Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Words to watch

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Proposed changes to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch#Contentious labels[edit]

Proposal gained no traction. Drmies (talk) 17:45, 17 April 2015 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

RfC added on 16 March

  • Regarding the discussion above I suggest that an additional shortcut be added to this section as: WP:W2WTERRORIST which would then change the listing of shortcuts for the section to read: WP:LABEL WP:TERRORIST WP:W2WTERRORIST.
  • Changing the text from saying "Value-laden labels ... are best avoided" to saying "Value-laden labels ... may be best avoided"
  • Changing the title from "Contentious labels" to "Descriptions that can be used as contentious labels"

My view is that this section (in a content on a page entitled "words to watch" and which begins with the statement "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia") is unnecessarily and unhelpfully proscriptive. It is also contradictory saying that there are no forbidden words and then labelling a certain set of adjectives as "labels" and stating that they are best avoided. For instance I would have no problem in describing, say, Nazi philosophy and motivations as being "racist". In a slightly more contentious topic there is currently a discussion at Talk:ISIL on the use of the use of the widely used description "extremist" in the lead. In other cases I think that various topics might be described as fundamentalist without any form of slur being offered. In fact in some cases, and depending on the nature of the true fundamentals of the topic, this particular wording might well present them in an unrepresentationally favourable light. In the specific title The Beatles (terrorist cell) I think that its least problematic part is the terrorist reference. The four individuals concerned are not The Beatles and there is no evidence that I know of that the four of them act as an individual cell and on this basis I have requested an article move to the title ISIL militants nicknamed the Beatles with discussion here. Otherwise I think that the terrorist description is arguably very apt as, to my interpretation, it has been the videoed killing of captives including aid workers that largely substantiated ISIL's international designations as a terrorist organization.

I think that it is very fair that the words mentioned be categorised as "words to watch" but I think that it would be wrong to be prescriptive in our approach. My worry though is that, in a minority of cases, we may lose our ability to give pithy descriptions of topics. Our main priority is to build an informative encyclopaedia and, IMO, not necessarily to pander to any politically correct agenda. GregKaye 09:33, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

*Support. Agree ‹See TfD› . Shortcut does no harm. --Mr. Guye (talk) 17:00, 22 March 2015 (UTC) I change my mind. Mr. Guye (talk) 20:39, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Mr. Guye I appreciate that below you changed your view on the presentation of mythology in Wikipedia in that the same level of usage might apply to modern and ancient religions. Please can you review the second issue mentioned. My contention is that the text "Value-laden labels ... are best avoided" is unnecessarily prescriptive as well as being contradictory (this is in the context of beginning of page text that states: "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia"). My proposal is that the text can better read with the less assertive: "Value-laden labels ... may be best avoided". GregKaye 13:57, 2 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment, I think the reason why those adjudicatives are in WTW is because they carry POV with it, thus (when I look @ WTW most often) if an article is up for GAR, and since NEU is part of a GA review, using POV terms is frowned upon. Or so goes the logic of that section as I understand it.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 04:16, 3 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: We don't need to add and advertise a shortcut "WP:W2WTERRORIST" when "WP:TERRORIST" is already there; it would just be redundant. I agree with the wording change to "Value-laden labels ... may be best avoided"; there are times when they are not, namely when the preponderance of reliable sources uses them. Our job is to report what reliable sources are saying, not to second-guess them in the name of political correctness. Finally, while I agree that "Descriptions that can be used as contentious labels" is more accurate, it unnecessarily lengthy as a section title. It would probably make more sense to keep the existing "Contentious labels" title, and begin the section with the longer phrase.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:11, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

RfC: ancient religions and the myth of NPOV[edit]

Propose adding myth and mythology to the content on "words to watch" in WP:LABEL in regard to all uses of the word. I don't intend by this that the words be excluded from use but just, if alternative presentations can be given, then these should be considered. This is in line with the general spirit of the article which begins with the text: "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias."

At present the text of WP:LABEL begins, "Value-laden labels ... may express contentious opinion and are best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject, in which case use in-text attribution."

In the thread immediately above I have suggested that this can read, "Value-laden labels ... may express contentious opinion and [may be] best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject, in which case use in-text attribution."

This proposal follows a long discussion at: Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Religion#Disambiguations of divinities in which continued and unanimous opposition was given to the use of the disambiguation "... (mythology)".

The problem here is perceived WP:SYSTEMICBIAS in which present day faiths seem to be automatically classified as "religions", "faiths" etc. while previously practised faiths get regularly classified as "myths" and "mythologies". Words like "folklore" regularly don't even get a look in. My contention is that practitioners of present day religions have established bias by being instrumental in developing the description of prior forms of belief as myth.

According to the online Oxford dictionary definition of: myth, there seems to be no major problem with the first definition.

1. A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events:

If this was viewed in isolation there might be no problem as the word might be considered to neutrally present a narrative on a religious theme. I am not sure when or how the second definition definition was developed/was first used but I consider this to present the problem.

2. A widely held but false belief or idea:

The result, I think, is that present day religions are falsely differentiated from previous faiths.

I think that the problem here goes far beyond a mere #Expression of doubt but that the usage goes as far as to WP:ASSERT falsity when the same stance is not adopted with present day faiths. See the articles Creation myth (which I am not necessarily arguing against) and Genesis creation narrative for examples of this.

A positive way forward I think would be actions such as to favour links such articles as Ancient Greek religion as opposed to Greek mythology. This, I think, would reduce current discrepancy.

I will notify the religion and mythology wikiprojects of this discussion. GregKaye 11:47, 16 March 2015 (UTC)

