Although it hasn't actually been closed (yet!?) Word for two people who are the same age quickly attracted three closevotes - at least one on the grounds that "OP doesn't show any indication of having done background research or having a particular reason for the request."

I came across the question two hours after it had been posed, by which time it had at least half-a-dozen less-than-definitive answers (imho because unlike some languages, English simply doesn't have a common word for the referent, even though it's a common, simple concept).

It took me a while to come up with an answer myself (also less-than-satisfactory, since the OP would obviously have liked a common word), so I hardly think OP failed to do basic research.

I'm left with OP not demonstrating a particular reason for his request. Personally, I get really irritated by single-word-requests where it turns out the only reason for asking is that someone wants a name for a function or variable in his program. Particularly where it's obvious the referent to be named is primarily useful in data processing contexts, not real people talking together. But because we have a preponderance of "techies" here on ELU, there are often people happy to provide suggestions for these highly-localised contexts.

Many, many questions give no indication at all as to why OP would want to ask his particular question. I've rarely seen this mentioned as a problem, provided the question is "answerable".

I'm aware there's something of an undercurrent against single-word-requests on ELU - but I don't really understand that, and I don't want to dwell on it. My question, such as it is, boils down to...

What are the factors constituting justification for posing a question on ELU?

In response to @Feral Oink's answer/comment, I've changed my wording here. I'd like my question to be addressed in a similar fashion to this one about what people consider on/off-topic.

Ideally I'd like very brief answers, each of which describes one possible justification, so people can simply up/downvote each one according to whether and how strongly they agree/disagree with it. Supplementary text for/against each reason would probably be best restricted to comments, to keep things really clear. But feel free to edit any "answers" (by me, at least, as I'll mark them community wiki) to clarify exactly what specific justification it's putting forward.

  • I had always wanted to suggest that an OP is supposed to have done these things when he comes to post a question on ELU: Read FAQs, Checked previous questions on ELU, Googled, Wiki'ed, M-W'ed, OALD'ed, COCA'ed, asked friends and neighbors and adequately researched the question.
    – Kris
    Feb 14, 2012 at 11:04
  • Also, esp., etymonline and such, where applicable.
    – Kris
    Feb 14, 2012 at 11:08
  • This answer offers an interesting view: linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/1227/18 . Feb 26, 2012 at 20:05

5 Answers 5


The original poster of the question, @Manoochehr (original poster or "OP") gave no reason for asking the question. In fact, he stated that he had no particular reason for asking at all. As a result, the question is not "answerable". The question should specify context, even if it is data processing, or somewhat localized. We have a "terminology" tag. We also have "too localized" criteria in place that can be invoked for closing questions.

For this question, the answers are all widely dispersed e.g. historically-flavored responses, geological terms, education and cognitive terms. None were bad. The question isn't sufficiently specific to respond to otherwise.

A question about equal age is an odd one to apply to people. It does seem more likely to be motivated by a programming or data processing inquiry. It could be pertinent to "people" in a developmental context, either education or biology. But for educational purposes, it would be "age group" or "age range". The OP specifically said that was not what he wanted. All that remains, from my generalist point of view, is the context of biology, specifically, fetal development in weeks or months. We don't even want to consider that though, else we will get into the utterly off topic matter of when life begins, at conception or at birth (is a fetus a "people" or not?)

I have belabored this for illustrative purposes. It isn't constructive for us to go through this process of guessing to answer a question.

  • Thanks; I've deleted my no-longer-necessary comment, and upvoted your answer. I disagree with the notion that no-reason-for-asking implies not-answerable, but agree with some other points. Feb 13, 2012 at 0:04
  • @FeralOink I agree with the first 2 paragraphs, I +1 your answer, but I don't agree with the third. Perhaps in English it works differently, but other languages do have a word for that "concept", and it's not for minutes or seconds, but for the year-range, so I don't think it's only restricted to biology or "fetus".
    – Alenanno
    Feb 13, 2012 at 12:39
  • 1
    Yes, tagging properly (e.g. programming, mathematics) is a good idea. Then one would know what kind of answer is expected Feb 18, 2012 at 18:48

Almost the sole rationale for posting a question on EL&U should be that to be answered well, the question needs to be answered by an English language expert. This has nothing to do with the intended use of the answer by the OP, and rightly so. "What do I name my function" is usually not a question requiring the expertise of a grammarian or linguist. Except in the rare case that it is. And in that case it should be allowed. And you may not know which it is until an expert weighs in with an interesting answer, so do not be too quick to close a question.

