In the comments to this question, a user mentions that he feels duty-bound to downvote.

If I understand the arguments correctly, he basically feels that questions that might encourage a neologism (or a “pseudoword hitherto unrecognised in the English lexicon” if you dislike neologisms) should be pre-emptively downvoted.

Obviously English has acquired many words in its lexicon, apart from simple borrowing, use of its productive linguistic aspect. Every word that was thus formed went through a stage of being a “pseudoword” for some, a neologism for others and “just the word I needed” for yet others.

I do accept it is a valid point of discussion whether ELU should in any way assist, play a role or provide a platform for this process. Rather than calling questions that invoke this process dangerous, though, I would like to have an open discussion on that point.

For good measure, it seems that answering those kind of potentially dangerous(!) questions should also be discouraged by means of a similar principle-based downvote.

It is interesting to notice that apart from the very first comment, no fully fledged "made-up" words have been suggested, in comments nor in answers. And even the one in the first comment was deemed acceptable by the user that rejected the making up of words.

Still, question and answer have to be downvoted.

If it is acceptable to "punish" certain types of questions with (for now one, but maybe later more) "principle"-downvotes, isn't it better to not allow these kind of questions at all, and make this very clear? If the community does not want (potentially) linguistic productive questions, it would not harm to make this very clear.

The situation seems to be that if the word or phrase that is requested does not (yet) exist, you will be "punished" for it with downvotes. Of course, if you knew in advance, you would not have needed to ask the question in the first place. So you get downvoted without having been able to avoid it.

That gives me a strange feeling...


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    Not all SWRs are bad. Downvote or vote to close bad questions, not SWRs. Or rather suggest in comments that they make their SWR better. – Mitch Aug 20 '14 at 17:01
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    Users upvoted the question and the answers, so it's not an opinion shared by everyone. People do downvote on self-appointed principles (one user stated he downvotes answers to OT questions); it's not preventable, and it's certainly not enforceable. As to making SWR OT, that's been addressed as well. – anongoodnurse Aug 20 '14 at 19:48
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    I don't see the problem. People upvote questions they endorse, and downvote what they don't want to see on ELU. We have to give reasons for closevoting, and if a question ends up being closed, everyone can see who contributed to that decision. But up/downvotes to questions are deliberately kept anonymous to encourage people to vote. I'm disappointed with our most-upvoted question, but if that's what people want to see here, so be it. I will continue to up/downvote according to what I want to see more/less of on this site. – FumbleFingers Aug 21 '14 at 14:50
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    @FumbleFingers The tooltips on the up- and down-vote arrows on questions explicitly mention research effort. So that seems an officially endorsed (possible) reason for voting in either direction. Given that particular criterion, next to no SWFs ever show any research effort, and therefore merit downvotes based on that alone. – tchrist Aug 21 '14 at 17:49
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    @tchrist: I take your point, but I must say I don't feel under any moral obligation to take account of "evidence of prior research", which is only one of the three suggested factors one might take into account. The second is "unclear", and if that's the p;roblem I will normally closevote and/or post a comment asking for clarification. But the third possibility is "not useful", which I often equate with "not the kind of question I want to encourage on ELU". – FumbleFingers Aug 21 '14 at 18:10
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    You're skewing the issue, and I find that unscholarly. It's not questions tagged SWR that I'm saying are lowering the credibility of the site, or at least are inviting such a consequence, it's questions of the form 'If there isn't such a word, can you suggest one?' – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 7:11
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    As FumbleFingers has said in a Meta discussion about a previous question: <<The first point to note is that we no longer have 'Too Localised' as a closevote reason ... 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'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 ... >> I agree totally. And while 'a reasonable number' is imprecise, 'I think xxxxx is a good idea' doesn't qualify. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 7:24
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    @EdwinAshworth: I thought "SWRs that might encourage a neologism" covered "questions of the form 'If there isn't such a word, can you suggest one?'" quite nicely... You may notice I did not include a comma in that phrase. I could understand your concern about me skewing the issue is I had written "SWRs, that might encourage a neologism" — but I did not. – oerkelens Aug 22 '14 at 7:31
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    Basically, would it be all right if people would include in every SWR a disclaimer that they will only accept answers that appear in a dictionary or whose existence and use as a word can otherwise be sufficiently proven? – oerkelens Aug 22 '14 at 7:33
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    You're still skewing the issue. And being childish. I didn't mention SWRs at all, and made it plain that I was addressing the actual invitation to invent non-English (If one does not exist, can anyone suggest one?). The comment I made there seems to have been deleted now. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 7:34
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    If OP had not included the rider, I would have had no problems at all with their question. I've no great problems with SWR questions per se (though other users often say the whole category encourages too many casual pundits; see related Meta questions). But requests for non-words to fill perceived gaps in the lexicon I think sjhould be banned. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 7:39
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    I am sorry, I will change SWR to question then. And I will refrain from any attaching any adjectives to the fact that an honest misunderstanding has to be labelled first "unscholarly" and then even "childish". It seems obvious that most questions that invite the invention of neologisms are probably SWRs; furthermore I find your insistence on calling neologisms non-English quite unproductive. It's not as if the question asked for a non-English word. It merely encouraged people to use the productive aspect of the English language. – oerkelens Aug 22 '14 at 7:41
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    You're still misrepresenting me. Change it to 'questions that directly request the coining of a pseudoword hitherto unrecognised in the English lexicon'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 7:45
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    @EdwinAshworth - I think it is well established culture on ELU that requests for neologisms are almost always off-topic (both in experience (they're almost always poorly expressed) and by rule (they're almost always primarily opinion based)). One counterexample is for words that follow very natural and acceptable affixing to form a word that is not in a dictionary but sounds perfectly fine (neologistically)). – Mitch Aug 22 '14 at 17:42
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    @EdwinAshworth, aside from extraosculate, all of those words are complete nonsense, thus non-words. Extraosculate, however, is a sequence of established atomic word units whose collective meaning might cause it to be a real word the moment it is meaningfully applied. I think a more meaningful question than you pose in your "answer" below is this: Who could possibly limit the meaning carrying capacity of a correctly constructed compound word based on dictionary absence? I think the community here is welcome to dispute the technique of new word creation, but not to prevent its occurrence. – jdmcnair Sep 18 '14 at 20:16