I think this imposes a bias where none existed before. The religion wikiproject has basically unilaterally decided that mythology belongs to them, and the only valid point of view from which to study mythology is a religious one. Those of us interested in the historical, anthropological, artistic and literary aspects of traditional storytelling are apparently wrong and can just pack up and go home. You may have unanymity in the religion project, but you have not given other points of view a chance to respond before moving articles.
My own particular interest, Irish myth, shows up the problems with your approach. I note you have moved a handful of Irish mythological characters from "(mythology)" to "(Irish folklore)", but this shows a degree of ignorance of the subject as these are primarily literary, not folkloric, characters. Pre-Christian mythological stories stopped being passed on orally quite early and were preserved by an elite class of antiquarian monks trying to reconstruct what they thought of as a historical narrative that would support their Christian religious foundations and the ruling dynasties they lived under (and were probably mostly part of). These stories have always had secular as well as religious purposes - as do the myths of other cultures. --Nicknack009 (talk) 12:27, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Nicknack009 you are right in pointing out that I have tackled the topic from a religious angle and, when I initiated the well supported thread: Disambiguations of divinities as an RfC, I only did this with notification to the religion and philosophy board. In hindsight I should have also notified the history and geography board as I have done here.
However, I have also posted on the Mythology wikiproject board to inform of threads/actions in an effort to try to keep things inclusive. All the moves that I made were within categories of gods and godesses and with the three folklore examples that you mention being found within Category:Irish gods. There remains, as I see it, a POV issue with content in a sphere involving religion and belief where words that can be interpreted with negative connotations such as myth and mythology get attached. As far as a "words to watch" approach is concerned then I would hope that nothing would be overly prescriptive but, if a disambiguation such as (Irish literature) would work, this might pose a neutral option. There are plenty of authors that have written about supposed deities along a spectrum from perceived non-fiction to the penning of wilfully fallacious tales and, in this context, words like literature may make no or little judgement. Myth and mythology, however, are not neutral words. They have a shade to suggest fallacy and, within the parameters of dealing with religious topics, I think that they should be words to watch.
GregKaye 20:13, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
"Myth" has a technical, non-pejorative meaning that you're ignoring - not to mention that "religion" has negative connotations, to the extent that Christians of my acquaintance insist that Christianity is not a religion. Give me a good myth over a religion any day. But frankly, it's bad enough that we're increasingly told we can't speak frankly about active religious beliefs for fear of giving offence, without extending that oversensitivity to the traditions of people and cultures long dead. Language policing is annoying enough in the social and political spheres without bringing it into scholarship. --Nicknack009 (talk) 21:21, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Nicknack009 and oppose this proposal. This isn't a religious issue. There is no need to make it one. Egsan Bacon (talk) 20:34, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
Nicknack009, you have ignored my open presentation of both definitions clearly presented above. Are you saying that people do not associate myth with falsity? My conjecture is that they most certainly do. There is a one sided bias of the terminology of myth is only applied to faiths that, for whatever reason, have fallen out of currency. GregKaye 22:01, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
Egsan Bacon of course it is a religious issue. Modern faiths with, arguably, no greater justification than faiths of the past are treated as religions and this all happens in a context in which faiths of the past are described as myths. There is no balance. GregKaye 21:57, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
I said earlier that "The religion wikiproject has basically unilaterally decided that mythology belongs to them". You're still doing it. While there is some overlap, "mythology" and "religion" are not synonyms, and you need to understand the distinction. Mythology is a body of traditional storytelling, which often has a religious purpose (among other purposes). Religion is a body of ritual practices and beliefs, which often involves myths. As an example, Christianity, a religion that is currently practised, has a body of mythology, including parts of the Bible, which are part of the religion and are read, recited and studied as part of religious practice, as well as stories like the Harrowing of Hell, Paradise Lost and Jesus Christ Superstar, which are not. Likewise, the worship of Dionysus was part of ancient Greek religion, but Euripedes' The Bacchae, a major source for the mythology of Dionysus, is a secular work of art that has been interpreted as a criticism of traditional religious practices, and very likely expressed veiled political concerns. Mythology is not simply dead religion, and invoking religious sensitivity on behalf of mythology in the name of "balance" doesn't make any sense. --Nicknack009 (talk) 22:53, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
I regret to say that I agree with Nick here. As the person who created both Wikipedia:WikiProject Religion/Encyclopedic articles and Wikipedia:WikiProject Mythology/Encyclopedic articles, both of which are based on some of the better encyclopedias directly relevant to their topic, I would very very much argue that the one project has attempted to take over the other, just that, for better or worse, most articles fall within the scope of both of them, and the religion project is more active. And also, of course, as Nick says, mythology is about the stories of a religion, not about the religion itself. Particularly in the older religions, where aspects other than the stories themselves aren't given as much attention, like forms of worship, theology, structure of worship, there is a lot of overlap, because the stories of any religion are of significant importance to that religion. And, yes, a lot of articles and topics do appear in both lists, particularly the names of entities who are included in the pantheons or broader belief systems of a religion. Would I mind in any way the WikiProject Mythology becoming more active again? Not in the least. Does its comparative inactivity make it necessary that the more active WikiProject Religion basically be told "hands off"? No, because, from what I remember, most of the editors involved in one project were also active in the other. John Carter (talk) 23:34, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't think anyone's telling the religion project "hands off". It's good and right and necessary that there's input into mythological topics from the religion angle. It's just important to remember that other angles exist and we need their input as well - and we shouldn't go framing language in such a way as to exclude them. --Nicknack009 (talk) 13:07, 17 March 2015 (UTC)

Personally, I think we should only use "myth" and "mythology" when necessary and simply be more specific otherwise. Both terms are widely used in an academic, non-pejorative manner but the definition of myth can vary greatly from scholar to scholar, and it does have pejorative semantic element, especially in colloquial English. It's also often reserved for anything that isn't a "living religion". Of course, we're using the term in an academic sense, not a colloquial manner, but I think that the solution to this issue is to simply to be specific wherever possible. I don't think [DEITY NAME (mythology)] is ever an appropriate disambiguation for these reasons. :bloodofox: (talk) 21:55, 16 March 2015 (UTC)

I think Nicknack009 makes some excellent points, and :bloodofox:'s suggestion here is basically sensible. The words "mythology" and "myth" should be used carefully and advisedly. Bad: "The Egyptians thought that Osiris was king of the underworld, but that is only a myth." Good: "In Táin Bó Cúailgne, a key work of Irish mythology, the hero Cú Chulainn has a number of encounters with deities such as the Morrígan." Ancient religions need to be understood on their own terms, not in terms laid down by modern-day religious sentiment, no matter how ecumenical. Q·L·1968 23:01, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose proposal. Just don't use it in the pejorative layman's sense, but only in the scholarly academic sense. This is too central a concept in the study of religion for it to make sense to consider a problematic word - it would be impossible to write about religion and to follow the usage of the sources.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 23:05, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: In the current text of WP:LABEL, I already find "Avoid myth in its informal sense, and establish the scholarly context for any formal use of the term." That sounds appropriate to me. (Has it just been added?) It might be worth adding "mythology" to that sentence; otherwise, I'm not sure what the proposal is meant to do. GregKaye's made clear that counting it as a "word to watch" doesn't mean banning it from our lexicon, just cluing people in that there's a wrong way to use the word. Q·L·1968 23:20, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
The "myth" aspect was already a part of the WP:LABEL guideline. Flyer22 (talk) 20:09, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
I think it's fair to say we should be careful with the word "myth", as it does have the meaning "something that a lot of people think is true, but isn't". I really don't think there's any need to worry about "mythology", which only has one meaning. --Nicknack009 (talk) 10:24, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I agree with Nicknack009. Paul August 11:49, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment It seems to me that this is a debate over a word that potentially has consequences for many words. To a large extent it depends on what we assume to be the distinction between English and "Simple English", I for one can distinguished in "legend" between a legend on monument and an urban legend, but ought the editors of Wikipedia expect Wikiepdia readers to know of that distinction? At what age group and educational level is this encyclopaedia aimed? This is covered to a limited extent in MOS:JARGON and the essay Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable (although I think it is hoisted by its own petard "typical level where the topic is studied (for example, high school, college, or graduate school)". What is a high school, college and graduate school? These are dialect expressions and words! If we assume that it is acceptable to use a term such as "high school" then should we assume that Nicknack009's reasonable use of myth is acceptable? -- PBS (talk) 13:03, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Nicknack009 and everybody else. Introduces a bias that did not exist before. --Mr. Guye (talk) 17:07, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

Related concern This seems part of a larger program the broadly replace the term "mythology" with the term "religion", for example the following edits (inappropriately in my view) replace "Greek mythology" with "ancient Greek religion": [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]. These are only a few of what seems to be many many more. I would respectfully ask that these edits be reverted untill we can come to consensus concerning proper usage. Paul August 15:00, 17 March 2015 (UTC)

