I have stumbled over a certain word which claims to be the name of a refutation of an argument and it is also claimed that its origin is more than 30 years old. It is listed in Wikipedia.

The interesting part is now that I am older and I never heard this word before in English literature. This is easily explained as I am German, the trouble is that also Google Ngram does not find the word in its corpus until the year 2008. It finds "Deoxyribonucleic acid", "thermic lance" and nearly every technical obscure term I throw at it, but this specific word: zero.

Is it a valid question if I ask the community to check out if this word was actually used or known by own experience and find out in what printed (!!) dictionaries it occurs? References to internet resources are in this specific case not allowed at all.

  • 1
    That sounds like a question for English Language & Usage. Or a field specific site. Or you can raise your question on the Wikipedia article's talk page.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 0:46
  • Yeah, come ask on EL&U. Now I’m quite curious.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 8:29
  • @DanBron I would like to avoid EL&U because it personally feels like the worst place on Stackexchange. The people are extremely unfriendly and dismissive. EL&U was the very first place where I deleted my SE account voluntarily. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 16:56
  • Still, I also am curious about what the word is.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:00
  • @user6726 The word is "Whataboutism". I am quite well-versed with names of arguments like Tu quoque, Ignoratio elenchi, Poisoning the well and some well-known killer arguments like Godwin's law, but this word comes out of the blue and I have never heard it before 2014. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:17
  • If you go to Melbourne and read the newspaper "The Age" 17 June 1978 looking for an article by Michael Bernard, you might see a printed attestation. It will probably appear first in print in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, if/when a 5th edition comes out, since they have it in the online version.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Linguistics is the scientific study of language, as distinct from the hobby of collecting words or isolated facts ("the diminutive suffix in North Saami is -áč-"). The problem I see is that there isn't a linguistic question here. The question, as I understand it, is something like "Is the word 'superfalicragilistic' attested in [specified class of sources]?" – I don't know what constitutes a "printed" dictionary (is this about the medium, or about the publisher?). There is no scientific payoff behind that kind of question. We also don't have any truck with prescriptively-biased questions like "Is X a proper word of English". ELL might be better.

  • Thanks for the explanation. Unfortunately ELL (as also remarked by other users) is not an option because I do not have the wish to participate in is-the-question-worthy-for-ELL, let-me-google-that-wrong-for-you, why-didnt-you-your-research-yourself-instead-bothering-us and why-dont-you-want-to-answer-our-completely-offtopic-snarky-comments. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 14:01

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