I realize that the site has a policy of not accepting pure translation questions, but I had a question closed which I would describe as translation-like:
A better way of expressing "burst like a soap bubble"?

I thought the policy was basically (and if it isn't I suggest it be made to something like this): you can't just give a foreign phrase and ask people to translate it, but you can give the gist of the foreign phrase in English and give the foreign phrase in addition for extra info that somebody who happens to speak that language could use to furnish a better answer. As we can see from my question, this did indeed happen (the user Gigili for example speaks good German), and many others were able to give a decent answer despite their not speaking German.

Now I could have rephrased the question as something like, "my friend used the phrase 'burst like a soap bubble'... maybe he got his inspiration from this German phrase" and it may seem more acceptable as it feels "less like a translation question", but come on... the content of the question would be exactly the same. It's a bit like saying "my... friend... has genital warts; how can they be treated?"

What really makes it into an acceptable question IMHO is the paragraph after the German phrase is given, which gives the gist of the German idiom, in English. Should it not be re-opened, with no rewording needed, or are we going to require jumping through grammatical hoops to make a question seem more on-topic whilst actually keeping exactly the same content and being less honest about what your real purpose is for asking the question?

BTW I know this seems similar to this thread but I'm raising it again because I get the impression that if I had purposely worded it deviously to make it sound like my "friend" had used the phrase "and gotten inspiration perhaps from this foreign phrase", the question wouldn't have been closed. Does encouraging this deviousness sound like a sensible policy?

  • 2
    Just a quick note why the hoops are indeed necessary: your question can be reworded to be on-topic. Other people will not realize that and post translation questions that cannot. And when their questions get closed, they will point to yours, and start complaining about not being treated fairly, yada yada, there will be blood. In most simple terms, on-topic question will attract other on-topic questions; but questions that are just somewhat off-topic will attract questions that are completely off-topic.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 15:51
  • OK, I jumped for the hoops for that question. Can it be reopened now?
    – Jez
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


I think your answer has been closed as not constructive because it gets different answers, which seem to give opinions about what the English equivalent would be.
Re-writing the question for a specific case, and making it less generic, could help to re-open it, even though there isn't any certain it gets really re-open.

Providing a rough translation of the German phrase is the first step to do, as you cannot expect that users answering questions on EL&U knows also German, although that is true for some users, in the same way there are users speaking Italian as first language.
Still, that is not the only necessary step, as the question could still be too vague to have an answer. What it is necessary is a context that restricts the number of possible answers; if you are looking for the equivalent of wie eine Seifenblase zerplatzen that can be used in every case, then you are probably asking a too broad question.

  • I just disagree. The question isn't vague; if you think it's too vague to be reopened you are just holding questions to way too high a standard. I've seen much more low-quality questions stay open.
    – Jez
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 19:13
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    I didn't close the question; therefore, I am not holding questions to a way too high standard. I am just reporting what I observe from the answers, and the second revision of the question. I have also not said the question is too vague.
    – apaderno
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 20:09

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