6
$\begingroup$

In many questions, it asks for a word W such that f(W) is the minimum or maximum value for some function f. For example, in this question the function to minimise might be:

Infinity if the word does not contain all 5 vowels, else the number of distinct consonants in the word

That's all fine and dandy, but what is a valid word in this case?

Is it:

  • Up to the question asker to define?
  • A word in a certain dictionary with community consensus?
  • Any word the answerer can find in some dictionary on the internet?
  • Something else entirely?

Is there a community consensus to what a valid word is?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I just want to add that I agree. "What" is, in fact, an English word. /s $\endgroup$ – phroureo Oct 23 '17 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ @phroureo God DANG it! I just came here to leave that exact same comment! :-D $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 28 '17 at 9:06
6
$\begingroup$

Is there a community consensus to what a valid word is?

In general, no, there isn't, and shouldn't be.

It should be up to the individual puzzle setter to specify e.g. whether they want to include proper nouns, abbreviations, foreign loanwords, etc. etc., or whether they want to include all words in a massive dictionary like Sowpods or the OED or just some smaller collection. To insist that everyone use some global PSE dictionary might invalidate certain puzzles.

For each specific puzzle, it should be specified.

That said, a word-finding puzzle which doesn't make clear which wordlist it's using may not be a good question. I'm not necessarily saying go as far as to VTC as "unclear what you're asking", but we should at least comment on such questions asking the OP to specify a wordlist or dictionary. This is so that we can judge the validity or invalidity of answers, which otherwise would be difficult to do in certain edge cases with uncommon or arguable words.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

I think it should remain up to the question asker to define, because often certain edge cases make/break the question. Acronyms might be a problem in one puzzle, but not in another. What about US vs British spelling differences? Or single letter words? Or loan words from other languages?

That being said, I do think we should probably "enforce" puzzles to specify which dictionary/rules they're using, because if they don't, it can tend to push questions towards too broad/opinion based.

To be clear, I don't mean anything draconian, more that we should comment on questions lacking word definition ("Please define what constitutes a word, etc, etc") and perhaps link to a list of suggested online dictionaries/word lists/rule sets, here on meta.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

The question poser should be free to state which dictionary or dictionaries they consider valid. If they don't, answers should state which dictionary they're using unless the word(s) are in common enough use that they won't be challenged. If you don't recognise a word and the answer doesn't give a source, post a comment requesting one.

Beyond that, I think we can leave things to the voting system. We don't need an explicit policy on e.g. Urban Dictionary: if enough people object to it strongly enough to downvote then a de facto policy will establish itself, and that will be less disruptive overall than comment wars over "Policy allows it" vs "You can't force people to vote a certain way" and votes being cast to "cancel out" other votes.

Similarly, the green tick is in the OP's gift, and if they choose to overlook an answer which relies on a source that doesn't measure up to their standards of scholarship, or to grant it to the best answer which they consider to be a "real" word, that is their prerogative.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .