Is a meta-tag as described in http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags/?

  1. If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are useless by themselves — they tell you nothing at all about the content of the question.

I would take a bet that if a question was asked with only , it would be retagged within about 5-10 minutes to add something else. So in other words, yes.

  1. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag. In a cruel, ironic twist, the meaning of the tag [subjective] itself … is actually subjective. Ditto for [best-practices] and [beginner]. Best practices to whom? Beginner by what criteria? These tags are impossible to define by anything remotely resembling an objective metric. In comparison, the the meaning of tags like [java], [c#], and [javascript] are crystal clear to all but the nuttiest of nutbags.

Not quite; acceptability is fairly clear, but the meaning of it is debatable.

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    I don't think it's quite so cut-and-dried that "acceptability" is a meta-tag and frankly I think a little more community discussion—perhaps even one comment from a moderator or anyone with more than 2000 reputation—would have been in order before jumping the gun and deleting the tag. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 2:44
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    Further, now that the tag is deleted, I have no way of seeing what questions it used to apply to such that I might be able to decide for myself whether I agree it was being used as a meta-tag. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 2:46
  • @nohat: I like Google (useful link) – Hello71 Feb 1 '11 at 2:47
  • @Hello71, thanks, that does get me one page of questions, but not the whole set. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 3:12
  • @nohat: webcache.googleusercontent.com/… (doesn't include the absolute newest (last few days), but meh) – Hello71 Feb 1 '11 at 3:22
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    It's amazing how it takes you just one sentence to get from "I would take a bet" to an "in other words, yes". As someone who has retagged hundreds of questions, I must say that any question tagged with just one tag will get retagged extremely quickly, whether by myself or others. What that tag is, doesn't matter. It's startling how nobody took their time to actually validate any of your assumptions. – RegDwigнt Feb 1 '11 at 10:23

I believe is not a meta-tag and it should be restored. It is a tag that could work by itself. And it is only too vague and shifty a term to people who don’t really know anything about how English works. The term “acceptability” is essentially a synonym for “grammaticality” and has a quite precise (though not undisputed) meaning to people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to English language and usage.

I think it is quite disturbing that this tag was deleted without any significant discussion and without sufficient opportunity to mount a defense for the tag.

  • acceptable to whom? acceptable by what metrics? acceptable in what social context? You cannot tell me that english.stackexchange.com/questions/5486/… is better tagged [acceptability] than [adjective] [adverb] – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 4:34
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    @Jeff Absolutely it is! The parts of speech of the words in the phrase are way less relevant than the fact that this is a question of grammaticality rather than say history or pronunciation. But more important is the fact that you're asking these questions show you're not really qualified to judge. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 4:44
  • @nohat: I think what Jeff is saying is that since the “acceptability” is context-dependent, there must be a more descriptive tag to use in each specific case. So in this example the acceptability ought to be replaced by grammaticality. The context I was thinking of was that “acceptability” was not so much about “grammaticality” (not least because I’d never come across that word before) and more to do with “politeness” – but of course there’s politeness for that... – Brian Nixon Feb 1 '11 at 5:13
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    Everything is "context-dependent", acceptability no more than anything else. I think the problem is that people don't understand that acceptability has a pretty specific meaning and pretty narrow set of circumstances, all of which would be addressed by a good answer. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 5:24
  • @nohat when does this arcane concept of "acceptability" not apply to a question? When you choose to use English that is intentionally invalid or would be rejected by native English speakers just to annoy or confuse them? Isn't the concept of acceptability in fact implied in everything that goes on here, and every use of English one can imagine? – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 6:10
  • and if you want to provide a citation + blockquote for acceptability, I found this: books.google.com/… – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 6:16
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    @Jeff most questions have nothing to do with acceptability, and are queries about e.g. the history of some word, the differences between two words, requests for a word that means something in particular, questions about different dialects, requests for explanations of what something means, and so on. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 6:16
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    ... Questions about acceptability are just a subset of the questions asked here, and while the notion of acceptability often plays into answers for some questions, just as you wouldn’t tag this question stackoverflow.com/q/4846938 "Java" because the example code in the question is in Java, not every question here need be tagged "acceptability". Only questions that are about acceptability of something should be tagged "acceptability". – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 6:19
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    The book you cite is actually quite good. The examples are perfect ones where there is something interesting to say about acceptability other than that something is or is not acceptable. That's what makes these kinds of questions interesting enough to ask here: not that there is a hard-and-fast answer "yes this is acceptable" or "no this is not" but rather "this is sometimes acceptable and sometimes not and here are the situations when". It's not that open-ended. The range of acceptability of any word or phrase can be covered in just a few sentences. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 6:22
  • @nohat there's a deep problem here. There are 589 questions tagged [usage] and based on your definition these should ALL be [acceptability]. Read it and see. english.stackexchange.com/tags/usage I suggest you open a new meta topic for this whole issue... there were only 44 questions tagged [acceptability] so that's a minor but related issue at this point. – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 16:42
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    @Jeff and everybody else: the question of whether the [usage] tag is useful has been raised, in the early dates of beta, and by none other than nohat: Does the “usage” tag have any value?. It's just that it was hard to get a universal consensus back then (and the highest voted answer actually still says, oh noes, please leave it). – RegDwigнt Feb 1 '11 at 16:51
  • @nohat opened as new meta Q: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/617/… I also archived the old list of 44 [acceptability] questions, though I think it scarcely matters in the context of 589 nearly identical [usage] questions. – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 17:09

It’s perfectly possible for some questions clearly to be questions of acceptability.
If someone asks:

Is [word] acceptable in [context]?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the question is about acceptability. Furthermore, I don’t see any reason why could not stand as the only tag on such a question. That tags may be added does not in itself mean that cannot stand alone.