That would be a very odd substitution since mythologies only form part of religion, any religion is much more than its mythologies.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 15:25, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Maunus that any religion is much more than its mythologies, and that's precisely why "mythology" should not be used where we mean "religion". The Gaia and Pontus edits for example seem perfectly reasonable, even if these articles do lean heavily on mythology. Q·L·1968 16:20, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
I am not aware of either Gaia or Pontus having any central relation to Greek religion (i.e. cult, rituals) they seem to me to be solely characters within the mythological complex, in the same way that Queen Jezebel and King David are not central figures in Christian religion, but in Christian mythology.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 16:41, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
They don't have to have a central relation. We're talking about a polytheistic religion; it's inherently pluricentric. Pausanias says that the oracle of Delphi belonged to Gaia originally (Description of Greece 10.5.5); the same writer mentions sanctuaries, temples and/or altars of Gaia at Athens (1.18.7), Phila (1.31.4), Sparta (3.11.9), Olympia (5.14.10), Ægæ (7.25.13), and Tegea (8.48.8). Gaia is offered prayers and libations by several characters in Æschylus' Libation Bearers, generally on behalf of the dead. Aristophanes gives an invocation of Gaia, among other deities, in Thesmophoriazusæ. (This and further information available at On the same website's page on Pontus, you can see two depictions of Pontus on mosaics. Mythology is one aspect of religion; iconography, cult practice, and divination are others. Neither Gaia nor Pontus is restricted to mythology, but are part of a wider milieu. Q·L·1968 19:09, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
That is a reasonable argument that I would be happy to concede, blanket changes of mythology to religion I would not.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:26, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── There I completely agree. Such changes should be thoughtfully considered, not made willy-nilly. Q·L·1968 19:56, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Comment in the first discussion started as related to this topic, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Religion#Disambiguations of divinities, I have now presented large contents of references from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in comparison to which, parallel Wikipedia content inconsistently and yet predominantly presents a far greater emphasis on mythology. One of earliest points that I raised in my original post was the gender discrepancy in which female divinities were far more likely to be disambiguated ".. (mythology)" than male divinities and this has been born out in later content on that page. A lot of the Britannica and gender research was conducted following my posting of this thread and perhaps issues can be pursued simply by means of quoting such guidelines as WP:SYSTEMICBIAS and WP:NPOV. However, the current emphasis on mythology in Wikipedia, at least in comparison to sources like Britannica, I think, needs to be addressed. I do not think that the word mythology is being used with fair representation and that, to guard against further abuses, a reference in W2W would help. I think that, given the above, "mythology" can certainly be considered (to some extent) a word to watch and, in various cases, words pertaining to "history", "culture" and "religion" may often be more relevantly applied. GregKaye 12:45, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
GregKaye, your proposal confuses me. Like QuartierLatin1968 (Q·L·) noted above (the "23:20, 16 March 2015 (UTC)" post), the "myth" aspect was already a part of the WP:LABEL guideline. So why did you propose that "myth" be added to it? Was your proposal more about adding "mythology" to the guideline? Since "myth" is already there, it's like the oppose votes above are forming WP:Consensus to remove "myth" from the guideline. I did tweak one aspect regarding the guideline, as noted lower. Flyer22 (talk) 20:09, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I don't think anyone wants to remove "myth" from the guideline. What people oppose is a blanket change of mythology to religion because (of course) not all myths are or were religious in nature. It might be worth making it clear that myth and mythology are words to watch in the context of things that are or were once genuine beliefs. If significant numbers of people once believed in something, or currently believe in something, then it might be a mistake to call it a myth. (This goes beyond religion, of course; you wouldn't want to call a political concept a 'myth' either, not unless it's universally described as such in the lines of the Stab-in-the-back myth.) The current wording is "Avoid myth in its informal sense, and establish the scholarly context for any formal use of the term", which I think is about right; the issue is that the OP here misjudged how often there is an established scholarly context for it. --Aquillion (talk) 06:54, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Flyer22, Aquillion In a Religion Wikiproject thread I have provided extensive references first from Britannica to show the way that various divinities across a full range of major pantheons were presented as gods, goddesses and deities. When a book written from the perspective of mythology was cited I then presented a raft of references within the book within which various divinities were described in similar ways. In comparison to Britannica I think that Wikipedia is unnecessarily and unevenly assertive in regard to its presentation of and labelling of topics as mythology.
Certainly religion and myth, amongst other issues, are intertwined ... but how is it possible to say that one has precedence? In another thread I noted that Wikipedia has two articles on chicken and egg.
Whether by intention or not I think that there has been a POV pushing in Wikipedia in its presentation of mythology and this may be partly due to the prominent display of "Mercury (mythology)" in project pages such as WP:DISAMB. In all fields of study (inclusive of archeology, cultural studies, mythology and religious studies) a character such as Mercury will be referred to as a god. This is common to all fields. Within Wikipedia content various of the gods in question are presented with sole reference as being in X mythology. In the context of guidelines, and especially in the specific context of the connotations of myth as being associated with fallacy, I think that a biased view is presented. There is certainly an unfair bias in comparison to our presentations of modern religions. There is no article that presents opening texts as "In Judeo-Christian mythology Jehovah ..." or as "In Islamic mythology, Allah ..." In cases where a figure was venerated, worshipped and/or believed in then I think that religion at least deserves a mention. GregKaye 15:25, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Egsan Bacon, Maunus, Paul August, Mr. Guye, for an illustration of the extent that the interpretation as mythology is being pushed please look at the following;

Word such as religion and pantheon are in existance and yet every sphere of practice in all these cases is defined as "mythology". In each case there were associated religious practices with such aspects as priests, temples and sacrifice. It is a vast POV push to define all of this as solely as mythology and the only way that I see it is that people here have serious issues with WP:OWN. I want to ask what you think can be done to balance things out. As far as I can see, even from the earliest of Earth mother type practice, religion comes first.

GregKaye 23:22, 31 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Support per GregKaye's counterarguments immediately above. I have changed my mind. Defining certain stuff as "religion" and others as "mythology" without significant scholarly consensus or without significant Wikipedian consensus pushes a POV that does not benefit anyone's personal religious beliefs. --Mr. Guye (talk) 23:59, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Agreed on "myth" but not "mythology". The first word does have a frequent negative connotation (though we can use it properly in context without giving that connotation, simply by writing well). "Mythology" has no such connotation. [CORRECTION: No such connotation in the religious context, only when used metaphorically; see below.] This goes multiple ways, though. We need to be careful not to label all mythological figures "gods" or "deities", label all legendary figures "mythological", or label all mythological stories and their details "religious". All that said, yes, we do need to avoid labeling at least living religions, en toto, as "mythologies" or "mythological", since it can be taken in a pejorative way, and it's a misuse of the terms. Only parts of religions involve mythology, but it occurs even in major ones based on written scriptures. Christian mythology is a real thing, and well-educated Christians know this. Oone example among many: the story of the flowering of Joseph's staff upon meeting Mary is mythological, and not a part of biblical doctrine; it's also obviously metaphoric of something anyone over the age of puberty understands, and there is no serious debate about that point. Were we to have an article about this, it would be acceptable to refer to this story as part of Christian mythology.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  02:44, 1 April 2015 (UTC) Updated 17:42, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
SMcCandlish This entry on mythology in the online Oxford dictionary includes the definition:
  • 1.1 A set of stories or beliefs about a particular person, institution, or situation, especially when exaggerated or fictitious:
we look for change in our thirties, not in our forties, as popular mythology has it
It was, popular mythology tells us, one of the contributing factors to the American Revolution, and it might just lead to a revolution here.
Contrary to today's popular mythology about our past, slavery and exploitation were not taboo subjects then.
Thanks, Betty, for your stunning and original contribution to American popular mythology.
The word "mythology" is equally associated with exaggeration and fallacy. In this I am not saying religious stories in any religion may not have arrived to us packed with exaggeration and fallacy. The only troubles are that the word mythology is very clearly associated with this definition and that, as this word is resisted in its use in relation to present day religions, this creates WP:SYSTEMICBIAS. Something has to give. In regard to ancient deities everything gets WP:LABELed as "mythology" and it seems to me that non-neutral editors are, intentionally or not, actively pushing this POV. In relation to "deities" the label "religion" is not, for instance that I have seen, been given use in headings. "Mythology" is used exclusively in this context with this, I think, prejudging label being plastered everywhere.
I am not saying that the words "myth" and "mythology" should be banned from content but that they should be "words to watch". They should only be used in application to ancient religions to the same extent that they are used in connection to modern religions. GregKaye 07:02, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
That's a metaphoric usage clear in context; another is when we speak of a fictional "mythology", e.g. "Star Trek mythology". Neither of those cases affect interpretation of the use of the word "mythology" in the sort of context we're contemplating here. "Myth" is a very different case; it is quite often used specifically to denigrate religious beliefs as false.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  17:35, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose For a variety of reasons, but TLDR if I wrote them up. One important reason is that I can't see it solving the problems the proposal aims to solve, the same arguments will take place. I will point out that many theologians (who are believers in their religions) discuss the mythological aspects of their religions. Dougweller (talk) 12:09, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
Cf. my comments earlier along related lines; "mythology" and "mythological" in the context of religion refers to a religion's traditional narrative cycle. But "myth" in that context can refer to the same thing, or it can be a pejorative used by adherents of one "true" religion to cast doubt "false" ones. This is why I supported adding "myth" (in the religious context) to this guideline, but distinguishing it from "mytholog[y|ical]". While, as GregKaye documents, there's a metaphorical pejorative sense of "mythological" and "mythology", there's often nothing metaphoric about the pejorative use of "myth".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  17:40, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
SMcCandlish we have a situation presented in the lists of deities shown above where presentations of mythology covers the various subjects with comparatively slight reference being made to religion. The topic here is gods and yet there is little comparison between the treatment of modern and past religions. There is gross bias in play. Certainly the within Wikipedia wrongs mentioned can be tackled through the application of other guidelines but some baseline comment here would really help. Added to this is the problem that mythology is a tainted word. Various faiths, present and past, are presented in Wikipedia and yet the term mythology, tainted as it is with the concept of fallacy, is predominantly plastered across the latter. GregKaye 20:19, 2 April 2015 (UTC)
I understand your argument, but disagree with it. I concur that "myth" is too frequently used as a pejorative, within the context of religion, but "mythology" and "mythological" are not; their pejorative use is metaphoric, in other contexts.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:03, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
SMcCandlish take List of death deities for example. Take a look. It is presented as a list of deities which pertains to religion. However mythology is, as far as I can tell, plastered all over this article while articles related to the Abrahamic religions keep myth related terminologies at a comparative distance. There is clear systemic bias here. GregKaye 17:16, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
@GregKaye: Or there's the simple fact that there is no "death deity" in any of the [extant] Abrahamic religions. It seems to me that you are looking hard for reasons to be offended, or going out of your way to suggest ways in which others can take offense, rather than addressing any actual outcry. Even if that article's topic did encompass Abrahamic religions, it would be a matter of fixing that article, and wouldn't prove a systemic problem. (FWIW, I would be in favor of changing "mythology" to "religion" in most of that article's subheadings, though I'm skeptical about doing it to all of them, for reasons that I elucidate below). See, by way of counter-example, Triple deity, which does include Abrahamic religion. I see no such bias there today, nor did it when I started that article as one of my first serious WP endeavors. If it were a systemic bias, we'd see it at this article, too, and other similar comparative religion articles; that's in the nature of what "systemic" means. The words myth[ology|ological] are used sparingly at that article, and in accordance with the articles to which it links when doing so, e.g. Sami mythology. (Disclaimer: I say this based on a cursory re-skimming; I concede that there may be a couple of questionable uses of such terms somewhere in the article, but again, that's a matter for correction at that article, not proof of huge WP-wide problem.)

