If I wanted to search about the phrase "Poor man's X",

The question When did the expression "Poor man's <noun>" originate? appears when I search for

Poor man's

But if I use quotes

"Poor man's"

I get three hits, but not the optimal hit.

Removing the apostrophe and the "s" doesn't help

"Poor man"

I get six hits, but not the optimal hit.

Why do I get sub-optimal search results when using quotes? Is this related to the apostrophe?

  • 2
    The apostrophe does seem to make a difference. Try "poor man’s" with a curly apostrophe. Different again.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 7:13

1 Answer 1


The reason you don't get good results using the Stack Exchange internal search facility is because a single general-purpose search engine is common to all SE sites. Some of the things it does (ignoring short words and punctuation marks, etc.) are a net benefit on most other sites, but not on ELU.

So I don't usually bother with them. Google's "site-specific" search facility works fine...

site:http://english.stackexchange.com "Poor man's"
...which returns these 98 results as required

  • 1
    The same idea has been mentioned in previous meta answers by various people. For example, in my answer to meta question How would we like to format our keywords?, I suggested using a google search string that includes text site:english.stackexchange.com/questions -newest -recently . The latter search terms reduce hits on non-question pages. Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 6:07

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