I'd like to understand why my questions on English phrases, expressions, words usage, meaning, grammar and/or definitions were closed.

What are out of this english.stackexchange.com board in them?

And there are a dozen similar deleted forever questions.
Here are some webcaches (though they were filled more when deleted):

  • 2
    In addition to what was explained to you by psmears below in his very comprehensive answer, you should be aware that your failure to comprehend the scope and boundaries of this site has annoyed quite a few of us (see this thread: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/742).
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 19:57
  • 3
    What is quite annoying is not listening to what other users say. Everybody can fail in understanding something; other users are here to help, in those cases.
    – apaderno
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


OK, I'll assume you're asking in good faith, and attempt to explain why I believe these questions were closed. Please do not take this as criticism (it is not intended that way), but please do study it and try to understand why some questions do get closed.

Note that I did not vote to close these questions - I do not have enough rep - so I am in a sense putting words into other people's mouths; I hope that they will forgive me for this (and comment/vote appropriately if I am way off the mark).

Some of the questions that were closed I think were borderline cases - that's not to say that people were necessarily wrong to close them, but that they come very close to the line between suitable and unsuitable. In these cases you may want to edit your questions to bring them into line with the site's mission; I've tried to give my view on how best to do so.

Before doing so - having looked through all the questions, there are a few themes that come out, that you might like to pay attention to:

  • If you give some context to your question (for example, explaining why you are thinking of using a particular phrase, and what you hope to express by it), you are likely to get better responses (and less likely to have the question closed).
  • If a question is about the ideas that someone has expressed in English, rather than the way they were expressed - for example, interpretation of literature - then that is highly likely to be off-topic. As a rough guideline, if the question and its subject matter could be translated directly to another language, and still be essentially the same question, that probably means it's not specific to English, and therefore off-topic here.
  • Questions that appear to be entirely about another language are unlikely to go down well.

So, going through one by one:

  • What are conventional symbols in definition of a language?

    This one is borderline to my mind, and could possibly be made into an on-topic question, which is presumably why it hasn't been deleted. I imagine it was closed because it seems to go beyond the definition of the word "language" as a standard English word, and into a more technical discussion of what is and isn't a language - so it's more a question of linguistics (which is off-topic) than the meaning of a specific word (which is on-topic). If you are asking simply because you didn't understand the words "conventional symbols" as used in the quoted definition, then it probably is on-topic, and I would advise you to edit your question to make this clear.

  • Does English have taboo-ed (unprintable) obscenities?

    Kosmonaut already commented on this one: "There isn't really an answer for this; it is a topic for discussion. You might be able to bring this up in chat, but it is off-topic here.". You acknowledged in your comment already that you know the answer to the headline question ("no, there aren't any"); discussing why this is the case (and different from other language/cultures) is a truly fascinating topic, but is no longer about English Language and Usage, and more about sociology/anthropology/other off-topic studies :-)

  • If prepend is not part of English, why is there no postpend or subpend? And who introduces them?

    I'm not even sure I understand this question myself, which (if others also don't understand) is likely why it has been closed. Its premise seems to be "If X does not exist, then why to Y and Z not exist either?" It is not clear to me why X not existing means that Y or Z should exist.

  • What's the hidden sense of a farther instructing his son to choose whom to kill for a pleasure?

    This is about literature, not English language/usage. Yes, it is about the author's meaning, but at a level beyond the language itself. To try to clarify that vague remark: if the scene were translated into another language, then the same question would arise - the question is about the meaning of the father's actions, rather than about any of the words or phrases used to describe them.

  • Does non-audio artefacts make part of a language?

    As Kosmonaut put it, "This question would be a good fit for linguistics.SE... until then, this is not really about English.". Again, it is not specific to English, because it applies equally to all human languages.

  • Why wasn't compassion sexy?

    Similar to the Mockingbird question, this is about literature (albeit a very concise form thereof!). We might be able to help you if you don't understand the word "compassion", or "sexy", but as to why Pullman decided to say that compassion wasn't sexy - that's a question of personal interpretation; it has everything to do with the reader's emotional response, but little on the actual meaning of the words - i.e. it is entirely subjective.

  • “Read-only syndrome” versus “write-only syndrome”

    I think this one is borderline too. Here you are asking about the usage of a phrase that you have made up (at least insofar as it applies to humans - I realise that it has uses in computing contexts at least). That doesn't, in my view, make it entirely off-topic (after all, writers are often forced to coin new expressions to get their meaning across, and questions about how best to do so are totally on-topic here). However, I suspect what tipped the balance towards closing was that the way the question is phrased doesn't suggest that you are are trying to hone your writing skills in that way; if you are, then I would suggest you update the question saying (for instance) "I am writing an essay/novel/job application, and trying to express the concept that (...). I've come up with the following suggestions (...) What would be the best way to express this?" - and be prepared for the answer to be "don't say those, say (...) instead" :-)

  • How would you call a word for which you don't know the meaning but use it fluently?

    In your own words: "After seeing universal miscomprehension of my question, I started to doubt that I undestand it as well.". If you don't understand the question yourself, chances are nobody else will either :-). But as a general rule - if the only examples you give in a question are in Russian, that's probably a sign that the question won't be acceptable here. Either add some examples in English (though I appreciate that may be difficult as it's not your first language), or accept that the question is not specifically related to English.

