I haven't got a lot of time to argue for someone else's question but I really can't understand why a question that's gained almost 2000 views in a day and has a useful answer and an informative comment, has been closed as general reference.

Isn't the word "shotgun" a self-redundancy?

The only issue I would have with it is that such a simple answer probably doesn't deserve so much rep, but that's not a reason to close it.

I am a native English speaker with a decent grasp of English, and I learnt two interesting facts from this post.

So I flagged it with the message:

"This should not be closed. I have learnt two things very useful to know, that I did not previously know. The first comment and the answer are both very informative. It has almost 2000 views since being asked yesterday. Closing this and questions like it is detrimental to this site."

And commented the same on the question. My flag was declined with the reason:

"flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention"

But that's exactly why flagged it. Also because I can't vote to reopen. I feel like my issue was brushed aside autocratically without any discussion.

Why has this useful question been deemed out of scope?

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    Re-opening questions is not something that moderators usually do. Since this is what you were requesting, I declined your flag. The appropriate action is to post a question on Meta asking for clarification, presenting your argument for why it should be re-opened, and drawing attention to the closed question, which is what you have done. As to the rest, I can't speak to that. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jun 30 '14 at 14:19
  • I have been informally instructed to flag to close when I don't have the rep requirements so I figured the opposite was also appropriate. Flagging to reopen could've been deemed a helpful opinion for the reopen case, even if it stated closed after consideration. – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 14:28
  • I'd already voted to re-open before seeing this meta post. Not that I think it's a great question, but I don't really see why it's Off Topic. For the record, I'd say a shotgun isn't "tautological" because it's a gun that fires shot (from OED sense 15, small pellets of lead as distinguished from bullets). – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '14 at 16:14
  • ...I've just had another look at the question and realised that if I'd scrolled down the page I'd have seen that my reaction was posted as an answer (and heavily upvoted). Perhaps it was considered General Reference, but considering the drivel that often gets retained on ELU, I can't see why this particular one was singled out for closure. I wouldn't have voted to reopen if I'd noticed it had been answered, though. – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '14 at 16:19
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    @KitFox - Actually, flagging for moderator attention is explicitly envisioned as a mechanism for lower-rep users to request reopening of third-party questions. In fact, the reopen rate for flagged questions is actually higher than for the review queue, according to the same authoritative source. – phenry Jun 30 '14 at 16:40
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    @phenry Then let me make it clear that it is my strong preference that rather than flagging, users should post a question on Meta if they think a question needs re-opening. I would much rather it left to the community to determine if a question should be re-opened, and posting on Meta is the best way to bring attention to it if having it in the Reopen Queue is unsatisfactory in some way. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jun 30 '14 at 16:45
  • @phenry Also, that flagging solution was ultimately shot down, and the mechanism would not have put the questions in the mod queue anyway, but rather the reopen queue. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jun 30 '14 at 16:47
  • No, it wasn't shot down--the request for a special "reopen" flag with no text field was declined. The advice to flag for moderator attention and provide a reason the question should be reopened remains, I believe, in effect. – phenry Jun 30 '14 at 16:53
  • @FumbleFingers on the contrary I feel that being already answered is what makes it worth keeping. Without the answer that I was previously unaware of, I would've assumed it was a pointless question. Both the answer and question could be improved though. – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 18:51
  • @ user: I would never suggest deleting the question. It's obviously worth keeping, if only because of the amount of interest it gathered. I wouldn't have voted to close either, but it's a close-run (sorry!) thing for me, in that I only voted to re-open because I didn't notice it had been answered. As to whether the existing answers could be improved, that's really a matter for you and the answerers to address. I'm not sure there's more that can be usefully added to the second sentence in my first comment above, but you may of course feel different about that. – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '14 at 18:59
  • @KitFox the question has been reopened, what should I do with this post? Is there some kind of 'status:reopened' tag or something? This post is no longer necessary, especially as one of the featured posts. – Dom Jul 3 '14 at 17:41
  • It's fine to leave this question as-is. It may be useful to future visitors, so I see no reason to remove it. It will also come off the featured list when it stops receiving significant attention. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jul 3 '14 at 18:15

I haven't got a lot of time to argue for someone else's question but I really can't understand why a question that's gained almost 2000 views in a day and has a useful answer and an informative comment, has been closed as general reference.

