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I've had a few occasions where it was apparent to me why a word a speaker was looking for was unlikely to exist, as in this answer. I've had it happen a couple times that while many answers with mediocre votes are racing to find words that sort of but not really fit the OP's question, and I post an explanation for why such a word is unlikely to exist with the proper occasion.

On the few occasions I've done this, I've been downvoted. This is partly because the burden of a proof against is so much stronger, and in particular usually requires me drawing from society or culture in ways that are evident to most people but extremely difficult to rigorously quantify. The result is that it's very easy to post and upvote mediocre not-quite-answers but the community shuts out any attempt at explaining what's actually going on with the OP's questions or the answers.

Have I read the situation right? Is there anything I can do, or that can be done, about it?

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    Answers which consist of saying "There is no expression, idiom, or phrase that matches your requirement" are rarely upvoted, unless the question is grammar-based, in which case that type of answer is extremely useful for the OP to hear. Also related: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/5136/… – Mari-Lou A Sep 9 '14 at 19:30
  • On the linked question, you only had one downvote. That's not much of a pattern to really judge. Also there was a lot more to your answer than just 'there is no answer'. – Mitch Sep 10 '14 at 1:36
  • @Mitch english.stackexchange.com/a/192225/36720 in particular note the delete vote, which means not that the caster thought it was a bad or wrong answer, but that answering "no" to the question "is there a word in the english language ... " is not an answer. – user36720 Sep 10 '14 at 4:20
  • Sadly, that delete vote was also mine (I didn't downvote!) One user function here is to delete answers with downvotes. Your answer was from 8/19, and I came across it 2(?) days ago. It had plenty of time to gather upvotes. My reason: it's a philosophical discussion. That usually doesn't fly in answers on the main site, because the site is about the usage of English, not (often) the philosophy of language. Sorry that it puzzled you. You can always edit a downvoted answer to make it a better fit for the site. It takes several delete votes to remove an answer. 'Til then, you can edit. – anongoodnurse Sep 10 '14 at 5:11
  • Djechlin: I can give the exact same comment. You don't know if it is the 'there is no answer' answer that got you a downvote or delete vote. There's a lot of extra stuff there (incoherence, mixed message) that may have triggered such voting. – Mitch Sep 10 '14 at 12:10
  • @Mitch the fact that out of my 9 answers, 7 have upvotes and the two answers of these form have downvotes, tells me there is something I find difficult about these answers being positively received. In particular I had to give a cultural argument I was intuited but was ill-qualified for - I could have flagged it to close as off-topic perhaps? – user36720 Sep 11 '14 at 16:11
  • @djechlin You can flag for closure any question you want, if there is a valid reason for it (one of the accepted close reasons) or if not, you can make your own close reason (there's an option for that as well). – anongoodnurse Sep 11 '14 at 19:28
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about improving an answer, but actually about a peeve. – anongoodnurse Sep 18 '14 at 17:05
  • @medica ugh, you and your passive aggression win. Deleting my account on this SE because I can't stand the quality of QA here. It's not at all consistent with SE standards. That will improve eventually in a way that exact answers this question, but until then I'd rather not participate. – user36720 Sep 18 '14 at 17:49
  • It's not passive aggression. I don't post "how can my answer be better?" then comment showing sour grapes and superiority. When I saw this comment, I voted to close on the basis that peeves are not OT here. "If you prefer, I can word these as 'I see a strong reason there probably isn't a word for this' in the future. It'll be nice seeing that buried under a bunch of non-answers with an upvote or two for creativity each. – Sep 11 at 16:09". We know we have many problems. Don't leave for me; leave for the community. Go tell someone else in a whiny manner what offends you about their website. – anongoodnurse Sep 18 '14 at 18:45
  • @medica You've denied the problems this post is asking about then proceeded to make character judgments on me instead. If this is representative of the community then put it however you want, I'm out until it matures. – user36720 Sep 18 '14 at 19:51
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    Do you still maintain there was no suitable answer or solution to the OP's request? I would argue that there are at least three pertinent helpful answers, and they correctly interpret the gist of the original question. – Mari-Lou A Sep 22 '14 at 10:46
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I was one of your downvoters. I can explain why I downvoted that answer. (Italics and bolding mine, for clarity lest you misread.)

