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I decided to end my status as a lurker in order to help answer a question that was asking about English usage of a specific phrase within the context of American culture and American government sub-culture [NOTE: the question was tagged with "american-english"]. To answer that question I found it necessary to address issues with the context described by the OP. Response to my answer was mixed. SO... I am asking:

What, if any, policy exists to guide such questions/answers in the future?

Here is the link to the relevant question and my answer.

Under my answer I joined the commentary/discussion of my answer and posted the following. I would ask those reading this to integrate these comments as part of my question. Thank you.

I myself was dubious on how to best answer this question but language does not live in a vacuum separate from the society that uses it. It would be (IMHO) grossly negligent to answer the OP's question without clarifying his understanding of the context & source of the phrase. Imagine for example if the OP was to walk away from this thread with the concept that "I love you" was (A) synonymous with "I appreciate you" and (B) was in common usage by government. The OP might decide that it would be good English to end every correspondence with government officials by saying "I love you".

As for my answer duplicating others', at least I actually provided a source for some of my knowledge (qv professional experience) which is required for such answers. I have been a lurker for awhile before this and I believe when an answer duplicates a non sourced answer the sourced answer should supercede the other. Am I incorrect?

  • Your answer and this meta question are all very interesting. But I'm not sure where this is going.There may well be a policy that informs the downvoting on your answer, but really people vote on a whim. Yes, many linguistic features are informed by sociology and the OP is definitely one of them. My only guess (based on some experience) of why your answer was downvoted is that you wrote way too much on something that the downvoters didn't seem was relevant. Sociolinguistic analysis in general is not to be avoided, but maybe it was your particular analysis that people don't agree with. – Mitch Oct 5 '14 at 18:36
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As Mitch said, the reasons why your answer was downvoted are known only to three people (at present), and are entirely individual. But it's fair to say that the answer is not of the type normally found here, so perhaps it would be helpful to explain the peculiarities that people may have objected to; this is not intended as personal criticism.

Your first paragraph is a reasonable answer to the actual question, though there's nothing that wasn't already found in several answers. Not particularly helpful.

The second section does have some good points, and (rarer and more valuable) some explanation of what your knowledge is, and where it comes from. If you had then said "So the phrase is entirely inappropriate in correspondence to or from American public officials" it would certainly have been worth an upvote. Unfortunately, you read OPs sentence "these community advisors... are govenment employees" as "These Community Advisors are employed by the American government (federal or local)" which is simply unjustifiable. Perhaps OP was using government to include a church or university; more likely he means his own government. If you think the point is important to actually answering the question, you can leave a comment asking for clarification; that's the original function of comments. What you can't do is say that the basis of the question is wrong because it conflicts with your experience.

And the third section is entirely inappropriate. As you should have gathered from your period lurking, this is not a forum, but a Question and Answer site. Nothing else. Even your "Love, O.M.Y." would normally have been edited out (despite its relevance in this particular situation) because personal details do not contribute to a good answer. There is only one sentence in that section that could be properly included in a Stack Exchange post, and that is the one starting "Finally, if the "We love you"...". That is tangentially related to what OP wants to know, though not to the question as asked. The rest of the section is your opinion on something we know nothing about. Please note that it is irrelevant whether I or others agree with your advice, and mostly irrelevant that it is based on a misreading: since it does not help answer the question, it does not belong. More precisely, it is unhelpful, which is a specific reason to downvote.

  • Thanks Mitch and TimLymington. Very helpful answers indeed. Seems there are things that lurking just didn't teach me until I actually got in there and got my hands dirty. :) – O.M.Y. Oct 10 '14 at 21:30

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