Simply because looking up the word "shot" in a dictionary would have answered the question:

shot — 6. a small ball or pellet of lead, a number of which are loaded in a cartridge and used for one charge of a shotgun.

Likewise, the Online Etymology Dictionary notes the origin of the term:

shotgun — 1821, American English, from shot (n.) in the sense of "lead in small pellets" (1770) + gun (n.). As distinguished from a rifle, which fires bullets.

The "general reference" close reason states:

Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references

Both the average dictionary and Online Etymology Dictionary are suggested in the list of general references and both can quickly and accurately answer this question.

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    What about the fact that I'd never even wondered about the word shotgun, and it turned out to be far more interesting than I would've thought. I really don't think general reference should be applied like this. Asking a question on this SE (and others) is becoming increasingly like traversing a minefield. – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 18:33
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    The problem is that we need a set of rules that can be as objectively applied as possible. A non-obvious entry in a dictionary is still an entry in a dictionary. Also, ELU is here to help people answer questions they are unable to answer on their own. It is not meant to be an "interesting word of the day" site. – MrHen Jun 30 '14 at 18:52
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    @user, I really can't see that as a reason not to close a question. What part of the question ISN'T general reference? What part of the question required anything more than for the asker to go look at wikipedia? The fact is, while the questioner admits that he was doing research (on "riding shotgun"), he did not do any research on the question that he actually asked; he had an idle stroke of curiosity and immediately posted without making the least effort to find out for himself. – Hellion Jun 30 '14 at 18:53
  • @user (cont'd) ... While I'm glad you managed to learn something from the question, there are tons of words out there that would similarly pique your interest if you merely perused a lexicon occasionally. But ELU is supposed to be where you go after you've exhausted your own resources, not where you go to have someone else read the dictionary to you. – Hellion Jun 30 '14 at 18:56
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    After I read this meta-question, I went back to the original question with the intention of adding my own re-open vote; but after reviewing the question, the answer, and the comments there, I cannot find a valid reason to do so. – Hellion Jun 30 '14 at 18:59
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    If 5 people had voted to close it would be harder to argue against, but I only see one name as the decision maker. If 5 people had voted to close there would be plenty of people to defend the decision with valid points. As it is, I see no strong reason to close a question like this. I see 2000 views in a day as a reason to keep it open. – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 19:47
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    Good content is good content, regardless of the intention behind posting it... isn't it? – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 19:49
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    @user: The point of what I wrote is that ELU has decided that this post is not good content for the reason that you can just look up the answer in two different types of dictionaries. That doesn't mean it isn't a good question; it just means it isn't a good question for this site. – MrHen Jun 30 '14 at 19:50
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    user - It may be interesting, but do we really need or want to spend our collective time spoon-feeding answers to questions like "Don't all guns shoot?" We might have to agree to disagree, but I don't see this as "good content." I don't visit ELU to see a host of unchallenging questions, I visit hoping to see ones that cause me stretch my brain a bit. ELU isn't meant to be first-tier support; O.P.s are expected to do at least a modicum of research first, as MrHen and @Hellion indicated. Most of those 2K views probably came because the question made the Top 100 list, not because it was "good". – J.R. Jun 30 '14 at 20:38
  • Considering the answer had 50 upvotes, I'm guessing it was news to at least 50 out of ~2000 people, or around 2.5% of the viewers. I'd hazard a guess that that's probably a higher rate than most questions of a similar nature on this site. Honestly, it feels like this site is becoming elitist and high-rep users are forgetting that not everyone is as knowledgeable as them. I don't know what else to say except I don't understand the system/culture here. For the record, I'm not saying it's a great question, I just don't think it should be closed. – Dom Jun 30 '14 at 22:39
  • Ask a simple question with a straightforward answer, and that answer is bound to collect a tidy sum of upvotes, simply because many will immediately recognize it as "the correct" answer. For the record, I'm not saying the question should have been closed, I just think there are several plausible explanations for a high upvote total, and not all of them are related to the overall value of the question. I also don't think the closure of certain questions means that a community is elitist, but this isn't the first time I've seen that charge leveled, and it likely won't be the last. – J.R. Jun 30 '14 at 23:43
  • @user: What is elitist about noting that we will close questions that can be answered with a dictionary and then actually closing questions that can be answered with a dictionary? I don't understand your objection. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 3:55
  • I yield. It's not my question or my decision. I just became a lot less fond of this site. – Dom Jul 1 '14 at 15:45
  • @user: I'm sorry you are less fond of the site. But I'm still not sure exactly why. The general reference close reason is there to do something very explicit. Why would we not do what we said we would do? It feels weird to me that you would become less fond of a site when all they are doing is following the posted guidelines. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 15:50
  • Because those guidelines are set by the community. If I don't like the guidelines, its because I don't like how you guys have chosen to run the site. Ergo, I'm not so fond of this sites culture and governance. – Dom Jul 1 '14 at 15:53