First, it was (to my reading) very negative and opinionated. My experience on a number of SE sites is that good answers are more dispassionate and supportable. Good answers are useful. They address the OP's concern.

You start right off by disparaging the other answers:

Most set phrases that relate to this are very wrong answers.

If everyone was so wrong, the other answers (which were reasonable, supported with links and might actually help the OP) should not have gotten support. You are implying they did so because we are not as insightful as you are (which does fly in meta, but not on the main site).

Meal ticket (a good answer) is reduced to gold digger, which you informed us was akin to a crime. Sure, we don't respect them, but is all this necessary? It sounds so squalid.

A gold digger refers to a young, hot girl who finds an older, rich man who marries her or provides for her. This is a disparaging term to refer to a delinquent lifestyle. The male in this case is a sugar daddy. Similarly disparaging, and often he is married to someone else and having an affair.

Then you opine that "marry a guy and he'll provide" is

a token of wisdom and tradition, describing the way society works.

You inform us of how American society really works, which is why everyone who answered is presumably wrong (and kind of refute yourself in the process):

Since American society does not think of marriage this way (is there only one way to think of marriage in all of American society?), there will be no such idiom. American society reveres marriage out of love and disparages marriage out of convenience. Americans view this as a necessary evil and something to avoid acknowledging and thinking about as much as possible.

This is a helpful answer? To whom? Is it supportable? Is it about the English language?

I don't speak for everyone here (nor you for all of American society.) But when someone wants to express an opinion, that's what comments are for.

Downvotes are part of the reality of SE. It is always amazing to me that people make such a fuss over them. I can't begin to count the number of downvotes I've gotten (well, technically I probably can. Just let me say I've gotten plenty.) If I don't want them, I'm careful to try to give helpful answers; that's the best I can do. If I've done that, it just doesn't matter if someone doesn't like my answer.

Now, if no one ever upvoted me, I'd have to rethink my answers pretty seriously.