It's not that "articles related to the Abrahamic religions keep myth[-]related terminologies at a comparative distance"; rather, some editors who really don't like those words go to extra effort to keep them from ever being applied in those articles, even when it's actually appropriate to do so. This is a WP:NPOV problem, but it's one of elevating Abrahamic religions as somehow "beyond" the concept of mythology. The last thing we need to do is escalate and spread this special-exceptionalism by effectively declaring all religions and purported religions magically immune to this terminology, rather than instead doing the right thing, which is insisting that it be used consistently. I've already referred above to the Christian myth of Joseph's flowering staff; if we have an article on this, it should refer to it as mythological. It's not even, technically speaking, apocryphal.

An additional consideration is that for many ancient religions, or purported religions, we have nothing at all but mythology. We have no other vestiges, except perhaps a few ritual objects from alleged sacred sites (see postprocessual archaeology and its detractors for why such interpretations can be controversial, or see the book Motel of the Mysteries for a humorous take on it), or perhaps a third-party description by an enemy's scribe, like Tacitus writing about the Gauls and Germani. Exactly what constitutes "religion" per se from other forms of spirituality, and non-devotional cultural beliefs, is a difficult question, and it's not our job to force the label "religion" or "religious" on mythological material that may not actually qualify.

Much of what survives of both Irish and Welsh mythology (in both cases filtered through later Christian scribes who bowdlerized to an unknowable extent) does not appear to be religious at all, but, like much of the Norse sagas, a grandiose and euhemerizing take on what a pre-literate culture can remember of its own actual history. While some of O'Rahilly's historical model of ancient Irish history, based on these mythological cycles, has been shown by more recent research to have numerous flaws, a substantial portion of it has not, and is almost certainly correct in general outline. Parts of it have been bolstered by genetic and other evidence. We have a similar problem with the Arthurian cycle and the Matter of Britain more broadly, as it wildly mixes history, legend/myth, more prosaic folklore, and vestiges of ancient Celtic religion. It's absolutely wrong in most context to refer to Arthur, Merlin, etc. as "deities" or as part of a "religion", but they are absolutely mythological at their core, commingled with poorly recorded actual history, and then layered upon by legend and outright fiction over the intervening centuries. (I don't mean to belabor northwestern European mythology, I can just speak about it with more certainty).

Yet another factor to consider is that the modern, Western concept of religion is not shared across all cultures, nor even within modern Western culture (millions of Westerns identify as having strong spiritual beliefs but not religion, or even an staunch opposition to religion). In many mytho-spiritual systems, the figures we too-conveniently label "gods" in English are nothing at all like the God/Allah of Abrahamic religion, nor even the distant, and otherworldly gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons. They may simply be one's own venerated ancestors, or heroic immortals believed to walk among us at will, or something ineffable that infuses all living thing, or all things, and so on. "Religion" is often actually a very poor label, and we systemically use it overbroadly and vaguely. "Mythology", on the other hand, has a more distinct meaning: A recorded narrative cycle of stories involving the supernatural and how it is thought by a culture to relate to its origins and place in the natural world (usually including death and an expected afterlife). The key part is "a recorded narrative cycle"; i.e., a mythology is essentially a primary source that we can consult, while a religion has no such concrete definition.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:26, 23 April 2015 (UTC)

PS: At Triple deity I did, on closer inspection, find "Hindu mythology", without the context making clear that it referred to a mythological cycle, rather than the religion more generally. Rather that start a debate about that, it seemed more sensible to change all the table headings from labels like "Hindu mythology" and "Greek mythology" to simply "Hindu" and "Greek". This also fixed the problem that the Arthurian cycle was being referred to as "mythology" when it's actually legend. (The distinction is important, but need not be dwelt on here.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  01:30, 24 April 2015 (UTC)

Quote box in WP:LABEL[edit]

The quote box being used without context in WP:LABEL was grossly misleading and unnecessary. We have excellent text that describes the problems with contentious labels. The quote (of no one in particular, mind you) is simply not needed and should be removed. If you want to explain a particular word in the text, feel free to offer some text for a possible explanation here.

jps (talk) 18:40, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

It's not misleading; those are contentious labels in many situations, even though some may also have non-judgmental uses. It's presented, just as in the sections above and below, as a series of examples and doesn't claim to be a quotation. NebY (talk) 19:07, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
The examples aren't very good. There isn't a justification for including those particular words and some of them are included without any comment. The text is much better. As it is presented right now, users might think that it's okay to simply remove all those words wherever they see them which is highly problematic. jps (talk) 19:14, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
I tweaked one part regarding that section, in case editors think that they automatically have to use WP:Intext-attribution; they do not. WP:Intext-attribution is clear that it can mislead. I have certainly seen it applied wrongly. Flyer22 (talk) 19:49, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
The examples that you most recently removed are all appropriate. Most of Sect, fundamentalist, heretic, extremist, denialist, myth, -gate, pseudo- and controversial are used without any derogatory intent in particular contexts, but in general use all are frequently intended as or read as inherently critical, derogatory or condemnatory. Four of them are discussed at length in the text below the box. It is possible that some are "not universally accepted" (as you put it in an edit summary); that rather suggests that they are indeed contentious. If editors "simply remove all those words wherever they see them" then the problem is surely one of competence - they have disregarded or simply not read the text that the box introduces. Have you encountered a recent instance of this, perhaps actually citing the MOS, that you have sought to correct by amending the MOS? NebY (talk) 20:07, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, people cited WP:LABEL as a reason to remove the description of a webpage that engages in climate change denial. To claim that this is a pejorative description of the blog is certainly the POV of those who believe in climate change denial, but when reliable sources identify the webpage as such, it seems that many users (who may have ulterior agendas) are quick to appeal to this MOS as a trump card. jps (talk) 16:12, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
Come on now, assume a little good faith. This false dichotomy that unless you accept completely the IPCC with regard to climate change you are a denialist is not scientific in the least. And in order to back up your use of a contentious label you decide to just change the MOS to fit your needs. History will not be kind to this continued misuse of science. Arzel (talk) 18:12, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
You seem to be referring to the dispute you're engaged in over Anthony Watts (blogger). So far as I can tell, WP:LABEL has been mentioned once, at WP:BLPN#Anthony Watts (blogger), when Arzel wrote "wp:label applies. Defining a living person in negative terms by those openly hostile to them is both a violation of npov and blp."[8] That's not a case of, in your words above, "users might think that it's okay to simply remove all those words wherever they see them which is highly problematic" and Arzel didn't refer to the list of examples. Nevertheless, within an hour you'd deleted the entire series from WP:LABEL[9] and you went on to try deleting a group of nine words. You'll understand that it looks as if you really just wanted to delete "denialist" and the rest were collateral damage. NebY (talk) 19:51, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It would be nice if there were some text about why "denialist" is a label. Would you care to write some for inclusion? I deleted others because there was no explanation of how they were labels properly. I don't understand why we have words listed which are not mentioned in the text. jps (talk) 20:34, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

