Can anyone explain to me, why my question got closed as off topic ?

I was asking about how to pronounce this symbol, as I find it hard to Google for a "symbol"

3 Answers 3


It is true that it's hard to impossible to google for symbols. You can, however, search Wikipedia for them. If you type a single symbol into Wikipedia's search box, it will take you to the corresponding article. Also, in your question you say "I know '^' means 'power'". So alternatively, you could have looked up that word rather than the symbol.

In the very first sentence on our About page, you will find this site described as a "community driven Q&A for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts". In other words, not all questions about English are on-topic here; certain things are just too basic, and we expect people to have a certain grasp of the language in order to participate.

We are aware of the drawbacks; just because a question is too basic for this particular site, doesn't mean it's not genuine or useful. Which is why there is now a proposed sister site targeted specifically at English language learners.

  • 1
    I use this site to search for symbols. Namely for programming, but it could be useful.
    – Desura
    Aug 3, 2012 at 18:50
  • 1
    I just voted to close the "main" question as General Reference. For most purposes, the symbol is called a caret, for which the pronunciation is definitely GR. True, asked to "read aloud" the specific text strings a ^ 2 or a ^ 3 many people would say a squared or a cubed, but for a ^ b surely everyone would say a [raised] to the power of b. The "full text" form of mathematical symbols must be either Off Topic or General Reference, imho. Aug 12, 2012 at 17:46

I'm not sure why it was closed.

  • it is not off-topic
  • it is not too local: obviously the OP doesn't want just those particular numbers pronounced
  • it might still be too basic or general reference except
    • the given answers still don't cover how native English speakers (of mathematics) actually do it in general
    • the link that Matt gave gives a formal way of saying it but not what people actual use in practice
    • that method of looking up symbols is not commonly known
  • also, I have an answer which I think will answer things well for you (which is why I'm responding here)

However, closing is a multi-person thing; there's no dictator (oh, except for mods who can just do it themselves) and everybody has their own reasons (or possibly on the bandwagon).

I have voted to reopen, but again, that's also a multiperson thing (except for mods who can just do it themselves).


I think I voted to close as too localised. This is because you're asking how to pronounce 2^16. There are an infinite number of powers 2 can be raised to, and an infinite number of number that can be raised to a power. Asking for that specific one is too localised.

If you meant it as an example, then making that clear would improve the question.

Given that you already know that ^ means power, did you look in a dictionary, or wikipedia about mathematical power?

In case you are unaware, you can lookup symbols in Wikipedia like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/^ and that will allow you to find out what you need to know.

I don't know for certain why the question is closed as off topic. RegDwight is better placed to answer that.

  • To localized? I'm pretty sure that was just an example. Aug 1, 2012 at 17:24
  • @Luke did you read the question before the edit? It's quite specific. Aug 1, 2012 at 18:10
  • I should have checked. I see what you mean. Aug 1, 2012 at 18:11

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