their time turning them into good ones. And what Heartspring said too. Nov 9 at 15:47
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    @NVZ; I'm a committed user of chatgpt myself now, for "hobby" programming in retirement. Increasingly I find I'm consulting the AI before even googling something, let alone following links to forums to look at similar questions and answers. Actually posting my own question on a forum now seems like far too much effort for too little reward, given how often in the past my questions have been batted aside by people telling me I should have looked harder myself before asking. Chatgpt never makes snide remarks, even if I ask the same thing repeatedly (because I don't need to remember it! :) Nov 17 at 11:25

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