jps The text at WP:LABEL is very far from excellent and presents direct contradiction the opening text of WP:W2W. This begins with the statement "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia". Regardless of this the text of WP:LABEL WP:ASSERTs: "Value-laden labels ... are best avoided". I have suggested that this should say "Value-laden labels ... may be best avoided". Editors raise issue with article titles such as List of terrorist incidents in London in lengthy waste of time discussions like this. Please can a change to a less assertive and prescriptive text for WP:LABEL.
Yeah, claiming a value-judgment where none has happened is a problem. The word myth has caused similar problems in relation to, for example, flood myths. We really just need to revamp this. The point is that if reliable sources use the "label" it is not Wikipedia's place to remove it. jps (talk) 20:21, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I don't necessarily have a problem with the titles "flood myths" and "creation myths" as these are used equally in reference to the wide range of "religions" that contain these narratives. However, it may be notable that:

"flood story" gets "About 3,580 results" in scholar
"flood myth" gets "About 1,270 results" in scholar

I would personally interpret "flood legend" as per WP:PRECISE but this is less supported.

"flood legend" gets "About 324 results" in scholar

There is no denying though that "flood myth" is widely used. The main issue for me is the WP:SYSTEMICBIAS in "myth" related terminology favour of modern religions over ancient faiths. Wording is not evenly used. Howver mine is a different issue to yours. GregKaye 09:47, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

The "bias" is certainly there, but it is there in a way that is slightly problematic in that extant believers object to their religious stories being identified properly as myths in spite of the academic literature's preference for such "LABELS" while the academic literature's preference is preserved on the pages which write about religious stories that are not believed by currently living adherents.
In any case, do we have consensus to reword at least?
jps (talk) 11:26, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
What rewording are you proposing? Does it concern GregKaye's perception of a contradiction between "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia" and "Value-laden labels ... are best avoided"? I hope not; it's not contradictory to say no words are forbidden but some are best avoided. Is it about Greg's concerns around "myth", which have been raised in so many places but not achieved consensus? Is it about "denialist"? We can hardly say Greg's "provisionally agree" concerning denial can be added to your more sweeping deletions to establish consensus, even if you hadn't faced opposition to those removals from myself and Arzel. But do propose a rewording and see if you can gain consensus. NebY (talk) 11:55, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
NebY My "are best avoided" views were firstly in relation to the issue of terrorism above and were in regard to comments of "violation" of wp:label in a long running discussion at Talk:List of terrorist incidents in London. Many editors considered this to ba a fair use of article title. My argument is that, if an editor edits with a word that labelled as a label, then that editor can be logically labelled as not editing to best standard. There is a world of difference between dogmatically asserting "are best avoided" and giving fair indication "may be best avoided". GregKaye 12:06, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification and indeed, I see your suggestion of including "may be" was part of your RFC Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Words to watch#Proposed changes to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch#Contentious labels. As that has no support as yet, I don't suppose that can be what jps is referring to. NebY (talk) 12:40, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I'm just saying that words that fall in the quotebox should at least be explained in the text. jps (talk) 16:08, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

That's not a principle that's been applied to any of the sections in Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch and there's no obvious reason why the WP:QUOTE section should deviate from the rest in that, so you'll need a wider discussion than this one to establish consensus on the principle. NebY (talk) 17:34, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Can you point to the discussion where the words in the quote box were decided upon? I can't find it. jps (talk) 00:45, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
After waiting a week, I've come to realize that there has never been a discussion on what words to include. I'll start one below.


GregKaye, regarding this and this, I reverted because I see no WP:Consensus for changing "are" to "may be." And seeing as this is a WP:Guideline, you should have WP:Consensus for it. Like NebY told you above in this section, "that has no support as yet." I disagree with changing "are" to "may be" because those are words that should generally be avoided in Wikipedia articles, unless widely supported by WP:Reliable sources and used in a way that adheres to WP:Due weight. We need no softening of language in that regard. Flyer22 (talk) 05:45, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

PBS, given what I stated above about WP:In-text attribution, how is your edit, which reverted mine, an improvement? I fail to see how my wording "gutted whole point of the paragraph." The whole point of the paragraph is a mess, and should be fixed. Like I stated above, that wording makes it seem like editors "automatically have to use WP:Intext-attribution; they do not. WP:Intext-attribution is clear that it can mislead. I have certainly seen it applied wrongly." Flyer22 (talk) 14:58, 25 April 2015 (UTC)

Lets continue this at the bottom of the page. -- PBS (talk) 15:09, 25 April 2015 (UTC)

What words are "contentious"[edit]

I propose that the following words are unambiguously contentious and would need reliable sources before being used in Wikipedia's voice:

  • racist
  • perverted
  • heretic
  • extremist
  • terrorist
  • bigot
  • -gate
  • pseudo-

The other words I find are not so unambiguously contentious and our text either doesn't discuss them or is ambiguous about them (c.f. myth).


