After the success of my query about the tag and how to improve it, I'd like to try another tag clean-up but this one's a little bit bigger.

In fact, this one already has 2010 and 2011 Meta topics that seems to never have been decided on and I think it's causing some (slight) issues and it certainly needs to be addressed:

American or British Spelling for Tags?
Tag policy for regionally-ambiguous food names?

Along with it are questions like this one, discussing the proper usage of either cookie or biscuit when discussing the sweet dessert/snack:

Should a question about cookies tagged with both "cookies" and "biscuits"?

In this case, it seems has the definition one would expect (as it's not the word that's ambiguous) but has no tag wiki... so it gets used on questions about both British and American "biscuits" in the 23 uses of the tag.

There are many such confused tags due to the variance of terminology, as enumerated in the very helpful topic "Translating cooking terms between US / UK / AU / CA / NZ".

As an additional example, has no tag wiki either. Is it for questions about weird (to me) sausages or about milk-based desserts?

If a mod wants to close this as a dupe of one of the questions above, I respect that but I believe it is in the best interest of this site that we make a decision about this and make that decision visible to people who utilize the site. Having questions about cookies under two different tags (cookie & biscuit) helps no one and having two different subjects covered by the same tag (US biscuit and UK biscuit) is pointless as well.

I get that no one wants to push their culture on anyone else but we need to.

My personal preference would be to follow the SE tagging policy:

What should the standard spelling be - British or US?

This keeps the site consistent with the rest of the SE community and makes it so that all tags are clear and have one use. To make this easier for users, any potentially disputed tag should include the non-US terms in the Tag Wiki and mention the appropriate tag to use if they're trying to use in in the non-US sense.

So, the tag wiki for would read something like

For questions relating to the savory quick bread used in American food. Similar to a scone (UK AU). For the sweet dessert or snack, see "cookie". For digestive biscuits, see "graham cracker".

This is a very rough example and would likely need a lot of work to make it clear.

I'm not sure how many tags need this addressed but I believe that it's something we should work on.

Also, "bread pudding" is not "pudding". So, even in the sense of American dishes, it needs some help.

  • Why would pudding be about sausages? I can understand having a tag for black pudding and another tag for white pudding, but why would their union make a sensible tag, and how many people would call that union "pudding" anyway? – Peter Taylor Apr 3 at 19:42
  • I wouldn't have mentioned it if it hadn't been done... I think... this was a while ago and... it's been fixed. People will use whatever tags they think work. If they have a question about black pudding and they type in just "pudding"... they're going to pick that tag... But even if we don't go as far as black pudding, "pudding" in the UK generally means "dessert"... which is not appropriate definition of this tag. – Catija Apr 3 at 20:10

We should be using US names. There's support for this in basically all the posts you linked, and it's also the de facto convention on the site insofar as one exists.

The issue is just that we're bad at it. So:

Propose edits any tag wikis you find missing. Something is better than nothing. If you want to request comments or hash out a perfect version on meta that's fine, go for it, but your writing is fine (as is that of most regular contributors).

Retag questions. You can just do this without asking anyone. If you're worried about whether it's the correct term, of course, feel free to come ask, but I don't think it should be a huge concern. Try to avoid retagging dozens of questions all at once and flooding the front page, but for example going through all the questions looking for questions doesn't seem like a problem.

Request synonyms on meta. Unfortunately there's not a clean way to propose them within the tag system and have a mod actually see them and approve them, so you'll have to manually ask, but it's okay, I love making synonyms. Feel free to just post a question requesting a synonym as soon as you discover the need, and if it's obvious, no need to bother with any explanation or frills. (And mods can fully merge them, so you won't even have to do any retagging.)

In hard cases, ask on meta about specifics. For example, there are maybe some questions that don't are about British biscuits that Americans wouldn't actually think of as cookies, in which case it might be best to tag as ? (But anything that's unambiguously cookies - like chocolate chip cookies - can just be regardless of where the OP is from.)

  • Thanks. For some reason, when I read the answers before, they seemed sort of wishy-washy, so it seemed there wasn't a decision. I'll spend the next day or so working on getting some Tag Wikis written up and submitted to help and see if I can get my 2K rep by submitting some tag edits. – Catija Aug 14 '15 at 5:39
  • @Catija I agree they weren't as clear, part of why I was so direct here. (If people disagree for some reason they can let us know, but in my experience tags are just a pain and if someone's willing to do the work, people tend not to complain much.) – Cascabel Aug 14 '15 at 6:04
  • @Catija Also, specifically for digestives, I'd probably favor just creating digestive-biscuits over using the over-specific term graham crackers. – Cascabel Aug 14 '15 at 16:22
  • Fair enough. The question I just created the Graham crackers tag for is actually about graham crackers, though, so I think it's still appropriate. – Catija Aug 14 '15 at 16:24

I think it's more important that the tag name be clear, concise and unambiguous than look consistent. The linked precedent for having consistent spelling of tags only addresses spelling variations of the same word. The answer was written for Stack Overflow specifically, which didn't have to consider the ambiguities in tag names caused by regional differences that this site does. They only had to decide between color and colour, but not between boot and trunk or what a vest was.

