I'd like to open this question/discussion thread after the recent "discussion" that happened in the comments under the question "Why do you think the Oxford English Dictionary changed their definition of โ€œof?โ€".

The question had these problems:

  1. It was subjective: Which means it wasn't asking for facts, concrete situations but opinions about a certain matter. Check the "Good subjective, bad subjective" thread posted by Cartaino.
  2. It was off topic: Linguistics Stack Exchange has not a specified scope yet. But certainly we can't answer about why someone decided to change the entry on a dictionary and especially how this would affect future generations. (Again, asking for opinions.)
  3. It was badly formatted: It was written as a letter, which means it wasn't a question. The body of the question is what tells us the "situation" for the question, (e.g. where the OP got that doubt from?) and helps us to understand what the OP is looking for.
  4. It was asking too many things: Now, a question with 2 or 3 related questions to the main one might be ok, but here there were too many issues.

Too many points (I'm not sure I forgot something) which inevitably make it hard to edit the question in order to save it, unless we totally rephrase it.

The question even if closed, can still be edited and reopened. So if the Original Poster (i.e. he who asked the question) wants to rephrase it, it can be done and the question will then be reopened by a mod or by community voting.

You're invited to post your points of view on the matter.

Last, but not least:

This topic concerns not only that question but also any similar situation that occurred or that might occur in the future on this site. Let's say it's a good discussion point where we can express our views on the matter.

2 Answers 2


Reading only the title, I can say that the only people who really know the answer are who contributed in creating the new revision of the dictionary. Other people can just express an opinion, which is nothing more than an opinion.
The question doesn't seem asked because an actual problem to be resolved, and it doesn't seem to be of any interest for the future readers. Hopefully, there are few people who are still using the 1989 version of the dictionary, but when a new version will be released, even less people will be interested in the differences between the definition given from two old versions of the dictionary.


(#) 1, #2 - on the best sites the moderator check the users profile and sees if they are a newbie, briefly explains what faux pas was made and suggests a correction.

(#) 3 should be fixed by a kind moderator with too much time on their hands (yes! I can use they as the gender neutral first person pronoun, McWhorter says so)

Man, I find myself asking people to split up questions on account of #4 a lot. I've found myself re-asking a poorly asked question before.

All of the above is a lot of work for someone, so I sort of sympathize with the desire to say "malformed question! close!" but it's corrosive to community building.

  • Unfortunately, that question required a lot of work to be fixed, and actually it needed to be re-written from scratch because even the formatting was wrong. Second, not only the mods, but any user can fix it; if without the necessary reputation, we'll review the changes. Last but not least, for points 1 and 2, we did, see the comments, I suggested multiple times, but the response was not sufficient.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 12:54
  • 1
    I think with the original stackoverflow the initial audience was of such a high quality that the question pool started out to be mostly good questions and remained that way, so the # of bad questions were a minor problem. With the stack exchange sites, the initial pool of people is disproportionately amateurs and ... software developers. On this site it was months before I started to see talented linguists that I recognized from their blogs elsewhere. So maybe part of the answer is more waiting for the composition of the audience to evolve. Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 14:15

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