jps (talk) 14:16, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

I tend to agree about all the terms in the list, but would add "cult" and "sect" and maybe a few related words. Calling someone a "criminal" might be problematic, for instance. John Carter (talk) 15:12, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
This attempt to remove the word "Denialist" should be rejected at hand. Furthermore, this is the wrong way to go about such a change. Arzel (talk) 16:03, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
This looks like exactly the right way to discuss a revision of the list of examples. For the sake of clarity, I'll note that jps's proposal would remove "cult", "sect", "fundamentalist", "denialist", "freedom fighter", "myth" and "controversial". You're free to argue that any of those should still be included. NebY (talk) 20:04, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
One way of proposing change that I have often seen and practised is first present the existing situation, then to present a proposed situation (or issue, set of issues) then perhaps to not any changes and present any related thoughts and arguments. This seems to been a contentious page and, although I will not judge whether an "attempt" was involved, Arzel is right to raise the issue. GregKaye 12:51, 11 April 2015 (UTC)
"Heretic[al]"/"heresy" in the context of Roman Catholicism (and its offshoots) isn't contentious, but a matter of factual record; either the church (usually the Pope, or the king in Anglicanism) declared something heresy, or not. Used in other contexts, these words would be a PoV problem, but this doesn't seem to be happening, so I don't see an issue to address here. Those Watergate-derived "-gate" labels are also a matter of fact; something has either been popularly termed that way or it hasn't, and whether we title the article that way is a WP:COMMONNAME issue, and whether we mention the label in the text is a matter for case-by-case discussion at the articles' talk pages about how prevalent it is in the sources, and whether they have an agenda to push. "Pervert[ed]" would be contentious in WP's voice even if sources did use it, since it's a subjective moral judgment. "Pseudo-" is simply Latin for 'false' and is not contentious in any way in many cases; it's a common element in various scientific names for animals, minerals, etc. We don't need to modify the guideline to account for obvious misuse of the prefix to impart value judgments. "Terrorism" is a specific set of tactics, generally mass murder and the destruction of public edifices, or the threat of such actions, to achieve political ends. While the word can be used in a loaded way, so can just about anything, and it isn't inherently judgmental. "Sect" isn't either; it simply means "religious group, especially one with beliefs that differ from those of other groups within the same overall religion". The fact that some people misuse it to mean "a weird cult" doesn't mean we can't use it. "Cult" almost always, in present-day English, conveys a negative connotation. While there is still some surviving use of the term in an anthropological sense (our own article Dionysus uses it in this neutral way in the lead, for example), it's a term of art in such cases and not apt to be understood as neutral by non-specialist readers, so the term is best avoided in such contexts, and replaced with "worship of", "a shrine to", and other more specific phrasing that fits the context in question. In reference to what we usually think of as "cults" (Heaven's Gate, etc.), yes we need sources, but we need sources for everything anyway. I would agree with adding it to this guideline, but there's nothing wrong with following the sources and using "cult" to describe Heaven's Gate or the Jonestown group. We even have reliable sources for working definitions of "cult" in that context and how to distinguish a cult (in that sense) from a religion. It's not WP's job to draw such a distinction ourselves, per WP:NOR, but it is our job to reflect how the sources treat these subjects. There is absolutely no doubt that a majority of reliable sources treat Scientology as a cult, for example, and our article on that topic properly reflects this. The problem is just using WP's voice to try to definitively label something a "cult" rather than report that specific sources have done so. "Denial[ist]" is a matter of fact, not opinion; either someone's published views do or do not deny something that is otherwise generally accepted. Similarly for "revisionist". "Racist" and "bigot[ry]" are obviously going to be problematic, but the former can be used without being an issue when the sources support it. There's no question, for example, that Jim Crow laws were racist, and it's not a PoV problem for WP to say so. "Bigot[ry]" is simply a loaded way of saying "racist"; it's an ad hominem personal label, like "jackass", instead of a description of a belief system or pattern of behavior ("-ism"). I don't see any evidence that it's being used in articles and needs to be addressed by this guideline. We don't need to list every single term in here that someone could conceivable misuse in an article, only those that are perennially problematic.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:51, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment by NAEG There's a whiff of a proposal here, but it seems incomplete to me. Our section now provides an open ended list of examples (notice the ellipsis at the start and end of the list of sample words). Our text does not say that any of these ALWAYS are contentious; it only says they MIGHT be. This puts the onus on editors to use good judgment and cooperative BRD on case-by-case basis. Proposal sounds like a proposal to (A) keep an open-ended list of MAYBE words and our MAYBE text, while (B) adding a new section of ALWAYS-TROUBLE words and text that MANDATES criteria for their usage. This strikes me as very well-intended WP:CREEP. @Peter Gulutzan:, elsewhere you opined that the proposal would remove "denialist" from the list of sample words. I don't read it that way, first because the OP said nothing about purging the MAYBE words/text; secondly because the list of sample words is not exclusive, i.e., it is open-ended. So no worries, mate, you can keep citing this to keep saying we can't say "deny" derivatives at Anthony Watts (blogger) unless we also include sources, like that published report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences mentioned at the talk page. NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 14:45, 11 April 2015 (UTC)
What I actually said is here. I don't recall that I cited WP:WTW at some earlier time. Peter Gulutzan (talk) 22:50, 11 April 2015 (UTC)
I was referring to your statement that this proposal might "result in removing 'denialist' from the list of words to watch". I don't think that is what is being proposed for reasons stated above. NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 00:08, 12 April 2015 (UTC)
A lot depends on context of usage in RS, but generally speaking the list looks about right, with the possible exception of pseudo-, which is commonly used for legitimate descriptive purposes, like quasi-.
I would think that "cult" could probably be added, with caution, because it is often used legitimately in a critical capacity, such as "cult of personality", etc.; but probably not "sect", which is too commonly used for legitimate classification purposes in RS in religious studies. Wikipedia editors should not use these terms editorially to summarize critical RS unless there is a consensus as to the preponderance.
"Denialist" definitely should be removed, as there are extremely limited number of "value-laden" applications of that general term. The "climate change" related application is an example of misapplication of this policy for POV ends; that is to say, as a basis for excluding RS criticism of commentary on climate change denying that it is happening, or the extent, etc., which is the dictionary definition of the term.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:02, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for confirming that this is simply an exercise to remove the "Denialist" in order to call climate change skeptics "deniers". I am afraid you are wrong about the dictionary definition. Arzel (talk) 18:15, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
[10] --Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 16:09, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
I have to concur with Ubikwit; too many of these words have non-contentious uses, in reliable sources. I also have to agree with NewsAndEventsGuy's analysis: We are mix-and-matching "maybe" and "always" contentious terms, and doing so in an unclear fashion, with the result that we do not have a clear proposal here, only the beginnings of one.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:27, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
Isn't the status quo worse, though? It indicates a number of words that are identified as "problematic" without explanation and then offers extended rejoinders for a number of others that it lists which seem to detract from the whole point of the section. jps (talk) 14:24, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
I don't dispute that. This entire extended thread seems to me not to be improving the situation (yet?) but adding to the confusion. The proposal still seems to be mix-and-matching terms that refer to RS-verifiable facts (criminal conviction, the existence of real-world controversy, definition as a terrorist) and terms that are nothing but opinional judgments (bigotry and perversion, etc.).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:37, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

Back on track[edit]

I think John Carter makes a good case for "criminal" to be included. As for cult and sect, I'm less convinced that they are perennially problematic as SMcCandlish puts it. A "sect" can be a very neutral designation and, until relatively recently, so was the term "cult". On the other hand, I think the current use of "cult" is pretty much always pejorative and it is eschewed in the academic literature, so let's include that one. I aslo think SMcCandlish makes some excellent points about some of other other words currently used. Let's try again. Here is a list of the most problematic terms, as far as I can tell that the consensus states:

  • perverted
  • cult [under discussion - see below]
  • extremist
  • terrorist
  • bigot
  • criminal
  • crank

Are there others which are big red flags?

jps (talk) 12:51, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Apologies for rejoining this late. While the use of "cult" to describe existing religions and movements may be generally pejorative, "cult" is currently used by historians and others in a non-pejorative sense; current academic literature concerning ancient religions uses it freely. If we do include it, let's make that distinction. NebY (talk) 16:03, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
Yes, and in the case of cult of personality it is used pretty widely. jps (talk) 16:18, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
"Sect" is pretty much the European variant for the recent American usage of the word "cult." I agree that in both cases the terms can be and reasonably are frequently used in a nonpejorative way. The "cult of saints" for instance is one of the standard ways to describe that form of veneration, and from what I've seen one of the standard names for encyclopedic entries on that form of veneration, and in the US the word "sect" is primarily used in a nonpejorative way to describe groups within a larger faith tradition. In neither case is the use of the word as a part of a broader term, like "Protestant sect" or "cult of saints," necessarily problematic, but if used as stand-alone terms they can be. John Carter (talk) 18:11, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
I removed "cult" just because I think that the discussion would be too long. Are there any additional words? jps (talk) 19:29, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
The discussion we've already had may show the way to retaining "cult" with little change to the existing wording e.g. "such as calling an modern organization a cult". NebY (talk) 22:39, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
I added another one. While the word "crank" is often used in passing to describe pseudoscience proponents, it is not a word which should be used in Wikipedia, I'd argue. jps (talk) 01:19, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
This is just turning into a PoV-pushing exercise, "these are the words I subjectively don't like". "Criminal", for one thing, is a verifiable factual matter: either convicted or not.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:19, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
Isn't the proper term for such "convict"? jps (talk) 14:22, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
To be clear, I think using the unqualified term "criminal" can be very problematic. "Convicted criminal" is verifiable, but what about people who have their records expunged? What about people who were wrongfully convicted? What about people who are pardoned? Are they all verifiably "criminals"? It's best to avoid the term and describe the legal situation the person finds themselves in. Yes, the word "criminal" might be used, but it can't simply be a label, I think. This is very problematic. jps (talk) 21:38, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
Agreed; I made the same recommendation myself, below, to use "convicted criminal", with reliable legal sources. We can also refer to someone's "criminal record", perhaps the most neutral approach (it's literally a reference to legal document sources). When it comes to organized crime, however, we'd still use it unqualified, e.g. "a criminal enterprise". "Convicted criminal" applies largely to specific individuals. PS: "Convict" is most commonly only applied to someone who has served time in prison for a felony, and again, it's a term applied almost exclusively to individuals, which is not true of "criminal" as an adjective.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:37, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

Are we a go?[edit]

I think the list above is far better than the one currently being used in the sense that it includes a higher percentage of simply unambiguous problems. I don't think much (or anything really) would have to change in the text for this replacement. Please let me know your thoughts.

