(I'm a little surprised that no similar Meta questions were auto-suggested.) (But now that I get to tagging, I see there is an active tag for this.)

Per a recent discussion:

Earliest use of an asterisk (*) to indicate a zero-to-many character wildcard?

When does something count as ELU On-Topic by virtue of being a neologism?

That's the main question, the rest might get discussion-y.

To consider/contrast: When is something Off-Topic for not yet being part of the "Language and Usage"? (Where are the bounds on that, not the 'clearly off' end of the scale?) When for being non-specific (it is part of usage, but it applies to other languages)?

In the context of the question, some consider it (asterisk-as-wildcard, aka Kleene Star) Off-T because it is domain specific to computing, and not part of the wider language. I can understand that, but believe that if it can be shown to be part of the wider language, then it is On-T as a valid neologism (neo-construct? neo-usage?). (I believe that the answer in that question has shown notably wider usage.)

The point was also made that even if it is used outside the original context, it may be used equally in other languages. I can't (am too lazy to) comment on whether the Kleene star is used in non-English non-computing contexts, but it is a distinct point. Note: differential rates of uptake/usage would be a Linguistics question, but if the question is not about that comparison, does relevance to non-ELU make it too broad/Off-T ELU?

Some other terms to consider, as you think about the above questions:

  • -dar (from RADAR, usages such as "gaydar")

  • LOL (note - used in other languages. Also, disgustingly, used as regular speech in English, including such abominations as "I LOLed")

  • 'air quotes' / 'finger quotes'

  • As a pointless aside, I dislike all of these terms. I guess I'm a 'prescriptivist'.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 5:33
  • 3
    It's off-topic when it is. If it is about a recent neologism that other people use, and is answerable, then on-topic. If it is looking for a neologism, or asking if a word you just made up is OK, then off-topic because it is not answerable.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:12
  • @AlbeyAmakiir I'm very sorry to hear that (the latter point, at least). I didn't intend to make anyone uncomfortable. We're just nerds arguing on the internet, you know? We're nerdy enough to be on SE, ling-geeky enough to be on ELU, and pedantic enough to 'take it to meta' (toss in a measure of boredom or procrastination, too). That we get into endless fine-pointery in no way reflects on you or invalidates your question. Also, I didn't mean to imply any insensitivity re 'trans* topics' or the discussion from which this question came. I'm guessing I speak for others, too. Don't be shy!
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:25
  • @Mitch That's what I'd tend to think, but as you can see others disagree - at least re where the line on "that other people use" is.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:27
  • @AlbeyAmakiir As an aside, if you feel that the posted answer is good/complete, you should accept it.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 4:34
  • @hunter2 Whoops. Forgot I hadn't. Thanks. Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 6:01
  • 1
    @AlbeyAmakiir: I think your question was well-received, despite all the attention. The estimable John Lawler made a comment; MetaEd gave a thorough response. Personally, I thought you framed it well. There are a modest number of upvotes. No need for anxiety; nice job. Just my 2¢.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 0:58
  • I'm not really sure when to accept/close for something like this, given that it's a discussion. @FumbleFingers answer is interesting .. I guess it answers things, but I'd like to hear more opinions. (Or a definitive, concrete answer, if there is one.)
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 8:30
  • 1
    To coin a phrase, this is non-topic.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 14:13
  • @Robusto Touche // Accepting FF's answer because ... I'm too lazy to look up the normal discussion-tag behavior. I'd still like to hear more discussion on this (esp. if anyone has other ideas, or would like to refine FFs ('reasonable'?)), but I don't think there's going to be a definitive answer.
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


The first point to note is that we no longer have Too Localised as a closevote reason, which implies it's irrelevant how many people use any given neologism. And neologisms aren't Off Topic per se.

I personally closevoted the question OP links to as Off Topic because to my mind it's not about "English". I see it as just a very loose extension of a computer filename convention, which could in principle apply with any language using something like our character set.

But there are currently three "reopen" votes for the question, and at least one of the closevoters no longer endorses their action anyway, so it probably will be reopened soon.

I wouldn't closevote again even if I could (I'm a democrat at heart! :) - but it's not the type of question I particularly want to see on ELU, regardless of whether it's debarred by the FAQ.

My position is I've cast my closevote on that one, and attempted to justify myself in comments. If at some future point I see it's gaining upvotes, I might downvote myself by way of "balance", but other than that I'll probably just ignore it.

I'd like to say I don't think a usage counts as part of English Language unless a reasonable number of Anglophones either use or would at least understand it, but I doubt that would fly here.

  • 1
    How do you determine 'reasonable number'? I think your last point is valid (and kind of agree), but it does seem to condtradict your very first sentence. // I agree with/appreciate your handling - which is to say, it's good to comment (and be ready to discuss) when you closevote (or, usually, down-). // Would you elaborate on the "any language" part? "In principle" that applies to all kinds of things - including many things that seem to be On. Would you count "LOL" as Off-Topic because it is used in other languages?
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:49
  • Would you agree that 'current, non-computing English usage' has been demonstrated (even if only limited usage) for this Q?
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 3:51
  • @hunter2: I said I attempted to justify my closevote, because I know my explicit justification wouldn't necessarily stand scrutiny. The reality is more that I just think it's not the kind of question I personally want to see addressed on ELU. I'd count LOL as OT simply because it's so trivial and easily answered using a Google search, but I can't take that line with trans* Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 15:02
  • OK. I'm not trying to 'tear down' your justification, just tease out a little more discussion (to help me form mine). But, OK, I'll let it go. // Except ... Do you see what I'm asking with 'LOL', though? Other reasons aside, how does non-E affect E-relevance? (There are probably other/better examples, instead of 'LOL'.) Wouldn't your bit about 'any NL' apply to a lot of accepted Qs, especially about neologisms?
    – hunter2
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 8:25
  • 1
    I would suggest 'a number of reasonable Anglophones' instead, but unfortunately everyone but me is unreasonable :) Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 13:19

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