I am a native speaker of English (not a pineapple), who classes himself as a "serious enthusiast" of the language. This site, as has been discussed elsewhere (most notably here), takes some getting used to for any new user, but I decided to put in some effort to understand the rules and conventions of this site, because I felt that it has the potential to be very enjoyable.
I guess 45 days weren't enough to figure it out. I understood (between this site and the main site) that questions were frowned upon, but not closed, because people favored questions by and for "linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts." (copied from the site blurb). Alright, no problem, I'm a serious enthusiast, I can think of high-level questions that bother me about how this language works, and bring them here.

But I'm really struggling to figure out why my most recent question was down-voted and closed. In one sense, it is indeed a question, as I am searching for a term; but in my mind, it's more on-topic than most of those, because I am looking for a word to use to classify nouns. If you haven't read the question, I was looking for a word to use to differentiate between nouns where someone is given an identity as, for example, a New Yorker, versus the weaker someone who lives in New York

The close reason given was "unclear what you're asking," but I don't think that's it, as Kris understood well enough to give a partial answer (I'm considering it partial because it only provides one word out of the two that I asked for, and then not even an English one), Erik Kowal (forgive me if I attributed the answer to the wrong person) understood well enough to give an answer that he subsequently deleted, and Janus Bahs Jacquet understood well enough to leave a comment that I'm still trying to figure out. And note that those last two, while I'm not accusing them of anything, were among those who voted to close.....

So, what exactly was "unclear" about this question?


Thank you all for helping me understand what was wrong with that question. It has since been edited so that it actually makes sense. Thanks!! :)

  • I'm holding off on editing the question until I figure out what the problem was.
    – Shokhet
    Jul 20, 2014 at 22:05
  • For the record, I close-voted as unclear because (for the reasons given by tchrist below and by me in my comment) I think the question is very unclear. You take a list of three nouns that really have no common theme or structural similarities and ask what a word to describe these three words might be. Kris’ answer does not make the question any clearer to me—I don’t even understand what he means by most of it, and the parts that I do understand are either dubious or incorrect. Even after reading both the question and the answer, I’m still not sure what I should answer if I wanted to. Jul 21, 2014 at 13:19
  • And also, my comment was meant to explain why I close-voted. It was not an attempt at an answer, but an attempt at explaining why I cannot see how an answer could even be possible. Jul 21, 2014 at 13:21
  • @Janus I'm starting to get that now....as I mentioned in a comment on tchrist's answer, I'm no expert -- I'm just an enthusiast. I thought all of these were the same [though it was rather stupid to include verb forms where I intended nouns....]
    – Shokhet
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:34
  • 2
    This is why there is no shame in having a question closed (or rather, put on hold). Being forced to describe something that is clear in your head so that others find it as clear as you do often brings about one of two results: a) You make your question a better one that everyone can understand; or b) You realise that on closer scrutiny, things aren’t as clear as you thought they were, and end up reevaluating your view of something, even if it means the question itself gets discarded. Either way, you do gain something. :-) Jul 21, 2014 at 13:38
  • @Janus That's why I brought this to Meta, to clear up the ideas involved.....thanks! ( ..... now need to look up all those fancy words you used in your comment ;)
    – Shokhet
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:47
  • 1
    I was also one of the closers. I agree with @tchrist that you were comparing an apple, an orange and a peach to munching, an orange and slurping. A person with diabetes does not do his diabetes. Wouldn't the option exist for him to simply stop being a diabetic if that were so? A diabetic is a diabetic. So, what you were trying to isolate (among them, nouns and verb phrases plus a false analogy) with your two groups was unclear to me. Jul 22, 2014 at 1:11
  • @medica Fair point. Although I have said before that I did not know that they were different, you're right in that the question should have been thought through a lot more before being asked.
    – Shokhet
    Jul 24, 2014 at 3:20

1 Answer 1


First off, the “pairs of nouns” you present are not actually pairs of nouns:

Type-1 Noun     Type-2 Noun
------------    -----------------------
New Yorker      lives in New York
diabetic        person with diabetes
author          writes books

But even within a given column there is no common thread:

  • The second column always has more than one word in it, but then again, the first row’s first column has two words in it as well.
  • The first column consists of a gentilic, a nominalized adjective, and a normal noun. I can see no connection here.
  • The second column has two entries with prepositional phrases in them and one without.
  • The second column has two verb phrases and one noun phrase.

This all adds up to a very confusing question. I for one do not understand what you are actually asking, and I neither downvoted your question nor closevoted it.

  • I feel the same way about the question. Upon reading it (I haven't looked at the comments), all I'm thinking is, "what does the question asker want?". Perhaps he should define his two categories of words and phrases. It is no doubt clear to him in his mind, but not to me. Jul 20, 2014 at 21:54
  • The only one of the six that could possibly be 'doer' is author; unfortunately that is contrasted with writes books which isn't even a noun phrase, let alone a noun. Without proper definitions, I would certainly have voted to close if I had seen this; but there may well be a good question underneath. Jul 20, 2014 at 22:47
  • That makes sense....as I mentioned in my question, I am no expert of the English language -- I didn't realize that these noun forms were all different from each other. [though it was pretty stupid of me to include verb phrases where I meant to use nouns]
    – Shokhet
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:27

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