jps (talk) 21:37, 21 April 2015 (UTC)

I dislike ambiguity and there were several comments. Please post a list showing strikeout and underline to indicate changes, and then ask the question. NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 02:18, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
I would say we are not a go. The thread as a whole indicates a substantial lack of consensus not only with regard to what "the words" are but whether they're "maybe" or "always" not-OK.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:27, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
Fair enough. I'm wondering, however, if maybe we could simply use the words above as a starting point for the box. E.g. I think this box is better than the current one:

... perverted, cult, extremist, terrorist, bigot, criminal, crank...

jps (talk) 14:27, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
I don't know to what extent anything might be done on this but I think that labels can work both ways. There are value-laden labels that may be considered to inappropriately discredit a person or group and there are value laden labels that may be considered to inappropriately exonerate a person or group. I do not personally see why a word like "extremist" should be kept on the list when all this long established word implies is taking things to extremes when "jihadist" is not on the list when this neologism has connotations of doctrinal justification for actions. On this it is important to note that there is a fundamental difference between Jihad and Jihadism with Offensive jihad arguably contravening the defensive intentions of the Quran based doctrine. I think that it also exerts POV when many of the groups so described may be most essentially being engaged in conflict with other Sunni, Shia and/or Sufi groups. Many of these groups describe themselves as Mujahideen which, according to article content, relates to the claim of being "engaged in Jihad" but, as mentioned, jihad may often represent something quite different from the expansionist, child abducting, aide worker killing, minority persecuting behaviours involved. GregKaye 13:48, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
Agree with that box trimming down the list, with the addition of "controversial".
@Flyer22: You haven't even participated in this discucssion, and the edit summary claim against consensus seems questionable.
--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 15:25, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
And why do I have to participate in this discussion to see that there is no WP:Consensus for this edit I reverted you on? Flyer22 (talk) 15:28, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: I agree that "criminal doesn't belong on the list either; of course, it shouldn't be used in a pejorative manner, and must be appropriately sourced.
On the other hand, I think a common word like controversial, somewhat counterintuitively, belongs on the list. In this case, a persons statements, etc., may be controversial, but rarely (if ever) would a person themselves be considered inherently controversial. Maybe the entire conceptual framing of this policy statement needs to be revamped. What we have is a list bloated with terms that should probably only be considered to be "value-laden" when used inappropriately by WP editors, as opposed to RS. I think that is the crux of the matter. Instead of words to be avoided, they are words that need to be handled with care, and not used in a summary-style manner by WP editors.
@GregKaye: I agree with your point on "extremist" as well, basically, though probably not about "jihadist", which is a different issue (social convention).
@Flyer22: It is not even clear that you are aware of what is being discussed here.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 17:49, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
Ubikwit, I know what is going on here. And you had no WP:Consensus for your change, as is clear above, and I reverted you. Yes, I object to you removing all of the words you did. Also, do stop WP:Pinging me. This page is clearly on my WP:Watchlist. Flyer22 (talk) 00:49, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

Can I suggest this content?:

... pervert, cultist, terrorist, bigot, criminal, crank...


... perverted, bigot, terrorist, criminal, crank, cult...


... bigot, crank, criminal, cult, perverted, terrorist...

The first suggestion presents content in the form of personal descriptions.

The second suggestion was written just from personal view that "perverted, cult" read oddly and that cult made a pithy ending. Its just subjective opinion.

The last suggestion just puts content in alphabetical order.

GregKaye 19:33, 25 April 2015 (UTC)

@GregKaye: "Terrorist" and "criminal" are easily sourced terms in common use. The other terms seem reasonable with the need to point out that "cult", though often used in a pejorative manner, has legitimate uses as well, such as "cult of personality". I think that "controversial" should be included, as it is a sometimes randomly applied label. I think that the "value-laden" aspect needs to be focused narrowly in terms of application, not in a manner as to constrain the use of well-sourced instances.
I'd suggest the following list.

... bigot, crank, cultist, pervert, controversial ...

--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 03:05, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
  • We're still wandering right back into the same mire. I'm more and more beginning to question the raison d'etre of this guideline. It's turning more and more into "Words with which some Wikipedians seem to have a subjective, personal issue". If the preponderance of reliable sources say that Heaven's Gate was a cult, in that sense of the word (see above for anthropological sense, etc.), then it's not our job to force some "we just don't like that term" PoV on the issue. "Criminal" is a matter of legal record - either someone has been convicted or they have not. "Terrorist" is also a matter of definition and usage in reliable sources; if someone is a combatant or would-be-combatant using tactics defined as terrorism (i.e. mass murder, large-scale civic destruction, and/or the threat thereof, in furtherance of a socio-political end), then WP isn't in a position to contradict that terminology just because some people somewhere misuse the word. There is no word that some people do not misuse. I have no issue with "bigot[ed]", "crank", "pervert[ed]" being rejected terminology here. But they're not really "words to watch"; they're simply impermissible per WP:NPOV policy, except in a direct, relevant quotation. What's happening here is we're confusing words that have non-value-laden definitions but also some value-laden usage, with terms that always have a subjective, judgmental meaning. It's a huge can of worms. And the list of each kind of word are potentially very, very long.

    I think we need to take a step back, and look at actual cases of dispute. Do not adding anything to this list unless there's a record of a nearly intractable dispute that has arisen about it's use, and remove anthing from it that doesn't meet that qualification. Otherwise we're simply engaging in instruction creep and trying to "fix what ain't broke". This is a form of "terriblizing". Much of what I see above appears to be trying to pre-emptively address everything bad we can imagine; the problem with this, of course, is that there's practically no limit to our imagination of what maybe, possibly, somehow could lead to some sort of dispute some time in the future.

    And even an analysis of past disputes has to examine what the dispute was actually about. Just because there was some kind of dispute doesn't mean we have a "word to watch" on our hands. This is almost certainly the case with both "terrorist" and "criminal". It's not that the words are inherently PoV-laden, like "bigot", "pervert", and "extremist"; it's that who is labeling whom, in the real world, may reflect an external bias. For this reason, such labels should be qualified and attributed: "a convicted criminal", with legal sources; "defined as a terrorist group by" what specific sources. By way of contrast, we would never say "was a pervert according to ...", or "is a bigot organization according to ...". These two categories of terms are quite distinct.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:26, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

    PS: "Controversial" is in the first category; either we have sources that there's a controvery, or we don't. It's a purely factual matter, and we do in fact use the word quite frequently, often with section headings that use the word. Thousands of our article subjects (human and otherwise) are literally notable for nothing but the controversy surrounding them. It's absurd to think we can't refer to them as controversial, when the entire article will be about the controversy, what is controversial, and who's controverting what. "Controversial" isn't, well, controversial, here.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:30, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

I'm entirely in agreement with you, SMcCandlish. I think this whole page might be worth throwing away as this is what we might call a "content style-guide" which is a type of writing that Wikipedia has moved away from. Content is supposed to be verifiable to reliable sources. That's what makes it good content. You can't have blanket style rules to make that work. Either the sources say this is that or the sources do not. So what do we do? Should we demote this page? jps (talk) 17:33, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
As I said in another thread (below, I think), we could probably rewrite this as a guideline on how to identify problematic wording, and give contextual examples that don't amount to a list that people feel a need to add their pet hated words to. If we focus on a methodology for identifying POV and other problems in wording, rather that on words some of us dislike, we'll probably produce much more useful results.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:00, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Yes, yes, yes. I 100% agree with this. Should we start a sandbox for it? jps (talk) 14:10, 4 May 2015 (UTC)

If created, it will need WP:Consensus before going live. I'm mostly fine with the guideline as it is. It's the quote (word) boxes that are sometimes a problem; that is, because of how people interpret and strictly apply them. Then again, different interpretations and applications of the rules are a factor for all Wikipedia policies and guidelines. Flyer22 (talk) 14:15, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
I too am fine with the guideline as it is. jps wants to label Anthony Watts (blogger) a denier or denialist; three editors (I am not one of them) have objected to the label citing WP:WTW; getting rid of "denialist" -- without of course consulting those editors -- will coincidentally help jps to get around their objection. I am not calling this WP:FORUMSHOP but the effect is arguably similar. Peter Gulutzan (talk) 14:50, 4 May 2015 (UTC)
  • oppose I am also fine with the current formulation. There is more than a whiff about this of gaming the system to win a minor point at another article, in my opinion. I would be against changing the MoS for such transitory or illusory reasons. Capitalismojo (talk) 16:26, 4 May 2015 (UTC)


