Compare the question "What does persay mean?" with "Is it peek, peak, or pique?". Both of them are about common errors and while the former is not as well-formulated as the latter, it has nevertheless been closed while the latter has not. That said, I dare say that persay for per se is at least as common as peak for pique and this is evident from the fact that its question has received ~4000 views in 11 months. That does not sound "too localised" to me.

So, should the persay question have been closed? Or should the pique question be closed? Considering the number of views it has garnered, should the persay question be reopened and perhaps cleaned up?

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    But it's simply not true that "persay" is about as common an error as "peak". In NGrams, it flatlines against "per se", and it only gets 423K hits on Google Internet compared to 33,600K for the "correct" version. Which isn't even English anyway, so it's not surprising some people don't spell it right. I accidentally closevated peak/pique because I didn't realise how common it is, but that doesn't apply at all with persay/per se. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:01
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    @FumbleFingers You might also want to google "per say" and note the existence of dictionary definitions for it as a frequent misspelling. The question is about, as Stoney puts it, ear-errors, which makes the spelling provided by the questioner, flexible. Also, and FWIW, I encounter "per say" with a degree of annoying frequency. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:05
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    Okay, so I Googled "per say" just like you said. As you'll see, the first result is Wikipedia saying Per se may refer to: Per se, a Latin phrase meaning "in itself". right there on the Google homepage "snippet view". How does that support your case for ELU needing to keep a question about it open for more people to find "interesting" things to say about it? Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:14
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    @FumbleFingers You're being difficult as usual :) What do the other results on that page say? Please pay close attention to the ones that include the word dictionary in them. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:24
  • I'm really not trying to be "difficult". The very first Google result for per say explains it without even needing to follow the link. It makes no difference what any other links might say if you've already got everything you need to know (including Google apparently "translating" your misspelling so as to put the right page at the top of the results list). Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:33
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    @FumbleFingers Google is not a reference. I'm refuting your contention that "per say" is not a common misspelling of "per se" or a common misspelling per se. It is so common that its commonness warrants entries in dictionaries and eggcorn databases. It also registers 2.1M hits. This also makes the question anything but "too localised". Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:41
  • I sense this is going nowhere. I use Google to find things. The first thing it found was a Wikipedia article saying exactly what you'd need to know if you were wondering what per say means. But assuming you were wondering, what useful extra information would you be getting (or indeed, seeking) if you decided Wikipedia wasn't a reliable reference, so you clicked on a link to the ELU question? And why does that question need to be reopened to add some more (imho, pointless) discussion? Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:55
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    You are again simply being evasive. You contend that a) the issue is "too localised", and b) the misspelling is uncommon. (I grant you that you were talking about "persay" rather than "per say".) I have just demonstrated that both these contentions are false. Furthermore, the view count demonstrates the usefulness of the question to the faceless hoi polloi out there. That should be sufficient for you to consider reopening and reassessing the question. You're welcome to try to close it again as "General Reference" as you might then want to do with the "Peak/pique" question if you so desire. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 6:04
  • I can only closevote once on a question, and I did that 20 minutes after per say was asked a year ago, so it's out of my hands now. Whatever - neither of us seems to have a "killer argument" that will convince the other, and the question has been reopened. As explained, I wouldn't want peak/pique closed because it seems inherently interesting as a (to me, unexpectedly prevalent) "eggcorn". About the only "improvement" I can see for peak/pique is that I'd have defined it with the equally common "in and of itself". Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


I think both questions would have a happy home on ELL. But since I can't move to migrate them to there, I instead err on the side of 'openness' and vote to reopen persay rather than close pique.


I'd say the persay question was probably closed because the title represents an ordinary mis-spelling, much as we close questions which turn on typographical errors.

And I'd guess that most of the views of that question arose because people looked at it and said "persay? I've never heard of persay. What does it mean?" - and then were disappointed to find it was common-or-garden-variety per se.

If I'd been around at the time I would probably have voted against closing, because the question isn't in fact about a mis-spelling but about a term which OP heard and didn't know how to look up (which I imagine is the source of almost all instances of this error). Once you get past that, however, it's an ordinary dictionary question. Correct the error, and there's no question left.

The peek question, on the other hand, was about a very similar widespread ear-error which involves redefining the underlying semantics of the phrase. It's an eggcorn, or very nearly so, which does not resolve to a dictionary question, because it never occurs to users that it has to be looked up. It's an error that has to be explained.

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    I don't think that the majority of the 4000 views are from ELU users. Most of them have very likely been referred to by Google searches for per say or persay, the results of which prominently include the ELU question page. If this is the case, then it isn't really too localised at all. As for eggcorns/ear-errors, it could perhaps be argued that per say could also redefine underlying semantics and require an explanation as provided. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:43
  • @coleopterist Agreed. I'm just guessing about why one was closed and the other wasn't. As for opening persay, the answer there looks conclusive, so I don't see any particular reason for reopening. But if you have something to add, I'll be happy to vote for reopening. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:48
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    I don't particularly have anything to add except perhaps linking to a dictionary definition. However, I think that it matters whether a question is closed or open. Closed questions are liable to be deleted at any time. Moreover, questions closed for being too localised (which this isn't) are prime candidates for deletion. I also believe that a closed question taints its answers with its blue and bold banner of unreliability :| Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:55
  • @coleopterist: I don't share your perception of what it means to be closed in this case. No-one is likely to vote for deleting it, and even if they did (and if it wasn't a mod, if they got enough others to vote likewise), others would undelete it. There's nothing to add about a simple misspelling that's almost unknown in print, and occurs in only 1% of all casual references (and doubtless, some facetious) on the Internet at large. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 5:08
  • @FumbleFingers That might change. :P
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:44
  • @Alenanno: Regardless of whether that change goes through (or has gone through, for all I know), it won't affect the situation as regards the specific question we're discussing here. It was fully and completely answered within 4 minutes of being asked. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:47
  • @FumbleFingers It hasn't. If it had, you'd see status-completed. By the way, I was just addressing the point of self-deletion.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:49
  • @Alenanno: I think we're at cross purposes here. I'm talking about the question on main which we're discussing here. You seem to be talking about this question on meta. I've downvoted this question because I disagree with coleopterist's position, but I certainly wouldn't vote to close it. In fact, it's quite unusual for anyone to closevote on meta (I expect the mods just unilaterally delete anything manifestly unsuitable). Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:54

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