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I recently had a question retagged from "Yogurt" the American spelling to "yoghurt" the British one. I can see this easily becoming a fairly epic war. As an American I was momentarily infuriated by the change. Yogurt is a legit tag, as is Yoghurt. My spellchecker is set to US English and Yoghurt gets flagged. Yogurt does not. Removing Yogurt from the tags to replace it with Yoghurt just seems arrogant to me. No your spelling is no more correct than mine. And I want my Yogurt question tagged in such a way that I'll know what to look for.

We either need to decide on a standard - American English, British English for tags - or just use both. IE. Yogurt and Yoghurt. Personally, I'm in favor of using both. Where there's a spelling conflict use both tags. That way Americans can come and find what they are looking for and so can Brits.

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There is a reason to discuss which to choose. It does matter which is the master and which is the synonym. As outlined here: Improve the search algorithm to work with tag synonyms , when you do a search for a tag that is a synonym, the search does not include results from the master.

In fact, despite [avocados] having been merged into and made a synonym of [avocado], a search for [avocados] turns up zero results.

Until the SE engine figures out how to deal with this effectively, we should be always merging into the most likely candidate.

In this case, it's a simple matter of which one is bigger, which is why the system currently only allows you to make a word a synonym of something bigger than it countwise.

In the case of yogurt, we went with yoghurt because it had a higher frequency.

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    I don't know if 3 vs 2 is a higher frequency. My post would have made it 2vs3. They're basically equal right now. – Daniel Bingham Aug 3 '10 at 23:48
  • Daniel has a point. It might be too early to be picking meaningful 'masters', since we still have relatively little tag-data. Hopefull SE will fix this along the way and all the tags will get 'grandfathered' into the results. – Ocaasi Aug 4 '10 at 0:32
  • @Mike Won't tag search pull up all text matches. Or is your example an exception because it's actually the longer term, such that a search for 'orange' will pull up 'oranges' but not vice/versa? – Ocaasi Aug 4 '10 at 0:36
  • Ignore above comment, couldn't re-edit it: @Mike Won't tag search pull up all text matches. It has a live auto-suggest, at least when searching on the Tag page. I see your example as an exception because it's actually the longer term, i.e a search for 'orange' will pull up 'oranges' but not vice/versa... How were you doing your search? – Ocaasi Aug 4 '10 at 0:41
  • @Ocaasi, if you search for the term "[avocado]", including the brackets, it does a tag search, looking for only questions with that tag... Not a full text search. – Mike Sherov Aug 4 '10 at 12:01
  • @Daniel, I agree. I personally was disappointed to see that a tag search didn't use synonyms. I would've left a few of the choices alone. – Mike Sherov Aug 4 '10 at 12:02
  • Ok, I think we're searching from different places. If you try clicking Tags at the top of the page, the search interface on that page is auto-suggest. That doesn't solve all problems, but it's one way not to miss tags you're interested in. – Ocaasi Aug 4 '10 at 20:40
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I am Canadian, so my tendency would ordinarily be to go with the British spelling. However, Americans tend to dominate these sites (at least for now) and historically, on all other Stack Exchange/Trilogy sites, the American spelling has been the one used in tags. Nationalistic arguments aside, the American spelling is going to be the one that's searched for statistically more often.

The [yoghurt] tag may seem to provide a counterexample, but the sample size is very small (3x [yoghurt] vs. 2x [yogurt]), and if you actually check the [yoghurt] questions, you'll see that one of them was actually originally tagged [yogurt]. Somebody decided to change the tag to their favourite spelling.

So as much as I hate giving it up for the Americans, I think we should be going with Americanized tags. If you see a new British tag or one that isn't covered by a synonym, change it to the American spelling.

That said, please don't change British spellings to American spellings in post titles or actual posts. It's counterproductive and rude. This only applies to tags.

  • USA! USA! ... Just kidding. I think the best idea is to wait and see. I think at the current level of questions, it's hard for anything to be considered significant. – Mike Sherov Aug 4 '10 at 12:05
  • @Mike: The two best examples so far are [flavor] (12) and [bbq] (10). 12 questions is hardly a landslide, but unless this site attracts wildly different demographics from any of the other SE sites, we're very likely to end up with American tags unless people get confused by the autocomplete. I'm fine to wait, but call it a hunch if you want... this is how it's going to go down. – Aaronut Aug 4 '10 at 14:49
  • I agree. I was just commenting on yoghurt. I don't suppose it hurts to wait either considering how easy it is to merge and synonymize them. – Mike Sherov Aug 4 '10 at 23:26
  • i think the last section of your answer in particular I think should be completely in bold :) – mfg Aug 27 '10 at 18:11
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There's no reason to war over the spelling of tags. They are going to be merged as synonyms as soon as they duplicate eachother. That way, using either spelling will have the same effect. The only question is which tag will be the 'master' tag. I personally don't think it matters, and we should probably just default to whichever one has more hits.

Wikipedia deals with this constantly and they take the following approach. There's no right answer: if the topic is about something specific to the UK, use British spelling. If it's specific to the US, use American spelling. If it's ambiguous, use the first mention of the language (presumably the tag itself) as the precedent.

  • This is a good answer, and you arrive at the right conclusion: choose the more popular spelling as the master. However, which is chosen DOES matter, because of the issue I mention in my answer. – Mike Sherov Aug 3 '10 at 23:36
  • Mike.. it's not about the more popular spelling. It's about which spelling gets used first. – daniel Aug 6 '10 at 18:32
  • @roux, no. It's about figuring out what MOST people will search for, not what the first person searched for. – Mike Sherov Aug 7 '10 at 13:54
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I'm the one who added the synonym.

I had just changed a few other things over to the american terms (I think it was some disambiguation of 'coriander', and 'grilling'), and I made a concious effort not to over-Americanize this website, due to comments by some of the non-Americans about feeling left out.

So my goal was spread out the offending of people, rather than focus on American spellings and annoy the British, Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, and every other non-American group out there.

If we weren't restricted to ASCII in the tags, I would've gone with yoğurt.

The problem is that the implementation of synonyms within stack exchange has issues. See Christina Pikas' comments from earlier this week (I don't think she's an S[OFUE] user), and Dorothea Salo's explanation of some of the issues in controlled vocabularies.

I would prefer that the tagging handle synonyms better, and possibly even differentiate between SP/UF/ET (spelling variant; used for; equivalent term) relationships. I'd also like to see BT/NT/BF/NF relationships (broader/narrower term/facet)

  • SP/UF/ET definitely; BT/NT/BF/NF suggests a hierarchy and that's been, for the most part, rejected by the team. – Aaronut Aug 6 '10 at 18:48

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