That said, few of the questions currently tagged take this form; my argument there would be that the tag be removed from many of those questions.

Undoubtably the answer to any question about acceptability will be subjective, as people’s interpretation of “acceptability” will vary. But I’m not convinced the tag itself is subjective.

  • What kind of context? A social context? Something else? I think that's the more relevant and specific tag than some broad meaningless concept of "acceptability". – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 4:41
  • @Jeff: Obviously the context depends on the question – which of course is what you’re getting at. If the “acceptability” is context-dependent, there must be a more descriptive tag to use... – Brian Nixon Feb 1 '11 at 5:07

I agree with nohat; I might be inclined to have "acceptability" be a synonym for "grammaticality" (as that is the technical term that I see used most often), but the concept is certainly useful on its own. I am really surprised that it was simply deleted by someone who is not a daily mod of EL&U based on a question asked by a user whose account was created yesterday. There is nothing wrong with Jeff Atwood being involved with the site, and nothing wrong with a new user asking a question about a tag, but surely it would have been worth involving at least some mods and regular users in the discussion before taking action.

  • If you agree, please remember to upvite nohat's answer. – EKons Aug 28 '16 at 8:48

See Tag for questions about whether a language feature is acceptable/common?

I can't think of a better word to describe this sort of question. Perhaps acceptable-usage?

EDIT: hmmm. or cromulent? ;-)

  • To be blunt, I think it should be completely removed/deleted/banned. – Hello71 Feb 1 '11 at 1:47

@nohat says in a comment above:

[Acceptability] has the specific meaning of referring to whether native speakers would judge a particular usage to be grammatical in a narrow band of formality levels.

I submit that there are different standards for different native speakers, and that what said speakers "would judge" is something other speakers may only guess at, not really know with certainty. Moreover, without further definition, "a narrow band of formality levels" still leaves the door wide open for generalization.

I offer this as a way to begin my own assertion that virtually every answer on ESO involves some judgment of acceptability, and ultimately remains someone's opinion. Even answers larded with citations often cherry-pick sources that support the author's opinions. With some exceptions, there are few responses that could pass for scholarship of any kind.

In that sense, an acceptability tag is superfluous.

Note that in the above sentence I might have said "For me, an acceptability tag is superfluous," or "In my opinion, an acceptability tag is superfluous," or "To my way of thinking, ..." and so on. The point is, when I make a statement it is obviously my opinion, so adding the qualifier is superfluous. The only reason I would do it would be to stress my own fallibility and add a respectful tone. In fact, I add those qualifiers all the time. But where tagging is concerned, we really need no such qualifiers, since tags are not the same as statements made in conversation.

Just my two cents. :)


This is a meta tag, and I have removed it.

Beware, you have two questions now tagged .

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    I think if we are going to get rid of meta-tags we should start with the obvious ones like "single-word-request". Questions about English language and usage do not naturally fall into content-based subcategories as easily as SO questions, so a major decision like "acceptability" is a meta-tag should have been made after some consideration by those who work closely with the questions on the site, like the moderators. I resent this decision being forced upon us without any discussion. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 2:57
  • @nohat then I move EVERY SINGLE QUESTION where there is ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER about the possible correctness of the phrase or word.. be tagged [acceptability]. That's how absurd this tag is; it's like tagging things [question]. It is meaningless and completely relative, and in fact implied by the very existence of the question. – Jeff Atwood Feb 1 '11 at 4:39
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    @Jeff you clearly don't really understand what “acceptability” means in the context of English Language and Usage. It has the specific meaning of referring to whether native speakers would judge a particular usage to be grammatical in a narrow band of formality levels. While it might seem to an outsider to be an unreasonably open-ended tag, it is in fact quite constrained, specific, and only applies to a subset of questions asked here. This is why we should have discussions BEFORE doing rash things like deleting a tag. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 5:26
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    I agree that the meaning of the tag was perhaps unclear. Maybe “grammaticality” would have been better because that term has less overlap into general usage, but I don’t think the tag as it was conceived qualifies as a meta-tag. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 5:30
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    @Jeff: That leaves me wondering why you don't object to the [usage] tag, which actually is on "EVERY SINGLE QUESTION where there is ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER about the possible correctness of the phrase or word" — as opposed to the [acceptability] tag which was never supposed to have that meaning and never got (mis)used like that. – RegDwigнt Feb 1 '11 at 12:37
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    @nohat, why do you think "single-word-request" is a meta-tag? It can stand on its own, it means the same thing to pretty much everybody, and most importantly, it identifies exactly what the asker wants. It's certainly a much more useful tag than "usage". – Marthaª Feb 1 '11 at 15:31
  • @Martha, there are a few reasons I think the single-word-request tag is a meta-tag, but I also think it deserves its own trial I'll start a new question here on the meta and I can explain in detail. – nohat Feb 1 '11 at 19:40

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