I feel there is some unfriendly activity in English Language & Usage community.

Here is the question that I'm complaining about: Is "blah blah blah" the most common spelling?

There is at least 5 down vote. As non-native English speaker I can't understand what's wrong with my question where there are many similar questions (you can find them on right column).

  • 1
    @JohnS If you want a specific and objective answer, you need to give specific and objective requests/details.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 24, 2012 at 15:58
  • 3
    I think Mitch's comment explains it pretty clearly
    – yoozer8
    Aug 24, 2012 at 16:01
  • 1
    reopened by shog9 and answered (by me, hopefully by others too)
    – Mitch
    Aug 24, 2012 at 17:22
  • @Mitch thanks :) Aug 24, 2012 at 17:33
  • 5
    @Alenanno: I think that your comment does not address the OP's complaint: unfriendly behavior. What do you need to do in order to get a friendly response from the ELU community? Is there any justification for unfriendly behavior? I think it also speaks to the unproductiveness of the community's response that the OP claims to still not know what they did wrong despite the many negative responses. I don't see how driving away well-intentioned people who make mistakes out of ignorance improves the site.
    – Rachel
    Aug 24, 2012 at 21:47
  • @Rachel My comment refers to another comment that is now deleted.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 24, 2012 at 22:11
  • Just for the record I'd like the say that Mitch's answer on the question under discussion is a good example of a friendly way to answer a question of this "naive" or "newbie" type. Aug 25, 2012 at 14:04
  • @Rachel I'm re-writing my answer to you because I cannot edit the comment. My first comment does not address the OP's complaint because... I didn't write it talking about that. It was directed at other comments and not to the question so it obviously doesn't address the question. Lastly, am I justifying unfriendly behavior somewhere? Am I driving well-intentioned users away? The answer to both these questions is no, so I don't see why you're directing that comment at me.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 25, 2012 at 19:16
  • @Alenanno: If you were addressing the OP about a comment that was deleted before I ever saw it, how was I supposed to know that you weren't addressing the OP about his original question as it appeared? My other comments were meant to clarify what I thought the issue here was. It wasn't meant as an attack on you.
    – Rachel
    Aug 25, 2012 at 22:32
  • Please do not roll back my edit of the title. Titles should be as specific as possible. Same as on the main site, and any other site of the network.
    – RegDwigнt Mod
    Aug 25, 2012 at 23:18

3 Answers 3


I'm sorry that you felt the reaction to your question was confrontational. I don't think the commentary was intended to be unfriendly, although I can see how the downvotes in conjunction with the comments gave it that appearance.

We don't generally field spelling questions like this, and the comments were intended to elicit enough context to make your question answerable.

As Mitch said (more or less) "blah blah blah" is informal, so there is no real 'correct' spelling, other than perhaps what is most common. If you are unsure what is most common, then you should be clearer about why you think 'blah blah,' 'bla bla bla,' and 'bla bla' are possibly more common than the one you chose.

If you edit your question to include more detail, it is possible that the community will vote to reopen it, if enough people feel that it is on-topic.

  • 2
    Thanks for your kind words. I was overwhelmed by down votes and comments and I wasn't able to understand how should I clear my question. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:32
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    A related point is that what's "most common" is not necessarily straighforward, depending on what your problem is. For instance it could be that one is more popular in Britain and the other is more popular in the US. Or perhaps you want to include it in dialogue set in a specific point in history and the fashions of which is most common may have waxed and waned. The more information and effort you put into your question the more effort and better quality of answers you will get. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:36
  • @JohnS: Please try to improve your question and there is some chance it may be reopened. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:52
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    @hippietrail I have edited it trying to make it clear. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:56
  • @hippietrail thanks for helping and backing. :) Aug 24, 2012 at 16:59
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    @hippietrail: A good answer will address these issues. We shouldn't expect askers to already know that these issues even exist: that's what we're here for! Aug 25, 2012 at 20:46

The word "blah" can be found in most dictionaries. You really don't need anyone here to open a dictionary and quote the entry for you.

But you're not even asking about the spelling of "blah", you're asking about the phrase "blah blah blah". You don't really explain why, or why you think it might be spelled differently.

As noted in the comment by Mitch, you're asking something that's determined entirely by informal usage, which means you either answered your own question (if the most common spelling was "bla bla bla" you'd have put that in your title) or the answer depends on where you are / who you're talking to.

It's possible that if you explained the source of your confusion this question would make more sense, but as it stands there's really nothing we can tell you that adds to what you (presumably) already know.

