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Right now, I have a community wiki question on the main (non-meta) site regarding language differences between english dialects

There's a few comments to take it to meta, a pointer to the glossary (which I'm not a fan of for this sort of knowledge management), two votes to close, and three upvotes for it.

I admit, it's a rather broad question but at what point do questions about cooking vocabulary stop being about cooking and off-topic? Some might not even realize that they're actually questions about terminology:

  • I found a recipe that calls for (ingredient). What is it, and can I substitute something else for it?

  • I've recently moved to (country) from (other country) and when I ask in the market for (item) they keep trying to show me (item 2), and when I insist that's not an (item), they look at me like I'm crazy. How do I ask for (item)?

  • I went to a restaurant when I was in (country) and I ate something that they called (term), and it was delicious. Where can I get it in (other country)?

If you want specific examples:

  • I found a recipe that calls for (crushed up boiled sweets). What are they, and can I substitute something else for it? (happened years ago; Google at the time was of no help, I used life savers, which looks like I guessed right)

  • I've recently moved to (US) from (the UK) and when I ask in the market for (biscuits) they keep trying to show me (scones), and when I insist that's not an (biscuit), they look at me like I'm crazy. How do I ask for (biscuits)?

  • I've recently moved to (US) from (the UK) and when I ask in the market for (shortbreads) they keep trying to show me (biscuits), and when I insist that's not an (* shortbreads*), they look at me like I'm crazy. How do I ask for (shortbreads)?

  • I went to a restaurant when I was in (China) and I ate something that they called (fragrant meat), and it was delicious. Where can I get it in (the US)?

  • I went to a restaurant when I was in (the Netherlands) and I ate something that they called (pardenrukvlies) (not sure how to spell it), and it was delicious. Where can I get it in (the US)?

Yes, most of these can be cleared up with search engines these days (even the last question, thanks to improved search algorithms and automatic translation) ... and the last weren't just English dialects, but it's late and I'm tired ... I'll see if I have an english-to-english translation in the morning)

update : I know about the glossary project, and I don't like it, specifically because of this issue. If it were being maintained by a single person, it might not be as bad, but all it takes is one person thinking that defined something wrong, or spelled something wrong, and removing all of the British or American versions, and if you don't realize that's the issue, you get one person trying to revert the changes back rather than merge them together, etc.

The question is -- where is the line for acceptable and not acceptable? If I phrase a question such that I know it's simply an issue of vocabulary, are they automatically of-topic because there's this glossary effort, no matter my personal feelings about the suitability it?

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You are putting too little faith on the wisdom of the crowds. You are assuming that people will do destructive edits just due to culture differences. Of course some people will do so, but most will react appropriately and incorporate the contribution, handling the damage. Version control and moderators ensure that no permanent harm will be done (maybe you aren't aware of those features?)

Also I should mention that this glossary effort has no more official sanction than that Robert Cartaino said he loved the idea. This is just a thing I thought to be worthwhile and started doing it, later Pulse seemed to agree and started contributing.

You are (OF COURSE!) free to pursue any other means that you feel worthwhile to address multiculturality.

I personally think that the wiki format can handle these issues, it already has something along those lines, and I hardly see it inappropriate.

The problem I see with the single question/answer per item approach is that it's less handy overall, because it's disperse. It also doesn't extend well to definig things than do not have the multicultural problem.

  • Wikis are fine for making a document -- but a thesaurus is a strictly structured document that unless we had some sort of validation before saving is going to break when someone edits it who isn't aware of the syntax. The thesaurus also isn't particularly useful in its raw form without something else to ingest it and present it for use. Eg, see an entry in the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus : getty.edu/vow/… – Joe Jul 14 '10 at 20:22
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    @Joe: ISTM that you are suffering from a case of professional distortion. Let's have neither a glossary nor a thesaurus. Let's have a wiki! – Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 14 '10 at 21:04
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There are the beginnings of a glossary here Cooking terms glossary I'm not sure it's scope is quite broad enough to answer all of those types of question, but It's still early days.

There has been a suggestion to just link to another glossary, but that won't solve the language issues. As the glossary is a community project, anyone is free to jump in with suggestions and edits...

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    I will repeat myself, once again : a glossary is not designed for this sort of thing, particular one being managed in this way, and this format of wiki editing is not the proper method for the maintenance of a multi-lingual thesaurus. (and part of the issue is that it can handle the multiple dialect issue that you pointed out : meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/26/… ) – Joe Jul 13 '10 at 11:12
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    Could you, perhaps, define how this "multi-lingual thesaurus" would be constructed, the format, number of languages/dialects supported etc. Also, who would be responsible for the maintenance and how would it be referenced? – Pulse Jul 15 '10 at 0:18

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