What does having tags that look consistent really get us? It's much more important that tags be used consistently. When the average user posts a question and tries to it tag appropriately, they're not looking at the entire selection of tags available on the site. There's no consistency or inconsistency for them to see. They aren't aware of any rules on how tags should be named. They just type words that they think are appropriate. Unfortunately, they're probably not going to look at the wiki text that pops up telling them whether their choice of words was in fact appropriate.

So I think if word has a different meaning on different side of the pond, instead of choosing one meaning over the other, it would be much better to not use the word as a tag at all. Where the choice is between two different words, I think we should choose the world that most likely to be understood on both sides of the pond and around the world. (Given American cultural dominance, this will generally mean choosing the US word, though sometimes there's regional differences even within the US.)

So for example, pretend there is no biscuit tag. If a British person asks a question about "biscuits" they're going to try to tag it with "biscuit". When that fails there's a decent chance they'll try the American word, cookie (or maybe cracker). On the other hand, when an American asks about "biscuits" they're also going to try tagging the post with "biscuit". When that fails, there's a decent chance they'll see the (say) "biscuit-bread" tag on the list of completions and choose that.

(Note that while Stack Overflow doesn't have a problem with ambiguities caused by regional language differences, ambiguous tags are still a problem other reasons. Ambiguous tags are often burninated but in general they remain an unsolved problem.)

  • The purpose of tags is to group related questions. You're forgetting that fact. If someone picks the wrong tag when they ask a question, we simply retag the question. If a more regular user wants to see all questions about cookies then that user shouldn't have to look in cookies, biscuits, and... where ever else they may have ended up. They should all be in one place. Similarly, if someone wants to see questions about biscuits that tag should only return questions about the bread and if they're British, the tag wiki tells them where to find questions about cookies – Catija Aug 18 '15 at 4:10
  • @Catija No, I haven't forgotten that. The same problem with ambiguity applies there as well. I also never suggested having multiple tags for the same topic. The problem with insisting that US forms be used like you suggest is that it doesn't really solve any real problem. It just makes the tags look consistent. It doesn't make their use consistent. Tag wikis do little to help, people don't read them. Non-Americans searching the biscuit tag will only see questions that they aren't interested in. In actual use the tag remains ambiguous. You're not actually changing what the word means to users. – Ross Ridge Aug 18 '15 at 5:58
  • The tag wiki is at the top of the page when you search by tag. It's incredibly easy to see. And the wiki excerpt includes a note on where to look for the questions that they want. It is a problem to have questions about sausages and cream-based desserts in the same place (pudding). And it is a problem to have half of a certain subject under one tag and half of the subject under another tag. – Catija Aug 18 '15 at 6:01
  • @Catija The tag wiki is even more easy to see when posting a question, right below where you're typing in the tag. People routinely ignore it anyways. – Ross Ridge Aug 18 '15 at 6:07
  • Proper tagging always has and always will require help from editors, and the best way to make sure that editing happens is to make sure it's easy and straightforward for people to do that editing. That means consistent tags, and tag wikis to fill in what's not obvious. (Also, to some extent, the work we're doing here does make it easier for users to use the right tag in the first place: for anything where we're able to create a synonym, the system will guide the user to the desired tag if they type the synonym instead.) – Cascabel Aug 18 '15 at 17:36
  • I also don't think "don't use the word as a tag" is really an option. If there's variation in meaning and we try to work around it by choosing an obscure but unambiguous tag name, no one wins. But in any case, we are also trying to make things clear, concise, and unambiguous where possible - it's just that sometimes things are ambiguous and in those cases we're using consistency as a deciding factor. So I think we agree about most of the important ideas here. – Cascabel Aug 18 '15 at 17:40

I know this is an old discussion and that there are several duplicate and related discussions, but I don't see where anyone has suggested using slashes in the tags. The US term could be the first one, or maybe the shared term, but in either case, the second term would clarify the intent for all users as they pop up as possibilities when typing in one of the words.

  • cookie/biscuit
  • biscuit/scone

  • pudding/custard

  • pudding/sausage
  • pudding/cake

Anyway, I would just add this as a comment but I don't have the rep points yet.

  • Slashes aren't allowed in tag names, unfortunately. I think the closest we could come would be cookie-biscuit. – Cascabel Feb 22 at 15:57
  • See my comment on the question re "pudding/sausage". The thing that would confuse me, as a native English (en-gb) speaker, is why one of pudding and dessert isn't a synonym of the other. – Peter Taylor Apr 3 at 19:42

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