  • You arguments are very weak. As non-native english speaker I was asking how should I write it correctly. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:27
  • As a non-native English speaker, what makes you think you're writing it incorrectly?
    – Shog9
    Aug 24, 2012 at 16:28
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    I first wrote it as bla bla bla in an English text but a friend told me it should be blah blah so I decided to ask here. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:33
  • That's a good start (and a good friend).
    – Shog9
    Aug 24, 2012 at 16:36
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    It could well be that the OP doesn't know how to find out which variant is most common. Just look at the answer the question got that tried and got the wrong answer, thus proving that it's not so trivial a task. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:37
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    I think a more friendly answer (or comment), especially during the "Stack Exchange Summer of Love" would've been to state that a) the term in all variants is colloquial b) English doesn't have an academy to decide right from wrong c) academy or not, deciding right spelling of colloquial terms is "tricky" to say the least d) nobody checked what any style guide says. Not every naive questioner here will know all that in advance. Telling them = nice; bunch of downvotes with abrupt comments = not nice. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:41
  • Also you insinuate strongly that it's not acceptable to ask questions about how to spell a phrase rather than a word. I don't believe this is necessarily the phrase, especially if you assume good faith and/or a non native speaker asking the question. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:42
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    @hippietrail: wanna be friendly? Help the guy improve his question. Finding someone struggling, seeing the question down-voted, and doing nothing to help him (preferring to criticize the folks down-voting) may make you feel better, but isn't really doing anything to help John here solve his problem, is it... This is still a Q&A site - the friendliest thing you can do is help folks get answers to their questions.
    – Shog9
    Aug 24, 2012 at 16:45
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    Hopefully my comments on the question and this meta post are helping. I've asked the OP to supply more details. I can't add details he doesn't tell me though and even without further details I find it perfectly clear and answerable as is. Also I don't know any of you here so I'm really just criticizing the comments and answers, not the people behind them. I don't really even take in which "name" belongs to which comment. Aug 24, 2012 at 16:51
  • @hippie your comments have been helpful insofar as they relate to the question. In particular, simply noting that there seem to be two extremely common spellings and asking if one would be considered more "proper" (and why) would be an improvement over the original. The lack of an academy... Eh, that certainly has never stopped anyone from claiming a particular spelling or phrasing to be "wrong".
    – Shog9
    Aug 24, 2012 at 17:00
  • Thanks @Shog9 - If I were at home I have both a Webster's Third and an OED 2 microprint and would love to look them up. But I'm on the other side of the world right now and Wiktionary is somewhere between chaos and anarchy so I haven't quoted from it. I don't own a Strunk & White or other style guide but I'm very interested after following this thread whether any of them have something to say on the matter. (-: Aug 24, 2012 at 17:09
  • 1
    @Shog9 Thanks for reopening. Aug 24, 2012 at 17:49
  • @JohnS: Regarding qwickup, have you seen onelook.com? I love it.
    – Rachel
    Aug 24, 2012 at 21:34

I'll say this: when I first read the question, it seemed inane, and trivial. After all, our FAQ reads:

The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts.

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site..

At first glance, I can see why your question - about how to spell blah blah blah - would be considered trivial, and hardly the right material for this target audience. It seems chatty, irrelevant, and easily answerable. Blah blah blah sounds like yada yada yada; it comes across as something between baby talk and “What-evah!

Upon doing some research, though, the question turned out to be more interesting than it initially appeared on the surface. I found 5,000,000 or so Google hits for blah blah blah-with-an-h, but 1,000,000 or so, for bla bla bla-sans-an-h. I found blah in the dictionary, but I found a few instances of bla bla bla cited at a dictionary website as well.

If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, then you may find common online internet resources to be of some help.

You mentioned that "I had checked it out on some online English dictionary and Google search but I wasn't able to clear it out," but you never went on to explain what you found, or why the matter was still unclear.

Given how juvenile the question appears on the surface, but how not-so-straightforward it appears after doing some preliminary research, it's not hard to understand why your question accumulated so many upvotes and downvotes (11 to 10 at this juncture).

I didn't vote either way; I'm a bit torn on the matter. On one hand, the question seems chatty and pointless – an idle argument between you and a friend; on the other, it has some interesting aspects that many have already discussed. On one hand, you took the time to mention that you had checked Google and the dictionary; on the other, you never bothered to tell us what you found there.

As to whether or not the ensuing votes were unfriendly, I'll offer this advice: when asking a question that could easily be construed as inane or irrelevant at first glance, you might try offering more concrete evidence as to why this is a question that would really interest us. Had you gone on to elaborate on what you found, for example, and let us see for ourselves how this problem might be interesting – by including, for example:

I found one poet who said that bla bla was an original spelling: I write 'Bla' the french way...was first said in 1763 in a court room when the accusded said to the Judge ' bla bla bla' then he got his head cut off....200 hundred years later in USA they say now ' blah Blah'


Even though the 5,000,000 Google hits seem to support my friend, I found plenty of other hits that suggest there might be alternate spellings, such as...

then that might have appealed to our collective curiosity, and warded off some downvotes. (There's no way to tell for sure, but I still think the question could have been presented a little bit better.)

I hope that you decide to eventually test my theory by presenting an equally interesting – yet slightly better framed – question sometime in the future.

  • Thanks for your advice. You are right and explained every thing clearly. But few minutes after asking I received 5 down-votes and comments saying "Define correct" and "Define common" followed by closing question. I think this is the result of setting up to make here an "expert only community" by means of unexplained "down-votes and closing" which is very different culture comparing to stackoverflow where there is competition to answer basic question in few minutes. Aug 26, 2012 at 7:00
  • Also thanks for not voting down, I guess most of up-votes are there to clear down-votes (which is good sign for community), I doubt that spelling of blah blah blah is really interesting question. And just for the record, before asking I did the exact research you have described (dictionaries & google search hits), but at first I didn't mentioned the reason that I was asking that question and my own research at all because I though they are not going to be interesting for someone who knows the answer and I usually try to keep my writing as short as possible. Aug 26, 2012 at 7:25
  • My theory differs slightly from yours ~ I think the downvotes came quick because the question appeared silly on the surface. Those who took the time to do research found it to me more interesting, and voted up, not to "offset unjustly given downvotes," but because they found it to be a more interesting problem than they may have originally supposed. As for brevity in your questions, there's a time and place for brevity, but, for a blah blah blah question, I'd err on the side of verboseness. There's a precedence for such research getting recognized with many upvotes.
    – J.R.
    Aug 26, 2012 at 10:23

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