Is it "bear" or "bare" with me?

There's been a lot of discussion on Meta in the comments about this question recently, but it's actually not the main topic of any of the recent questions. I thought I'd post a new question dedicated to this topic, so that people can keep all their discussion about it in one place.

I see several options:

  • we can leave it as closed
  • we can give it a historical lock
  • we can reopen it (there was one vote for this last time I checked)
  • we can delete it (there was also one vote for this)

Which of these do you think is best, and why?

Update: As of March 18, 2016, the question has a historical lock.

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    I'm 100% in Camp Historical Lock, and have my trebuchets aimed squarely at Camp Delete. Just give the word, sir! Just give the word. – Dan Bron Mar 16 '16 at 0:56
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    Reopening it would be insane. – ab2 Mar 16 '16 at 2:35
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    @ab2 Electing Trump would be insane. Re-opening this question would be misguided ;) – Dan Bron Mar 16 '16 at 2:37
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    Excuse me, but I am probably missing something. Why is this issue so important? Users have been talking for days showing contrasting attitudes on what to do with these sort of questions. I don't think there is going to be a common view, and after all it is just an old simple question. As a new user I'd not read much into it if it were reopened or if it were left closed as it is. – user070221 Mar 16 '16 at 6:23
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    The question and the answers are an embearassment. Delete it or historic-lock it. – JEL Mar 16 '16 at 7:07
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    @Saturana: it is not very important. As I said, people have been making a lot of comments about this question, and I think it's better for them to do that here than on other Meta questions where it is off-topic discussion. Also, some people might have strong reactions if such a highly-voted question were to be deleted, so I wanted to learn what people think before something like that happens. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 15:22
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    The question is "locked"! Heaves a sigh of relief. – Mari-Lou A Mar 18 '16 at 16:10
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I asked a question about how to request a historical lock for old but seemingly popular questions that don't meet current site standards for preliminary research (or some other criterion) here: How can users nominate old, popular questions for exemption from closure as being of 'historical value'?

Since I stated explicitly there that my preference would be to preserve the "bare/bear with me" question in a locked state, it's only fair that I expose myself to the wrath of close/delete proponents by reiterating that preference here. Neither the "bare/bear with me" question nor the two answers it drew are especially substantial, but more than a million people have viewed the page since it was posted in August 2010. And though the coverage isn't deep, it is clear and accurate.

I suspect that much of the debate over this question comes down to whether (on the one hand) you think that the "bare/bear with me" question lowers the prestige of English Language & Usage and encourages similar low-brow questions from people who see it, or whether (on the other hand) you think that the primary goal of EL&U is to provide useful answers to questions of English language and usage that people are interested in, regardless of their level of sophistication. As this description of the two viewpoints indicates, it is easy for proponents of either view to talk past the other because one view does not obviously and directly entail the negation of the other.

I'm not embarrassed by the existence of the "bare/bear with me" Q&A on our site, and I think that its presence is unrelated to the flood of low-end questions that arrive here day after day. Those things happen, I believe, because the vast majority of visitors to this site are neither experts nor advanced enthusiasts when it comes to the English language. They are people who want their English-related question answered, and who either ask it here or search Google and find a related answer posted here. This is the central fact that phenry in his famous Meta post This is not a site for "serious English language enthusiasts," and it never will be insists upon: most people who use EL&U are not looking for complicated, recondite explanations of advanced linguistic phenomena; rather, they want to know the name of a color that is somewhere between crimson and scarlet, or a word that means you kind of think someone's a jerk but your mind isn't entirely made up, or the difference between start and begin, or whether you should use "bare with me" or "bear with me."

Five and a half years after the "bare/bear with me" question was posted, no one has attempted to provide a deep answer to it, which suggests to me that no one here who is capable of such an answer is inclined to provide it. That may be because knowledgeable people consider it a fundamentally uninteresting question—but their lack of interest in the question obviously doesn't extend to the Internet community at large. In any case, the 125 people who have upvoted the "bare/bear with me" question and the 224 people who have upvoted the accepted answer to it aren't zero-rep fly-by users: they are Stack Exchange participants who, one way or another, accumulated enough reputation points to cast upvotes on EL&U posts. (I am not among them, by the way.)

Still, if no one has cared to improve on the concise answers posted five years ago, I see little reason to reopen the question (which was closed earlier this month) just to make additional answers theoretically possible. That's why I would prefer to see the page given locked status. That way, it can continue to provide quick practical advice to the many people who continue to find it in Google Searches, without having the cloud of "CLOSED [for lack of adequate research]" hanging over it, and without the threat of its being deleted outright and inviting new rounds of questions about the difference between bare and bear from inquisitive visitors who find their way to EL&U.