oerkelens doesn't understand my argument correctly. Or chooses to broaden using obscurantism. Obviously, to a tiny degree, just having such a website as ELU 'might encourage [a person to use on the internet] a neologism (or a “pseudoword hitherto unrecognised in the English lexicon”)'. I made it clear I was talking about questions directly inviting 'make-your-own-word' attempts.

I'm essentially saying:

Who decides whether a string not appearing in any dictionary (including dictionaries of neologisms) is widely-enough used, or even 'deducible enough', to be correctly describable as 'carrying a meaning'? Contributors here? And if not contributors here (and I'd say certainly not), we should not be 'inventing "words" ', as it's off-topic (non-English as commonly accepted, too subjective ...). And thus questions including 'Can you please invent a word for ...' are also off-topic

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    This is not an answer to the original question, it's a response to a comment. – jdmcnair Sep 18 '14 at 16:22
  • The second part is. And yes, I've committed the cardinal sin of answering a 'comment' using an 'answer'. Which is, in my opinion, far less likely to bring the site into disrepute than inviting all and sundry to come up with non-words masquerading as real English. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 18 '14 at 19:14
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    It's a facet of English language and usage includes the invention of new words, by somebody – Arm the good guys in America May 24 '18 at 18:57
  • @user Of course neologisms occur. But let's say that two five-year-old children 'invent a new play-word'. Are you seriously saying that it immediately becomes on-topic on a website aimed at serious linguists? Or that if two world-famous comedians come up with a new concoction, it should be immediately considered a word? – Edwin Ashworth May 24 '18 at 19:37

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