Recently there's been a spate of questions asking about Russian etymologies. Each question seems to come from a new user who never posts again, but all the questions are basically in the same format.

What's going on with this? And is it something we should do something about?

4 Answers 4


This must be a single person who asks low-quality questions which get downvoted, and this triggers an automatic question ban.

Numerous fake accounts are needed to evade that ban.

The Mods should check the cross-IP activity and, if it confirms that these accounts are sockpuppet accounts, burn them with fire.

  • 1
    Do you happen to know how our mods are? That user keeps posting new questions, under different aliases. It'd be interesting to know what the mods are going to do about it.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 15:37
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    @AlexB. I do not respond for the Mods, but (1) the Mod Tools include a utility for checking the cross-IP activity, and (2) creating a sockpuppet account is an abuse if it is used to gain some privilege or evade restrictions. We can try convincing the Moderators (by flagging) that the problem is annoying enough and take some action to stop it. Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 16:39

Yes, probably there is a need for taking some measures. As a moderator of Русский язык, I am well acquainted with the situation as these questions had at first been presented on our site until I closed them all. It is difficult to understand why the person who is asking them uses different accounts here because on Русский язык he uses a single profile. I recommended local moderators to pay attention to all these fake accounts controlled by the man in question, but it seems that this was fruitless.

The reason I used to close the questions like 'Does Russian пушка share the same root with English porch?' is

Please provide the phonetic laws you used to suggest these words to be cognate. Failing that, we cannot help you.

Maybe you should try something like that.


I've re-opened a couple of the questions asked by those possible sockpuppets, not because I appreciate these machine-gun etymology questions, but because the reason given is usually "off-topic: Language-specific grammar and usage questions are off-topic unless primarily concerned with linguistics rather than usage".

These questions are primarily about etymology, which is definitely part of linguistics, and they are generally about the relatedness of words in at least two languages, so I think it's a bad precedent to consistently close them on those grounds: well thought-out (or even half-well thought-out) etymology questions should be allowed in my opinion, and I guess the reason this closing reason is chosen is that they are allowed as there isn't a closing reason that is actually appropriate.

It's possible to vote for closing a question as "other" and then add a comment. Some comments have mentioned there seems to be an almost complete lack of research behind this question (and I'd say the poster is basically picking pairs of random words that sound vaguely similar and just asking ahead), so maybe people who want the questions closed should simply give a reason of this sort.

Does it even make sense to close them in the first place, though? If the questions are on-topic and would generally be appropriate for the site, except for the fact they're machine-gun questions of an identical type that show no prior research and are posted by apparent sockpuppets, then to me, it makes more sense to downvote the questions to death, and hopefully manage to ban the sockpuppets.

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    I have been downvoting these for the reason that they show little to no research effort most of the time. I agree that cross-language etymology questions can be on topic. But as you say, these question typically aren't well thought out, and trying to engage the questioner in an attempt to improve the questions is fruitless. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 15:52

There is one user who seems to have created six login ids to ask the same kind of questions! I'll open a new meta discussion on what to do about etymology.

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    I don't see how this follows. If there's one user creating several logins to ask "spammy" questions, I'd say that is the problem; etymology and what to do with it is not the problem.
    – LjL
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 2:08
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    @LjL The sockpuppets are not the only issue. We have had other people creating dozens of questions on etymology and semantics that were all negatively voted and eventually closed without receiving any answers. There have been other meta discussions about that before. And I'm sure once this sock puppet gets handled, a completely different person will start the trend all over again, a few months down the line.
    – prash Mod
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 12:46

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