If a question is about cookies, is it correct to tag it with and ?

marked as duplicate by Catija, Community Aug 22 '17 at 6:10

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  • I'm voting to close this as a duplicate of the more recent question so that it may point as a signpost to the reasoning for why the accepted answer here is not what was implemented. – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 6:02
  • Plus, this question is just a specific case of what asked in the other question, since the root problem is merely Should we use the American term or the British term? – kiamlaluno Aug 22 '17 at 6:12

I think that no matter what we do, somebody is going to get upset.

Biscuit is, roughly, the UK term for what North America refers to as a Cookie. Unfortunately, the term biscuit also has a completely different meaning in North America, which is essentially a scone.

So if we say not to use for questions about cookies (NA) then it'll send our UK members into a tizzy. But if it continues to be used, then it's just going to cause confusion when people have questions about tea biscuits and other types of (NA) biscuits.

It's usually in these situations I suggest that the ambiguous tag should never be used at all, instead using synonyms that aren't ambiguous. But I don't know of any other term that's going to make any sense to non-Americans.

My admittedly suboptimal suggestion is to treat as a sort of master tag and use the other tags to disambiguate (either or or possibly ). Obviously we won't expect everyone to tag their question as when it applies, but that'll be a retag job for the editor; just add , don't remove .

I know it's a giant bird's nest, and I'm open to other suggestions, but I fear this may be one of the few cases where we'll just have to live with the weirdness.

  • The issue is then in which language the tags are supposed to be. Outside the programming world, there are many words that have a different meaning in American English and British English, or that are used just in American English and not in British English (or vice versa). Biscotti is then an English word, but I don't think that having also biscotti as a tag is a good idea. – kiamlaluno May 2 '11 at 1:46
  • Actually, biscotti is the word that both British and American people would understand without to give to the word a different meaning; British English would describe biscotti as "small rectangular biscuits containing nuts, made originally in Italy," while American English would describe the meaning of the word as "small, crisp rectangular twice-baked cookies typically containing nuts, made originally in Italy." There is still a problem, as one description says "containing nuts," and the other one says "typically containing nuts." To say the truth, biscotti can contain nuts, or not. – kiamlaluno May 2 '11 at 1:53
  • @kiamlaluno: That is a far more subtle difference than that of biscuits, and one which I honestly wouldn't worry too much about. As a rule of thumb we're trying not to have tags in any "language", instead using the most widely-recognized names for the master and any regional names as synonyms. That's not really possible in this case because we have the same word having two very different meanings. – Aaronut May 2 '11 at 4:37
  • These kinds of ambiguous terms without easy master tags should be few in number - would it make sense to use something like biscuits-uk and biscuits-us to distinguish without needing to us a meta-tag (and then disallow use of biscuits)? Or is that too much of a slippery slope? – Hannele Oct 3 '13 at 15:53
  • @Hannele: It's not a slippery slope. But one thing many folks fail to consider with tags is discoverability. How easy it for the person asking the question to choose the correct tag? Many may not understand the difference, or will simply type "biscuit" and leave it at that, leaving us with three ambiguous and often incorrect tags instead of just one ambiguous tag. True, people can edit tags, but most don't (I'm one of the few who do), and we generally try to avoid deliberately creating extra work for the editors. – Aaronut Oct 4 '13 at 0:14
  • The fundamental question is, what value would special disambiguation tags add, and does it outweigh the potential cost? In this case the value doesn't seem to be that high (you can usually tell which "biscuit" from the context of the question anyway) but the cost seems potentially pretty high from my perspective. Tag hierarchies would help alleviate the issue but the dev team is still against them. – Aaronut Oct 4 '13 at 0:17

No. They're not equivalent terms in any either dialect

  • a question about cookies should simply be tagged as "cookies"

This is a common misunderstanding on both sides of the pond - biscuits(uk) don't really exist in the US and biscuits(US) don't exist at all in the UK. It's understandable therefore (but ultimately incorrect) that the items get described by the nearest applicable terms - ie. biscuits(UK) are called cookies in the US and biscuits(US) are called scones in the UK.