  • 2
    I have some sympathy with this position, but the reality is very few questions posed here actually need an expert to answer them. And very few of the "trivial" ones that don't need or get an "expert" answer even get closed, let alone deleted. Most closures that aren't blatantly off-topic are simply because the same (usually trivial) questions get asked time and time again. Feb 10, 2012 at 15:05
  • @FumbleFingers perhaps he means a question that an expert would approve as proper (regardless whether a non-expert answers or not). However, that's not so helpful since there is no clear way to define an expert here. Feb 18, 2012 at 18:45
  • @Theta30 haha - the obvious criterion being experts are those with high rep on ELU. I could go with that! Feb 18, 2012 at 19:02
  • If questions need to be answered by experts then shouldn't there be some sort of test or interview process to find out who are appropriately qualified experts that are allowed to answer? It seems a flaw in the system if anyone is able to answer.
    – user184130
    Aug 19, 2018 at 16:27
  • OP doesn't need to show (or even have) any particular reason for asking

I can't upvote this because it's my own answer. The main reason for wanting to know why OP asked a question is to gain context. But if OP gives sufficient context to be unambiguously answered, and the question meets all other ELU requirements, it's irrelevant why it was asked.

I'm not saying we shouldn't ask why a question was posed - this may be relevant information. But failure to provide "adequate" justification isn't in itself a valid reason for voting to close.

  • 2
    I agree, the OP doesn't need to be sentient, but should at least pass the Turing Test for intelligence when asked substance questions. A question to the OP about motivation is usually not about the sentience of the OP but to help them flesh out the question so it will be answerable. Otherwise the question just looks impertinent. So yes, I agree, with the letter of this example (the OP doesn't need to have a particular reason for the question), but getting motivation is one way to improve an impoverished question.
    – Mitch
    Feb 12, 2012 at 21:19
  • I want to know why XXX isn't a valid word/construction, given that YYY is

Why isn't "exply" the opposite of "imply"?

If "wouldn't" and "couldn't" are okay, what about "bettern't"?

  • This one is hard. The question itself is hard to answer in general, but also to judge as on topic or not.
    – Mitch
    Feb 10, 2012 at 1:38
  • @Mitch: I was a bit iffy about putting this one in for that very reason. In the end, it's always going to be difficult to separate valid reason for asking from on/off-topic. Often, this one really nets down to "I just wondered..." - and we can hardly say that's not a valid reason for asking something. Feb 10, 2012 at 2:07
  • Actually, at the late point where I found out that it was "I just wondered....", that's when I got kinda pissed off at the OP. Idle speculation may be interesting but...it's asking for a definitive answer to a most likely non-existent concept.
    – Mitch
    Feb 10, 2012 at 2:41
  • 1
    @Mitch: I think we have to accept that "I just wondered...." can be the springboard for a really good question. The problem is deciding whether any given thing someone wonders about is a good question, and in the end that's largely down to the calibre of the OP's enquiring mind, and amount/quality of forethought he gave before throwing the question out to ELU. In that case the OP didn't give it much thought, since he'd barely noticed that his real issue was simply omitting "had" from "I had better..." without noticing. Feb 10, 2012 at 3:50

(this is just to start the ball rolling, as something you can vote up or down)

  • a name for a variable/function in a program OP is working on
  • 2
    Umm... I see someone voted to delete this answer! The whole point of this question is to up/downvote answers, to indicate which reasons are considered valid/invalid reasons for posting a question. If you don't think "a name for a variable/function in a program OP is working on" is a good reason for asking ELU, downvote this answer - but don't vote to delete it, please! The number of downvotes needs to remain visible as a record of how many people think it's a bad reason for asking. Mar 10, 2012 at 2:50

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