So, to summarize, I favor the locked preservation option for the "bare/bear with me" question because (1) I think the page is useful to people who seek it here or on Google; (2) I think the locked status draws a useful line between questions that satisfied older EL&U standards but don't satisfy current standards, and questions that do meet current standards; (3) I don't think the existence of historically locked questions harms the site; and (4) I think older questions that have earned many upvotes over the years deserve a degree of respect and tolerance for having done so.

By the way, no one as yet has detailed the steps involved in giving a question a historical lock. I continue to hope that someone will provide such an answer. [[UPDATE, 3/18/16: Sumelic's answer to my "How can users nominate..." question appears to be a definitive response; I followed the method it described (namely, flagging the moderators with a request for a lock) in seeking a lock for the bare/bear question (as others may have done, too), and a moderator responded to the request(s) by locking the question—without reopening it, I might add. The result is that the question remains closed but is no longer in danger of being deleted. Thanks, mods!]]

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    The only step is to flag the question and ask the mod to apply the flag. Your question though is confusing because it's asking for exemption from closure and the historical lock, which though not strictly incompatible, usually are. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 8:22
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    Thank you for posting a response! I agree that the question probably does not have much, if any, practical effect on new users asking questions. I don't think it's very useful as a Google search result (it's OK, but general references provide guidance that is almost as useful, and our top answer is just a quotation from another web site). I'm not sure if I agree that a question deserves respect and tolerance just for earning many upvotes over the years. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 15:09
  • @curiousdannii: The question I asked about locking came up in the context of Kit Z. Fox’s answer to the Meta question Is there any point in closing questions that are more than a year old? where she mentioned “mark[ing old questions] with a historical flag.” I asked how that process worked, and she replied, “I don't think we have an established policy and we may need some discussion.” That’s why I posted my question. ... – Sven Yargs Mar 16 '16 at 17:40
  • ... Is the answer that the policy/process consist of having users request (in a flag) that moderators consider locking the question? – Sven Yargs Mar 16 '16 at 17:40
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    @sumelic: I have serious misgivings about my "high-scoring answers deserve a degree of respect and tolerance because they are high scoring" position, too. On the one hand, many Q&A's that have done well in the past (and many new ones that do well today) aren't especially interesting as questions or answers. The "bare"/"bear" Q&A could stand for many such, as could a randomly selected single-word request. But I am even more uneasy about dismissing the evident popularity of these questions as irrelevant to what English Language & Usage is about. The issue of identity is quite challenging. – Sven Yargs Mar 16 '16 at 17:52

For what it's worth, here's my opinion, partially copied from some comments I left earlier.

Delete: To me, it seems that there wouldn't be any damage done if we deleted it. I don't think having it on this site is helpful. (Yes; it has many upvotes. Even so, upvotes do not measure quality, and it had a head start on most of the other questions.)

The information is easy to find. Even ignoring Google, you can find most of the relevant information by simply looking up the words "bare" and "bear" in dictionaries (bear with is defined in the Merriam Webster entry for "bear," and has its own entry in the Oxford Learner's Dictionary with an example sentence that includes "bear with me").

And if you do a Google search for "is it bear with me or bare with me?", we're the first result, but our answers are short and not really any better than the multitude of other results. On the first page of the Google results, there are longer and more complete explanations such as,,

Our main answer is just a cut-and-paste from the following source:

One of the main goals of Stack Exchange, as I understand it, is to improve the internet by providing better or more relevant answers to Google search queries than other internet sites. I don't think this question does this.

I would be against deleting questions like the following

because these questions have more answers, and each answer seems to be more valuable. What I mean by this: the answers are mostly original content rather than quotations, they are longer rather than shorter, and they seem to have more effort put into them (which makes it harder to reproduce them if the question is deleted). While the questions themselves may be off-topic, I don't want to delete bad or off-topic questions that have accumulated good answers.

Reopen: I don't think it should be reopened, because I don't think there's anything significant that a new answer could added. It's a straightforward question with a straightforward answer. In addition, reopening it, combined with its high vote count, might send the message that we welcome this kind of question, which is bad because it is clearly off-topic by today's standards. That said, I don't think it would actually change much if we reopened it, but I don't understand why some people think it would be a good idea to do this.

Historical locking seems OK. To me, the biggest plus to this is that it gets taken off the list of top-voted questions (historical locked questions only show up in search results, not in lists). The downside is that we're stuck with it forever.

