The mind boggles.

Meryl Streep is a ______? (as a big compliment)

Primarily opinion based? Really? If you're having such a bad day that you feel compelled to close a significantly above-average single-word-request/phrase-request, please step away from the keyboard and go fly a kite or something.

I'm really rather pissed off: this sort of totally random "we're gonna close this question because some of us don't like questions of its type, even though it's perfectly valid and doesn't fit any of the close reasons, least of all the one we chose" behavior is what gives our site a bad name, and rightfully so.


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    Are you serious? What's a word that is a compliment? How is that not opinion-based? – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jan 8 '15 at 18:18
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    @KitFox: the question is WAY more specific than that. – Marthaª Jan 8 '15 at 18:18
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    Specific enough that the answer can be found by checking the transcripts of Oscar ceremonies. I'm not convinced that looking up a word that was used in a particular quote is on-topic here, but you know how I feel about single word requests anyway. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jan 8 '15 at 18:20
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    @KitFox: OK, wait. So you're condemning the question because it is both too broad and too specific? How does that work? – Marthaª Jan 8 '15 at 18:21
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    I'm intrigued about why it should be reopened. The asker is satisfied and accepted the answer, which presumably is exactly the answer he couldn't recall. What purpose is served by re-opening? – Andrew Leach Mod Jan 8 '15 at 18:23
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    It's either one or the other. If it's for "a compliment", it's too broad. If it's for "this exact compliment", it's too specific. In any case, I don't feel it's on-topic. You'll note that my name is not, however, on the list of those who closed it. – Kit Z. Fox Mod Jan 8 '15 at 18:23
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    @AndrewLeach: eh? So every question that has an accepted answer should be closed? – Marthaª Jan 8 '15 at 18:23
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    No; but there's no reason to re-open a question which has been satisfied. If it hadn't been answered satisfactorily, there might be some purpose in re-opening: that would allow other answers. But there's no point in attracting any other answers here, because the specific correct answer has been given and accepted. – Andrew Leach Mod Jan 8 '15 at 18:27
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    @AndrewLeach: there is too every reason to re-open a question that was wrongfully closed. Closures are, in a sense, our precedents: the site description says what is on-topic and off-topic, but in actual practice, what is on-topic is what stays open, and what is off-topic is what is closed. Every incorrect closure just muddies the already murky question of exactly what kind of questions we want here. – Marthaª Jan 8 '15 at 18:31
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    @Marthaª the close reasons have morphed slowly. One of the original close reasons for something like this is that it is 'too local'. How is this different from a crossword puzzle clue? (a very dumb one at that). This doesn't help anybody with language except for those who want to repeat a cliche about one particular person. "I'm thinking of a word that people use for one person often... here's a clue... what is it?". I'm shocked at your being shocked. (the answer is 'consummate professional', look it up) – Mitch Jan 8 '15 at 18:54
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    I am puzzled by the closure... wouldn't ALL single word requests be "opinion based" by that logic? I'm not a big fan of that sub-category either, but this one seems better than most. Voted to reopen. – Lynn Jan 8 '15 at 20:16
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    @KitFox: OK, so it's damned if you do, damned if you don't. Got it. Thanks for the clarification. – Marthaª Jan 8 '15 at 20:30
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    I think the sticking point may be as it applies to a specific, named, entity rather than the fact of the question being a SWR. There's a difference between an opinion of an attribute of a named well-known entity; versus a word describing an ambiguous entity that has been loved for her work in movies over the life of her work. Once a name has been applied it changes from English to "how does one feel about [name]"? – SrJoven Jan 9 '15 at 14:41

I happen to agree with you on this one, Martha (as my comment on the question also clearly states).

Slightly rephrased, the question basically says:

  1. There is this phrase I cannot for the life of me recall.
  2. The meaning of the phrase is something like the ultimate compliment you can give to someone like an actor.
  3. One particular place I recall hearing this was when Meryl Streep was being introduced at some award show or other (perhaps the Oscars?); the person introducing her said something along the lines of “Meryl Streep is a real [X]”.
  4. It was something structurally/semantically similar to “living legend”, “crown jewel”, “cherished rare commodity”, etc., but it’s none of those.

Others here have said that the question as it stands is a guessing game, and that’s reason enough to close-vote as being too broad.

If you ask me, almost every single SWR on the site is a guessing game. That is the very nature of SWRs. The only exception would be things like “What do you call this little plastic doodad that I have a picture of here but don’t know a word for?”, and even there, there tends to be differing answers depending on dialect and location—which makes it, once again, a guessing game.

This question is, in fact, much less of a guessing game than most other SWRs because there was so much data and detail to work from.

There are plenty of other questions here that arise from someone being unable to recall a specific word, and then describing what it means and how it can be used—exactly like this question—and I have never, that I can recall, seen any of them closevoted as being too broad.