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    Can you propose a more constructive way to explain that other answers to the question are wrong because they don't take a cultural difference into account? – user36720 Sep 10 '14 at 4:38
  • The problem with the downvotes is that I don't know how to provide a constructive answer of this form. Which is why I'm here on meta asking about it. I agree that not every downvote should be fussed about; these ones should, which is their point. – user36720 Sep 10 '14 at 4:40
  • @djechlin - I wouldn't challenge answers I disagreed with in a separate answer; I would comment (as I did with your answer) on the answer itself. If you want to say, There is no word/phrase for this, you can post that as an answer, but since it's not helpful, especially when others do come up with good answers, I usually reserve that for a comment. Discussion (and even arguments) do take place in comment threads. It's all part of the site. And we do talk about culture often when pertinent (e.g. "soccer mom"). This is my take, FWIW. – anongoodnurse Sep 10 '14 at 4:52
  • rewrote answer, hopefully this fits better. – user36720 Sep 10 '14 at 4:59
  • and I think there is an issue in thesaurus questions that mediocre matches get upvotes. a reason there isn't a good fit could never get as many upvotes as poor but creative synonyms. it might even get downvotes because, hey, look at all those answers with upvotes. – user36720 Sep 10 '14 at 5:00
  • @djechlin - I just remembered an answer of mine stating there is no such word. Still, more than a comment; I was trying to help the OP. – anongoodnurse Sep 10 '14 at 8:30
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    Djechlin: 1) you are most likely getting downvotes for reasons other than 'there is no answer' (as medica pointed out). But if you're curious for other examples, search for 'there is no word for'. – Mitch Sep 10 '14 at 12:20
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    Hardly a week goes by without me coming across some term that makes me think "I'm really surprised there's a specific word for that!" (I still fondly remember encountering merkin a few years before it suddenly started appearing regularly on UK TV). It seems to me that even if you don't yet know there's a word for something, it's a bit risky to baldly say "There is no word for that". I never voted on this OP's questions anyway, but I can certainly endorse this post - it's an answer, not an opinionated dismissal. – FumbleFingers Sep 10 '14 at 18:34
  • @FumbleFingers In the case of merkin, did you even know the object existed before you learned the word? I think I learned about the concept when I first heard the word. – Barmar Sep 11 '14 at 7:17
  • @FumbleFingers -- achewood for many Merkin references achewood.com/index.php?date=09172007 {BTW in general, Barmar, bizarrely "merkin" is relatively commonplace for anyone in film production (go figure right?) - not unlike other make-up or similar terms.} – Fattie Sep 11 '14 at 10:45
  • @Barmar: Someone played merkin in a game of Scrabble nearly 20 years ago. We only had the Official Scrabble Words book for checking (no definitions), and at the time I genuinely thought the guy was either joking or mistaken when he told us what it meant. I found it in a dictionary later, but for years after that I still thought it was a culture-specific thing to do with old red Indian squaws trying to look younger (more hirsute). I suspect most of those who know it today only do so because it's such a "memorable meaning" - not because they need it to refer to something in their real world! – FumbleFingers Sep 11 '14 at 12:16
  • I think I learned about it from Howard Stern. :) – Barmar Sep 11 '14 at 12:17
  • @FumbleFingers exactly! that's why I gave a well-reasoned argument there isn't such a word. If you prefer, I can word these as "I see a strong reason there probably isn't a word for this" in the future. It'll be nice seeing that buried under a bunch of non-answers with an upvote or two for creativity each. – user36720 Sep 11 '14 at 16:09
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    @TylerJamesYoung - good trick! – anongoodnurse Sep 19 '14 at 20:01
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I, too, have been frustrated with there is no such word and then have been proven wrong, or at least overruled by well-meaning editors upvoting other answers that, of course, clearly don't reflect my interpretation of the original question.

My suggestion is to start on the neutral tactic: Get the OP to respond to clarify what she means, in a context that can be answered. Part of the [help] on the site strongly suggests including What problem does this question solve as part of the question.

Your question is also why I take a general, "Who really cares about this besides the OP?" or, more explicitly, "Who's the audience?" Which, really, is the main question that needs to be established for most of the questions posted on the main site. That an answer can be found is what editors are seeking. That an answer is useful to the audience of the OP, not just the OP herself should be of importance.

Don't express your comments in the same vein as you knowing the totality of the corpus of English speech. Help the OP to frame a question that can be usefully answered, or just flag it.

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There is no answer at all to this other than "I am an experienced speaker and writer of language X, and I'm fairly certain there is no such word/phrase."

Any other answer is B.S.


Also @djechlin another point ... the

Utterly overwhelming factor here is that...

.

There are many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many questions on this site where the ONLY REALISTIC COMMENT OR ANSWER that ANY of us should give is:

"OP, you have told us nothing. Explain more."

.

It's bizarre anyone went ahead and tried to answer that question without knowing the sense of the original.

It's a huge problem on this site.

  • I had the idea that this is a part of the "I spy something green" (ooh, can I coin that?) disease on the site. It struck me as a more acute manifestation, that shows the disease is less benign - they're not great but not really bad questions, so why not - and more malignant. – user36720 Sep 11 '14 at 16:06
  • That's a comment, not an answer. And it's one made with frequency here. There are problems on this site. We all know it. I gather from my experience on other SE sites that it's mostly network wide because of the SE model. @djechlin - your sour grapes are showing. – anongoodnurse Sep 11 '14 at 19:33
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    @medica no it's not; other communities use downvotes to solve this problem. AFAICT this is the thing you don't seem to get at all. This is a special class of question that become an upvote-fest and drown out quality. – user36720 Sep 18 '14 at 20:01

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