From a UK perspective: Both biscuit and cookie are commonly used terms, used to describe completely separate categories of baked good.

To a British person, this is a cookie:

I mean, "Biscuit Monster" just doesn't have the same ring to it?

They're considered to be an entirely American invention, commonly available. A pleasant and welcome guest for sure, but not biscuits.

And these are biscuits: You're never too old for Jammy Dodgers!

They come in a very wide variety of sized, shapes, flavours etc. There's a certain amount of "I know it when I see it" in defining the difference (particularly as I'm just not that good at baking). Generally though, biscuits are smaller, have a denser crumb, are shelf-stable for years* and can be dipped in a cup of tea**.

*Actually, they're almost never eaten fresh. Cookies are available in any fresh-baked section, but never biscuits. **This isn't a joke, it's an extremely important consideration.

Now, to make things really confusing:

These are biscuits: NaBisCo

You see, it's not quite right to say that the US doesn't have any biscuits(UK), it's that there's so few varieties available that they get lumped in with cookies. From what I can tell (though I've never had them), "Girl Scout Cookies" also fit into the biscuit(UK) category. The funny thing about Oreos is that they're made by NaBisCo - aka. the National Biscuit Company. This gives us a clue about how the word "Biscuit" was previously used in the US - that the term was used in exactly the same way as it's used in the UK (at least in New England) up to about 80-100 years ago.

So what about Bisucits(US)? As tempted as I am to call them scones, I have to admit that's just me being lazy. It's worth noting that because such a variety of savoury scones are common in the UK that a biscuit(US) is closer to being properly categorised as a scone in the UK than the US. There are still significant differences in recipe and method; close isn't close enough.

So what's a site to do?

I hope I've made it clear that we're dealing with four separate categories here (cookies, scones, biscuits(UK) and biscuits(US)).

You can see from this that a British person shouldn't be in any way upset by a cookie question being tagged "Cookies" and not as "Biscuits". Issues should only arise when someone tags a question about biscuits(UK) as "cookies". As Bisucits(UK) are so rare in North America, this shouldn't really happen much anyway. This is its as far as the question asked by the OP goes

This is much more problematic when not talking about cookies: ...but that's not the question being asked and should be treated as a separate can of worms. I hope this helped.

ps. if someone who is better at baking would like to give a more technical description of the differences between cookies and biscuits(UK), that would be very welcome.

  • Americans call everything you call a "biscuit" a "cookie". We have those exact same tins filled with "biscuits" over here... and we call them "cookies". Example: i5.walmartimages.com/asr/… – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 5:39
  • Tags on the network are required to match the US spelling and usage, which is what we have done here... that's why we don't have "courgette" or "aubergine". See MSE here. – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 5:48
  • @Catija hi, I noted that the US does have some biscuits (UK), but argued that because there's nothing like the same level of range and (in particular) popularity, the lexicon hasn't given them separate categories like elsewhere. – Niall Aug 23 '17 at 10:47
  • @Catija hi, re: aubergine/eggplant etc. This is a false equivalent as your examples are terms for exactly the same item. The general point I was making is that this isn't a difference in language (which would be covered under SE rules) but is a difference in taxonomy. – Niall Aug 23 '17 at 10:50
  • I'm not sure how you can say that biscuits(UK) are "rare" in the US. The Oreo cookie and other sandwich-style cookies are some of the top-selling types of cookies there are. – Catija Aug 23 '17 at 15:13

We are tasked by our overlords to use the US terms when tagging.

For bodies, no. For tags, US-English.

As such, we should use the for all questions about things considered to be cookies in the US:

Questions about preparing, baking and troubleshooting any cookies (also known as biscuits). Cookies are flat baked sweets which are usually small enough to be hand-held.

The tag should only be used for the US savory bread.

The often-savory quick bread that is common in the US, similar to a scone (UK). For the sweet dessert or snack, use "cookie". For digestive biscuits, use "digestive-biscuits".

This is already active and implemented on the site and is noted in the description for the tag, as seen above.

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