It is possible to give authoritative, well-researched answers to this question; if the asker finds one of these answers superior to the others (in this case: if the answer has the word the asker could not recall), that answer will be accepted as the correct one. That doesn’t mean the other answers are worthless, nor that they are not helpful to anyone else:

  • The other four answers given on this question have all received upvotes, and the accepted answer is the only one to have received any downvotes.
  • Even if no one in the future will ever be specifically looking for this particular phrase used once to describe Meryl Streep, we still have an answer here that gives a good choice of words you can use to bestow upon someone (particularly an actor) an immense compliment, which is definitely useful to future users and not too narrow or limited in scope at all.

We should keep in mind that being useful to the asker and being useful to future visitors are two quite separate things. That is why it’s not relevant that questions are guessing games in the way this one is. Only one answer is ‘correct’, in the sense that it is the one the asker was looking for; but any good answer can be correct in the broader sense that it will be useful to anyone looking for a word that fits the situation, though perhaps not the specific context and details. The asker’s needs do not necessarily equal future visitors’ needs.

Though the wording of the question itself could perhaps be improved upon to better reflect this, I simply cannot fathom how the question can in any way be perceived as lacking research, opinion-based, unclear, or anything else that is off-topic here. At all.



In a comment to this question, KitFox writes:

Specific enough that the answer can be found by checking the transcripts of Oscar ceremonies.

Two points here:

  1. The asker said it was probably an Oscars ceremony. It may well have been something else—an Emmy awards ceremony, a charity event, etc.
  2. Trawling through god-only-knows how many years of Oscars ceremony transcripts1 goes far above and beyond what I would ever consider reasonable research efforts on ELU. If that level of research were expected of askers, we might as well shut down the site, because no question would be on topic.

1 According to this answer on Movies.SE, it might not even be possible, short of obtaining video or audio recordings of all the ceremonies to do so. Note that the Oscars transcript database contains only speeches, not introductions, and would not be useful here.

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    'How did Emilio Estevez describe his mother at the Golden Globes? He said something like "She's a big something something".' – Mitch Jan 11 '15 at 23:29
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    @Mitch If you also include what the phrase meant, what type of phrase it was, and how the phrase would normally be used, I would find that a perfectly fine question, because then it’s a question about a word/phrase that means X, has more or less the shape Y, and is used to describe Z in situation, erm, W. Perfectly useful for future viewers. If the question had been only “What word was used to describe Meryl Streep?”, that would have been an impossible guessing game, and far too broad. But that wasn’t the question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 11 '15 at 23:36

In my opinion this question was not

a significantly above-average single-word-request.

The question was asking us to give them a word that they'd forgotten. That is a guessing game. There is no criteria for success, except if you hit the right one. Finding the right word methodically has nothing to do with English or language, just googling for the phrase in the question and looking for likely hits. The question, as asked, is not really acceptable.

However, if you mentally rephrase the question thus:

What is a word for a compliment, which is the highest compliment you could give someone such as an actress? I've considered "living legend", "crown jewel", "cherished rare commodity", and "monolith of greatness" and those aren't what I'm looking for.

Then it because a regular, but still not that good, SWR. And that's why I haven't bothered to vote to close it, but believe me, it's a close call.


Meryl Streep is a _____________.

Meryl Streep is many, many things. A great beauty. A supremely talented actress. A wonder to behold. A national treasure. The question is a guessing game, and it's too broad. It's also primarily opinion based. I would vote to close it again today if that decision came up.

What is an 8-letter word for a person who behaves in an authoritarian or tyrannical manner?

That one is very, very specific. I would vote to close based on the fact that it will serve one person and one person only: the OP doing the crossword puzzle. I have no desire to see this become a place which welcomes crossword-type questions.

I have one vote per question to close, one vote per question to reopen, one vote for each question (up or down) and one vote for every answer (up or down), up to 30 (in some cases 40) per day. That is the exact same amount of votes you have, no more, no less.

Everyone has a right to post in meta.

If you don't like something, post about it, as you've done here. But making a comment that the 5 people who close-voted need to have their close-voting privileges revoked is a bit dictatorial. Your opinion should hold value equal to mine, no more, no less.

That's the Stack Exchange model.

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    1. There are very few crossword puzzles where "NATIONALTREASURE" would even fit as an answer. 2. It's obvious to me that this is not actually a crossword puzzle question: it's a single word request, and a pretty good one at that. 3. My comment on the answer is my opinion, and I've labeled it as such. – Marthaª Jan 9 '15 at 14:33
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    Oh, and as far as not being useful to anyone else, the question and its top answer have already been useful to me. – Marthaª Jan 9 '15 at 14:34
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    The key phrase here is 'guessing game', as the question is phrased. 'What was the word Churchill used in a 1942 speech, describing how evil the Nazis were?' Sounds more like history or literature to me. Better would be: 'Is there another synonym for evil? I've found x, y & z, but I'm looking for another. (I believe Churchill used it in a 1942 speech, to describe the Nazis). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 9 '15 at 23:17

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