I think the question is OK to good. I grew up on a farm and everyone had a shotgun. Out of the people I work with now, maybe 1 in 50 would be able to answer this question without looking. And looking isn't easy either. There are many definitions out there for shot, gun, and shotgun.

I can understand where MrHen is coming from. He thinks it's easy. For him this was an easy question, doesn't make it bad though.


a smoothbore gun for firing small shot at short range.


the firing of a gun or cannon.


a weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.

Above is simply the first definition that comes up with googling. There is nothing in there that discusses a "shot" compared to a bullet. Also I think it would be really hard for most to infer a shot could be a type of bullet.

I am not sure why anyone would close this or what reason was used. I also agree that mods should be more active to reopening things, especially since they seem to partake in closing things off too.

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    No, I don't think you do understand where I'm coming from. This has nothing to do with "easy". It has everything to do with being "general reference". The two concepts aren't inherently related. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 14:33
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    Or, in other words, it isn't relevant how many people can answer the question without looking. It is relevant how many people can answer the question with looking. As I mentioned in my answer, one of our general reference materials is etymonline.com which completely, unambiguously answers this question. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 14:36
  • If that is still not an effective reason to close this question then we need to explicitly redefine what general reference closing means. As the close reason currently stands, this question absolutely must be closed. To do otherwise would cause far too much inconsistency. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 14:37
  • I'd hazard an uneducated guess that by the same token, there are many questions on this site that would need to be closed for consistency. Additionally, doesn't that mean every word and definition in OED is general reference? I should vote to close anything in a modern dictionary? Where should I draw the line on general reference? A well oiled system is useless if there's no content running through it. Finally, I don't think any site on SE, except SO, can afford to throw away a question that gains 2000 views in a day and so many upvotes. You're alienating anyone who thought it was a good q. – Dom Jul 1 '14 at 15:33
  • @user: I am all for taking a hard look at the General Reference close reason and asking whether we want to keep it around. The only thing I am attempting to communicate here is why the question was closed and why it fits the current description of General Reference. If there are other questions that should be closed as a result of this description, link them and we can close them. If you think we should add an explicit exception to our close reasons for questions that have a certain number of views, you should post that as a separate topic on meta where it can be explicitly discussed. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 15:54
  • @user: Or perhaps the "fix", here, is to remove etymonline from the list of acceptable General Reference links? – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 15:55
  • @MrHen - I think you missed my point. The common terminology here - shot - has several meanings and it is hard for someone to easily research these words without the right background to give the context you gave in your answer. I can almost bet I have close out more things this year under general reference than anyone. But some etymology questions become tricky because sometimes it seems easy and isn't. With general references you can't assume user looks at the 1 of 15 that has a good explanation. – RyeɃreḁd Jul 1 '14 at 16:35
  • There is no background required in the answer I gave. All you have to do is look up the word on etymonline (which is in our list of General References) and it gives you the entire answer. I understand that using a normal dictionary would require you to actually read the entire entry critically but etymonline is a clear, unambiguous and easy to find answer. I didn't "miss your point". Your point doesn't take the etymonline entry into account. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 17:37
  • @MrHen - part of the site is taking something of common usage and trying to get more meaning out of it. I would hate that we limit the discussions, which I understand this isn't a discussion site, but the answers provide dialogue. You would hope that more perspective and information would come out past what is available on etymonline. – RyeɃreḁd Jul 1 '14 at 18:20
  • @RyeɃreḁd: I'm not really debating whether the ensuing discussion is valuable. I'm just pointing out that this question is quickly answerable using the resources in our General Resources list. That's the reason the question was closed. – MrHen Jul 1 '14 at 19:00

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