I've just asked a question about regarding the language variety spoken in Serbia, Croatia, and other areas of former Yugoslavia. I understand the naming of the language is a contentious political topis, with a choice between possible names (Serbo-Croat, Serbo Croatian, BSC etc.) The tag I created for the question was Serbo-Croat. Is this the most common and acceptable term for the language(s) - and is it suitable as a tag for this site? Obviously it would be tedious to have to tag one question with several synonyms with various alternatives.

  • You can accept the answer. This was tagged status-completed.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


UPDATED WITH MORE STANDARDS We don't have to solve this, the international community have multiple standards for this. I think that although long may be an acceptable choice.


ISO 639-3 calls this a macrolanguage, named "hbs":

The individual languages within this macrolanguage are:

Bosnian [bos] Croatian [hrv] Serbian [srp]

hbs is unfortunately opaque and confusing, and suffers from being an abbreviation. Additionally it is not an English-language abbreviation, and our site uses the English language.


The European Union has not officially taken on the issue, as only Croatia has been invited into the EU from the concerned area. There was some controversy about what to call the language. For now the EU will recognize Croatian as an official language, and expects to have to revisit the issue. So, no real decisive help there.


This macrolanguage is not an official language of the UN, and the UN does not support language other than its official ones. Again, no help.


The War Crimes Tribunal (ICTY) in the Hague calls this macrolanguage "Bosanski, Hrvatski ili Srpski" - "Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian" in English or BCS.

Given that of all institutions the ICTY may have been the most concerned with neutrality and lack of offense, and given the true gravity of the ICTY's mandate, I suggest that if "Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian" worked for them, it should work for us.

  • Thank you. :) So you mean, just create single tags? "hbs" seems obscure perhaps, but it seems the best term.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 11:14
  • Not sure about Montenegrin or Kosovan - I thought Montenegrin was a language or dialect that became extinct in the 1800s. I don't think it's the correct name for the current language of Montenegro. And in Kosovo, the majority language is Albanian, although hbs is also spoken. But given the low number of questions that tend to get tagged with single language names here, having three or four (or seven) tags for a single language seems a bit overkill.
    – user780
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 12:12
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    This of course very neutral and balanced, but it seems unpractical: I would like a term that people will recognize and understand.
    – Cerberus
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 12:12
  • I agree its impractical. Commented May 12, 2012 at 12:40
  • 1
    On reflection I'm not sure I like my idea any more. It's just too unfamiliar. Commented May 12, 2012 at 17:31
  • 1
    I just tried to +1 this revised answer, then found that I couldn't, because I have already +1'ed the original one. I fully support bosnian-croatian-serbian, or bosanski-hrvatski-srpski; or any re-arrangement of one of these.
    – user780
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 3:58
  • cc @DavidWallace This was accepted. I'm tagging this status-completed.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 10:45

I propose that we follow Wikipedia and use , unless some other consensual term exists among linguistics. But I don't think there is any such term; I think linguists normally classify the language as Serbo-Croatian:

From Wikipedia on *Serbo-Croatian*.

On the one hand, offending people needlessly is not what we want. On the other, there will always be people who are offended at any ethnic, religious, etc. term, and we should not let our use of common words be dictated by the offended. For all we know, someone else might be offended if we stopped using Serbo-Croatian, because that would disrespect the cultural history of the glorious region, or whatever. Secondly, we need a clear term here that everybody can understand; so the offence given, if any, is not at all needless. Mark's suggestion, while admirably neutral, is not intelligible to most people.

I don't think we should make our own decision in this matter and come up with extensive argumentation; this has all been done on Wikipedia, and it's not a pretty sight (don't ever click on the Talk page). They have come to the conclusion that Serbo-Croatian is preferable, and I think we should follow suit, failing a better alternative.

  • You said "don't ever click on the Talk page" - but did you bother? To quote it - "Tell an average Croat he speaks Serbo-Croatian and you will surely insult him, perhaps even risk a punch". So you're proposing insulting something like 20 million Yugoslavs (probably the primary audience for this tag), and for what? It's not even clear to me from the Wikipedia page that "Serbo-Croatian" is the preferred option; it's only what the page was originally called. If you want your argument taken seriously, find someone who would be genuinely "offended if we stopped using Serbo-Croatian" (your words).
    – user780
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 0:28
  • @David: I looked at it and saw lots of fighting. I didn't want to go there. I don't know how representative one person or another is of twenty million people. I just don't want to have to argue about this at all, but just follow an accepted authority. Wiki has "Serbo-Croatian" in its classification system, as you can see. The page itself has "Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat" in bold, and "BCS" is also in bold, but called "less common". The fact that the URL is "Serbo-Croatian" says something. In any case, I have no objections to bosnian-croatian-serbian or bosno-croato-serbian/etc.
    – Cerberus
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 6:08

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