What are the tags?
Currently, single-word-requests is our #3 Top Tag and phrase-requests is #20. The about page for each tag notes that the distinction between the tags is whether you are looking for a single word or whether you would find a phrase or multi-word response acceptable.
How are they used?
The actual use of single-word-requests tends to be one of the following forms:
- Is there a word that matches this meaning?
- Is there a word that means the same as this other word, but with this slight difference?
phrase-requests commonly follows these forms:
- Is there a phrase that matches this meaning?
- Is there a phrase that means the same as this other phrase, but with this slight difference?
- Is there an English equivalent to the this non-English phrase?
Why should they be merged?
The purpose of each tag is nearly identical and the only distinction is an arbitrary restriction set by the asker. These kinds of restrictions context specific but, in my opinion, the same request in a slightly different context is not enough to "split" the question into two different posts or tags.
Explicitly, I think these two questions tend to invoke the same responses:
Is there a word that means X?
Is there a phrase that means X?
In essence, the real question is:
How do I say X?
If the asker adds a restriction of size, does that actually help us? If there isn't a single word but a two word phrase fits the intended meaning it should be considered an acceptable answer within the scope of ELU. Any context that needs exactly one word is Too Narrow and most likely unhelpful for future visitors.
Why shouldn't they be merged?
The reason I wouldn't merge them is because there is a moderately useful distinction between meanings that can be covered by "phrases" and meanings that can be covered by "words". (This is also why we have idiom-requests.)
My counterpoint is that this distinction is really only useful once we know the answer to the question. The asker, by definition, does not know whether their meaning can be covered by a word or a phrase. If they did, they wouldn't be asking the question. Thus, as a way to categorize questions, I'm not sure their separation provides a great service.