  • I did not know historical locks get taken off the top voted questions list! That's a plus in my mind. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 8:22
  • If the bare vs bear question is deleted I will nominate this question to be next in line How do you quote a passage that has used 'sic' mistakenly? I would like to know how the mods or TPTB would justify that question's existence on EL&U. Even if it is a cleverly written question, today it is clearly off-topic. And according to your answer, the number of upvotes it has received:451, is not an indication of quality. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '16 at 8:30
  • @Mari-LouA The sic question may not necessarily be off-topic (though if it was new it should probably have been migrated to Writing), but it definitely should be closed as opinion based. Style questions like that need to specify a style guide they want answers from. And upvotes aren't a measure of quality, they're a measure of usefulness. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 8:40
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    @curiousdannii it is not a question about the English language the problem posed by the OP is not exclusive to English. I do think however your suggestion to migrate it to Writers.SE is an excellent one. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '16 at 8:45
  • @Mari-LouA: I've edited the question to add a section about the difference between this question and the other questions you've mentioned. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 15:39
  • The gage for deleting this five-year-old question is based on the length of its answers? One of the answers is "original" though, written by Kiamlaluno. I don't think he copied his verbatim. – Mari-Lou A Mar 16 '16 at 19:07
  • @Mari-LouA: Yes, it has one original answer that is two lines long. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 19:12
  • @Mari-LouA: I'm not sure. I don't thick there's much potential for a good answer like that in response to this question. But, it's possible. I'd have to see the specific longer answer to say. I'd encourage anyone who wants to to write such an answer. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 19:45

We should just leave it closed. The advantage over deleting it is that it can be a duplicate target.

  • That doesn't seem like much of an advantage to me. If another question exactly like it were asked, it would probably be closed for lack of research. If somehow, somebody asks a possible duplicate that is also on-topic in the modern site, it doesn't take much effort to answer it again. – sumelic Mar 16 '16 at 0:52
  • It is better to close as duplicates when we can. It's hard when we have so many questions, but if we take the effort to look it does help. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 0:52
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    How could such a general reference question be a duplicate target? I personally don't like the idea of closing a general reference question as duplicate as it can never be deleted. – user140086 Mar 16 '16 at 7:56
  • I'm not sure I see the problem with that. Obviously if we decide not to delete it then it not being deleteable is something we're okay with. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 8:42

We need to have one standard that is applicable to all the questions regardless of when it was asked, how many views it generated, how many upvotes it has. They are all irrelevant when we decide to close it or even delete it.

A user said the question has a historical value, but I beg to differ. The question is just a general reference question without any research effort. There is nothing common between the two words etymologically or meaning-wise. The question is no better than "what is the difference between hair and hare?"

English Language and Usage (ELU) wants to differentiate its name from Yahoo Answer type of communities where you can ask whatever you want in any format. If we allow the question to remain undeleted, it will mislead users into believing that such a question had been accepted and welcomed for more than five years and it was belatedly found out by the community. What message does it give to new and future users?

I remember one new user quoted an old question which is asking for a list of words with a "historical lock" and asked. "Why can't I ask this question while you allowed this question in the past?" even though there was a clear comment by Andrew Leach stating "this question should not be used as an example for a future general reference question" (I don't remember it word for word). What if another user uses the question as an excuse or to insult or mock the integrity of this community?

The number of questions on ELU is reaching 70,000 soon and it will be more than 100,000 next year. We have to think about this. What benefit does it give to this community to let it remain on this site? What is the cost against the apparent benefit coming from removing the question from ELU?

Please read the Yahoo Answers link and see how exactly the question looks like those on Yahoo Answers. If this question were asked today, how long do you think it would take for five users to close it?

A rule is a rule because it is the rule. We deleted one-and-a-half-year old question for the same reason, What does “TL;DR:” mean? (sorry for users with less than 10,000 reputation points that you can't read it) with 2,755 views, 30 upvotes for the question, and 59 upvotes for the top ansewer, 9 upvotes for the second answer. The post date was Jan. 30, 2011 and the deletion date was Sep. 19, 2012. If the question had not been deleted, it could have generated far more views and upvotes. Who knows? What justifies deleting this question and what justifies leaving the "bear/bare" question closed? We deleted a very popular question with a lot of upvotes. Why can't we delete the "bear/bare" question? I don't see any difference between the two questions, but if someone asks me to choose only one between the two to delete, I will choose the "bear/bare" question.

Are we aiming for double standards? The Original Poster of the "TL;DR" question and answers were just unlucky while the "bear/bare" posters are very lucky to have your sympathy? Where is fairness?

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    Well the benefit of not deleting such questions is that some people will find them and not ask. If we delete all the off-topic questions then we guarantee that people will keep asking them. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '16 at 9:02
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    @curiousdannii Well, if people bothered to find duplicates themselves before asking, we wouldn't have so many duplicates in the first place. Also, we don't need to consider the fact whether the question existed or not. It is irrelevant when deciding a question is on-topic or off-topic. We just close it and delete it again and again no matter how many similar off-topic questions are asked in the future. I will not close "what is the difference between bear and bare" as duplicate if it were asked today. I will close it as general reference. – user140086 Mar 16 '16 at 9:05

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