  • Is “I'm write-only” comprehensible?

    I think this one is borderline too - rephrasing could make it a valid question. If you are trying to express a particular concept, then you might ask (as in the "syndrome" question) "I'm trying to express (...), would (...) get that across? And if not what would?". Without that extra context of the meaning you're trying to get across it's very hard to answer the question in a meaningful way - hence why it gets closed.

  • How would an Englishman join “Awake and awkward” into one word?

    As FX_ remarked: "Please provide much more context to enhance your question. I'm sure there are other possibilities than merging the two words, which we could help you find out if you provided a broader picture.". Without knowing why you want to join the two words together, nobody can know what would produce the best effect (or whether something else would be more appropriate). (Also note that you probably mean "native English speaker", rather than "Englishman", since the latter refers specifically to a male from England, which accounts for a very small fraction of the sum total of native speakers. If you genuinely do mean someone from England (and not Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand...) then again you need to explain why in the question).

  • “Logged-in”, “log-ined”, “login-ed”, “logined”, “log-in-ed”, “logged in”?

    As the "closed" notice says: "This question covers exactly the same ground as earlier questions on this topic."

  • Rule on absence of the article “the” with plural nouns

    This one I think is a borderline duplicate. I don't think that there is a distinction between "rules for absence of the" and "rules for presence of the", because the "rules" should cover all cases (the article is either there or it's not!). However I can see that the question that it is marked as a duplicate of does not go very far to explaining when "the" should be used with plurals - just that it can be. I think you would be likely to get a better response if you listed a number of examples (either where you're unsure of whether to use "the" or not, or where you know the answer in specific cases but are not sure how to apply the logic in general).

  • Help me to translate the Russian proverb “”За битого - двух небитых дают"

    Translation is explicitly off-topic according to the FAQ.

  • 16
    +1 for you, but it would be a +100 if only I could! Taking the time to explain so thoroughly to a user who clearly has problems clearly identifying the scope and boundaries of the site is excellent work!
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:05
  • actuall, I can give you +100. I've opened a bounty of that amount on you question you answered on the main site. Thank you very much again!
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:57
  • 2
    What FX_ says! Superb answer. I disagree only about the conventional symbols question: "...so it's more a question of linguistics (which is off-topic) than the meaning of a specific word (which is on-topic). If you are asking simply because you didn't understand the words "conventional symbols" as used in the quoted definition, then it probably is on-topic, and I would advise you to edit your question to make this clear." I immediately took this as the latter ("didn't understand") and I think it is absolutely fine. As you say, apparently some do not, and clarification is the solution. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 18:57
  • +1 thanks for the effort, though it does not explain against any clear rules but just speculates, guesses and justifies post-factum. Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 21:25
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    @vgv8: I freely admit I was speculating - but speculation based on observation of: types of questions here that have stayed open/been closed, comments left on them, and the site's FAQ. Here's a suggestion for you: I've tried, in my very first three bullet points, to give guidelines to help you improve your answers. Would you be willing to stick to those guidelines - in good faith - for a week or two, and see whether fewer of your posts get closed? I might even be willing (with certain preconditions) to preview and make suggestions on your posts for you, for the benefit of all. Sound fair?
    – psmears
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 22:30
  • 6
    As one of the people who has voted to close many (though by no means all) of these questions, I can confirm that psmears' "guesses" are 100% correct, at least as far as my reasoning went.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 4:20
  • @FX_: by the way - wow, thanks!
    – psmears
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 21:09
  • @psmears: you're welcome, that was totally worth those 100 reps
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 21:13
  • 3
    @vgv8, Martha's comment, FX_'s bounty, and the (so far) 15 upvotes on this answer suggest that his speculation is correct.
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 11:15
  • @Benjol, after giving the link to this post in my twitter @vgv8 account bio, I've got to my @vgv8 170 more followers just in 5 hours Commented Mar 6, 2011 at 6:48
  • 1
    ROFL... His twitter account has been suspended!
    – Steve
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 19:14

I don't know -- is the answer "you're asking too many questions that the community is rejecting through downvotes and closing?" a reasonable one?

It's hard to quantify exactly why these don't fit as a whole, but the consensus is that they do not, and since you continue to relentlessly ask questions of this type ...

  • 2
    I think it is spot on.
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:06

This is not an answer to vgv8's question; instead, I want to ask a larger, related meta question.

What I know:

What I don't know:

  • Why on earth moderators spend so much time closing and/or deleting his questions, when there's a much simpler, more overall-community-friendly, and less time-consuming alternative.
  • If anyone sees signs that things might be improving (or at least that the situation won't worsen), such that it makes sense to continue to have patience.
  • 1
    I'd like to know if moderators have contacted him directly to discuss the issue (which I know at least a few users here perceive as a mild to serious annoyance).
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 13:06
  • 4
    In fact, I agree so much with this (direct) assessment of the situation that I opened a new thread with this (and a few questions of mine) as a starting point: meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/742 I hope you're not offended, but I thought I'd get higher visibility that way, and maybe actually lead to something being done!
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 14:38

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