I asked a question on the distinction between hypocorism and diminutive when referring to the form of a word. I cam back this morning to find that it had been downvoted.

Now, as a user of several other Stack Exchange sites, I generally consider a downvote to be appropriate for questions or answers that are seriously misguided, show absolutely no effort to have done any prior research, are completely off topic, etc. As the downvote hover text says, “this question does show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.”

Does that apply to my question? I posted several references, but they hadn't cleared up the distinction between which diminitives would not be considered to be hypocorisms, or vice versa.

  • 3
    There's no accounting for the psychology of other people. Some people downvote because they interpret the hover text to mean "I don't like it for some personal nebulous reason". But really, you're complaining about a single downvote?
    – Mitch
    Sep 8, 2014 at 13:44
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    So, I am really curious if there is something wrong with my question, and also wondering if this is normal for this particular site. I find that some people on all SE are a little too quick with the down vote, but this seems particularly bad, especially for my first question on the site. Sep 8, 2014 at 13:58
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    @BrianCampbell It’s. Just. One. Vote.
    – tchrist Mod
    Sep 8, 2014 at 14:02
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    The question seems fine to me. There's nothing obvious to downvote, but maybe I'm missing something. Maybe they think it is genref question? Usually questions that attempt to be intelligent, like yours, aren't downvoted, but like I was saying there's no accounting for taste.
    – Mitch
    Sep 8, 2014 at 16:41
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    Welcome to english.stackexchange.com! Get used to it, buddy. All will be revealed at a much later date.
    – blackappy
    Sep 8, 2014 at 19:38
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    We are snarky. We are pompous. We are obscure. We are mutely disdainful. Join in and help drag us to a better place.
    – bib
    Sep 9, 2014 at 0:02
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    I upvoted it for the very reasons you stated, and also because it introduced me to a new word. I do understand that a downvote on your first question on a site is discouraging (it happened to me, too.) But a complaint in meta? Downvotes are a fact of life on this whole network! Your question really is fine. I hope you stick around and give us more like it. I'd be happy for a slew of questions one-third as good. Sep 9, 2014 at 1:51
  • btw, downvotes on this site are common without comments. Here are a few reasons for that. Sep 9, 2014 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


It wasn't my downvote on the hypocoristic question, but I must say I think OP is perhaps overreacting (it's only one downvote, and there are currently three upvotes).

Having said that, I can't really see why anyone would upvote the question. Any reasonable dictionary will give several meanings for diminutive, from which it should be obvious the much rarer hypocoristic is (approximately) synonymous in one specific context only.

It should also be fairly obvious they're only approximate synonyms in many contexts. Strictly speaking, something like for example, Mumsie-wumsie (hypocoristic Mummy) isn't really a "diminutive" form (it's much longer than the original). But most people are still in the same boat OP was in - they don't know the word hypocoristic, so they use diminutive anyway.

TL;DR: I hadn't noticed the question until now, but it looks like General Reference to me.

  • Actually, given that you've read the dictionary definitions, but have demonstrably failed to grasp the difference between the two terms, it's not at all a general reference question. (It's not that they're synonyms in one specific context, it's that a diminutive is a type of hypocoristic.)
    – Marthaª
    Sep 10, 2014 at 18:22
  • @Martha: I don't see what you mean. I specifically said they're approximately synonymous - but strictly speaking I think true synonyms either don't exist or are extremely rare. In practice, the main "meaning" of hypocoristic is probably the speaker/writer likes using rare words. But not all diminutives are hypocorisms, even if we just restrict ourselves to names. Sep 10, 2014 at 18:41
  • I upvoted it for all the right reasons: it was well researched, well presented, it was interesting and it was about the English language. During a drought like we've experienced last month, I am glad to be able to finally be doing some actual upvoting for a change. You must be pretty parsimonious with your upvotes if you can't understand why that question got any. Sep 11, 2014 at 5:16
  • @medica: Overall, my Up:Downvote ratio is about 2:1 - yours is more like 3:1, so I wouldn't say my voting record is that extreme. I certainly wouldn't downvote or closevote a question like OP's, but I can't deny I'm guilty as charged insofar as I don't upvote enough overall, and I really should vote more often on questions (as should almost all ELU users, I feel). Sep 11, 2014 at 12:04
  • I think any linguist would be familiar with the term hypocoristic. I don't see any problem with it.
    – user28567
    Sep 21, 2014 at 23:27
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    @snailboat: Linguists, certainly. But whereas most "educated laymen" could be expected to both recognise and generate the diminutive usage, I wouldn't like to bet on the majority being so familiar with hypocoristic. Sep 22, 2014 at 0:06

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