DO NOT use for everyday ingredients, leftovers, etc - this is off topic.

First (and only) tag that comes up if you type in "leftov."

2 Answers 2


As rumtscho mentioned, tag synonyms didn't even exist when the site first launched. Seasoned Advice was one of the first "Stack Exchange 2.0" sites, which is why it's one of the few that actually has a distinct name. (they later decided that it was better for brand cohesion if they were all (something).stackexchange.com)

I don't remember if it was hobodave or aaronut (two of the early moderators) who created a bunch of tag synonyms shortly after the feature went in, but I know that I pushed to undo a couple of them that I didn't feel were equivalent. I also had a bit of a discussion in the comments section of the blog Christina's LIS Rant (but it seems to be locked down right now, so I can't search for it) when she posted something critiquing Stack Exchange's tagging.

But really, the historical aspect of why it was done isn't really all that important for this. We have a few things going on, both about Stack Exchange works, and classification in general.

  1. Stack Exchange "tags" look on the surface to be a "controlled vocabulary", but it's not a taxonomy, it's a folksonomy. There's no one authoritative group making sure that tags are used consistently. And even the scope notes (notes for the indexer about how to use a given tag) are written by the community -- and not by consensus, just by whoever noticed it was empty and changed it first ... or whoever went in and changed it last. And even if a tag's description page tells what synonyms point to it, I know it didn't originally, so it's possible for one user to recommend the tag synonym, while another user changes the tag description to make the synonym invalid.

  2. Grouping is most useful when there is an appropriate sizing of containers -- if you have a lot of groups that only used for two or three things, they're useless, as would groupings that cover 80% of all items. As the number of items change that need to be cataloged, you often need to adjust your categories so they are still useful. This often means splitting some terms into two or more distinct concepts, so the individual groupings are still useful. Unfortunately, we don't have a hierarchical taxonomy, so trying to break down categories into more useful sized ones while making them still discoverable through broader terms would likely be a manual task.

  3. Usage of terms evolves over time. Consider the term "bicycle" -- it used to refer to what we now call "penny-farthing bicycles", and the bikes with tires of the same size had to be qualified. (sorry, I don't remember what they used to be called to differentiate them), but at some point, "bicycle" came to be associated with the newer design of bicycle. As such, now that it's a decade later, we have to look at how terms are being used now, not just how people thought they should've been used ten years ago.

  4. Exact usage of terms vary by culture. Take for instance, pancakes. This makes it so that a person may have a fixed idea about what something means in their region, but it's actually a much broader term to other people, or even has a completely different meaning. Hence the reason for my translating cooking terms

So basically, what I'm saying is -- it doesn't really matter why it happened. If it doesn't fit now, change it. (although you might need to get consensus about exactly what change needs to be made, so you don't start some sort of an edit war)

For this specific case I find that the term 'leftovers' can be a problematic, as there are some cultures where it's abhorrent to consider eating food that hasn't been freshly cooked, especially if it had already served to someone. It can be a sign of waste or gluttonly (larger portion sizes than needed) when other people are food insecure. But it can also just be badly selected term for someone trying to describe food planning / once a week cooking. My mom always insisted they were 'planned overs' growing up as she had intentionally made enough food for it to be for multiple meals. (and I didn't realize until recently how tight our household finances until decades later)


The tag synonym was created on September 3rd 2010, a couple of months after the site was launched. We one of the first nontech sites (I think the first that survived until now), and even SO was so young that it hadn't crystalized its rules yet. We certainly hadn't, and were taking all kinds of opinion based questions, etc, that don't fly now.

"Culinary uses" may have been one of the first occasions of restricting scope, with the first quesiton on it being asked on September 7th 2010 - after the synonym was created. I wasn't on the site back then, nor was any of the currently active high rep users (I thought - apparently there are exceptions!), but I suspect that during that period, there was somebody who was on the side of "if one wants to ask how to use leftovers, this should be tagged with culinary uses" and created the tag, and later people from the side saying that we don't need this kind of question wrote the rules on culinary uses, without going back to reverse the synonym.

  • 1
    Maybe it'd make sense to split them at this point? If anything I'd have expected it to be a synonym of food-storage or something like that. At least in AmE, "leftovers" is way more likely to refer to a prepared dish than to extra bits of an ingredient.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 17:41
  • @Cascabel Historically, it might well have been intended for "what do I do with leftover roast" and similar. I currently don't have a good gut feeling for what kind of question we might want the tag - most are likely to be covered by food-safety or food-storage indeed. We can of course separate them and see what happens.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 19:03
  • I think the intentions of current users unfamiliar with our tagging are probably more relevant than the intentions of the tag/synonym creators :) In any case, I'll separate them and we can see.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 19:12
  • For what it's worth, 3 of the last 10 [culinary-uses] questions are about leftovers in a sense that seems to definitely not match [culinary-uses], so there's definitely reason to think that there's a concept here that the synonym prevented tags from capturing properly.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented May 6, 2020 at 19:15
  • "nor was any of the currently active high rep users". My reputation isn't high enough for you?
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 21:12
  • Also, not sure if I agree on the 'first non-tech' site. Maybe first one after StackExchange 2.0, but they used to host non-tech sites (for a fee) before that, because there was a library one that we tried to revive after you had to go through that whole area51 thing that we didn't manage to get off the ground.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 21:14
  • @Joe I wasn't aware that you have been around from the very beginning! If you have a memory of how the tag came to be, please write an answer, it will be certainly better than my present-day assumptions.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 11:00

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