I have added "iconic" to the list of peacock/puffery terms. It's still used quite often in senses where it should be avoided and where it contributes nothing to a sentence. Things that are truly iconic can always be described in terms that clearly state what the iconic thing "stands for" and why. Perhaps it's been considered before, as it's a very prevalent word, but it hasn't been mentioned recently on this talk page. Roches (talk) 22:22, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

This was undone, and I undid the revert. Many of the words on the list are often used correctly ("landmark", "hit"), and the fact that "iconic" does have legitimate uses does not mean that it shouldn't be on the list. If there are "enough examples", do consider removing another word instead. At this point in time, "iconic" is being overused. It will go out of vogue eventually, and then it won't need to be on the list anymore. Roches (talk) 02:11, 22 April 2015 (UTC)

Yes, I reverted you here and here. There are indeed enough examples in that box, and I am tired of seeing editors coming along and adding words that they dislike (a WP:IDON'TLIKEIT basis) to it without any discussion. This is a WP:Guideline, and changes to it that affect how Wikipedia is edited should have WP:Consensus. The word iconic is commonly a valid and acceptable word on Wikipedia, especially when supported by WP:Reliable sources. If it's used in a non-WP:Neutral way, we have means to fix that. We should not be giving editors the impression that the word should generally be avoided. In other words, pointing them to this guideline and telling them "generally avoid that word" likely will not be what is best. Flyer22 (talk) 02:18, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
The section title, words that may introduce bias, implies that the words should only be avoided if they do introduce bias. The guideline itself is clearly a caution against using words when they promote a subject without imparting verifiable information, rather than a ban on the use of those words.
You raise a valid concern about the possibility of someone using the guideline to justify removing a proper use of "iconic," although the presence of any word on that list creates that same possibility. I added the word to the list without prior consensus because I did not think anyone would object to its presence. I certainly wouldn't have altered the text of the guideline without consensus. I also wouldn't have changed the contents of one of the lists of words that are generally to be avoided, such as the next list, which contains words like "cult" and "racist." I won't change anything in the future without prior consensus, however. Roches (talk) 02:56, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
WP:BOLD is policy, and many regular editors make tweaks to guidelines and even policies without a big discussion first. More than nine times out of ten this leads to a WP:Bold, revert, discuss cycle, but that's fine. Editors should not be berated for making bold, good-faith changes. "You didn't discuss this first" is actually not a revert rationale by itself, or Wikipedia would still have only one article. Given the increasingly disputed nature of this erstwhile guideline, we need some bold editing here.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:11, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
I was not berating the editor. And as for "You didn't discuss this first," that is often a valid rationale, especially as far as Wikipedia policies and guidelines go; these policies and guidelines are clear, in their Wikipedia:Nutshell tags, that changes to them should reflect WP:Consensus. Particular care should be taken with policies and guidelines to avoid the very thing you complained about in the #Are we a go? section above -- WP:Instruction creep. Not to mention people using these policies and guidelines to shape their personal views, as is the case with this recent WP:Neutral dispute (see the edit I reverted and the previous discussion on that). You often state how certain things are just a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matter. Well, WP:Policies and guidelines usually expand beyond WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matters. Flyer22 (talk) 22:20, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
Well, Roches clearly feels berated and then some, and is now afraid to directly edit here ever again. That's a terrible outcome. This is the sort of unwelcoming reception that drives so many incoming editors right back out again. But I think we're talking past each other a little here. My point is that many bold edits do in fact reflect consensus. Many sensible changes to these pages, made boldly, reflect direct observations of the "ground truth" of what our editorial best practices are. (While probably most bold changes do not, enough of them do that WP:BOLD remains a policy that applies to all pages here, not just article content, and this is very important). Consensus is not always about debating on a talk page. Most consensus isn't actually, or this project would have failed almost immediately. I've made an enormous number of direct edits to policy and guideline pages without getting "permission" first, and the number of them that stick might surprise you. I think very carefully about them, and about what is best for the encyclopedia, whether it's my own ideal preference or not. (You'd likely also be surprised at how much of MOS I disagree with, but abide by and ask that others abide by because it is our MOS, and style matters are mostly pretty arbitrary when you get down to it.) "You didn't discuss this first" is not a valid reversion rationale by itself (highlighting a key clause in what I actually said), even if some people think it is and try to misuse it that way. A valid rationale is something like, "I don't agree with this change because X; please discuss". The need to discuss is entirely because there is some X to hash out. That X is the valid revert rationale, and the need for discussion is the cart that follows behind the rationale horse; it is the ship that carries the cargo, not the cargo itself. As I've said before many times here, the menu is not the meal, the map is not the territory. We need to avoid confusing a methodology for resolving a dispute, with the underlying dispute itself. I think what you think I'm saying is something like "you can't insist that people discuss things", but I've not said anything like that at all. PS: I made no such argument about the "localness" of anything under discussion here. I've also never said that "certain things are just a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matter"; that phrase doesn't even make sense to me. I do frequently point out that wikiprojects and other little editing cliques cannot, per LOCALCONSENSUS policy, make up their own wannbe-rules that defy site-wide policies, guidelines, or procedures; but that has nothing to do with any of this. — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:37, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
I don't think you should put words into Roches's mouth...or hands. In fact, I'll WP:Ping Roches now so that Roches can comment further. That is, if Roches is not watching the page/talk page. If I made you feel berated, Roches, then I apologize. As for how much of the WP:Manual of Style you disagree with, SMcCandlish, I already know; I see you often at the WP:Manual of Style talk page, and we've disagreed on enough things, including your WP:LOCALCONSENSUS feelings and how you feel about WP:Med (which is exactly what I mean about you stating that certain things are just a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matter). Needless to state, this "iconic" discussion is another matter we disagree on. Somewhat disagree on. I agree with you about being WP:Bold. But like I stated above, "Particular care should be taken with policies and guidelines." WP:CONLIMITED is clear about that. I don't believe in WP:Silent consensus as much as some editors around here do. I've seen WP:Silent consensus assumed in cases where WP:Consensus was not there at all, and then the case is revisited after the damage has been done, including with regard to some Wikipedia policies or guidelines, whether it's the WP:Burden policy or some other Wikipedia policy or guideline. I take changes to Wikipedia policies and guidelines seriously because I see how such changes affect the Wikipedia community on a large scale, sometimes negatively. There was also a big debate at the WP:Consensus talk page about having "silent consensus" material on that policy page; see Wikipedia talk:Consensus/Archive 18#Assuming consensus. What I was trying to get across to Roches is that I've seen the WP:Manual of Style/Words to watch guideline used as a page where people just dump things on because they dislike certain words and/or how those words are applied and want to enforce that view across Wikipedia, and I'm tired of seeing that. Too many editors use WP:Manual of Style/Words inappropriately, and as though it's the gospel. I'd rather see that there is a decrease in such behavior. Flyer22 (talk) 04:36, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
Well, I didn't feel like a world-class virtuoso editor, but "berated" is too strong. Roches (talk) 10:00, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
(ec) I don't particularly disagree with any of that, Flyer22, including concerns about misuse of this guideline, and various PoV-pushing edits to it that don't reflect consensus but just don't get reverted promptly. This is actually a major aspect of the very WP:LOCALCONSENSUS problem that I touch on frequently. But characterizing my views on that topic as "stating that certain things are just a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matter" is mischaracterizing them. There's no such thing as something that's just a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS matter. It's the very act of trying to take a WP editing matter and make it something local to a "special" subset of editors, that is the actual problem. Most such efforts are bound up in the WP:Specialist style fallacy and the broader idea that articles should reflect the values, not just expertise, of specialists in that topic rather than those of the encyclopedia project as a whole and its broad readership. But many LOCALCONSENSUS problems are not tied to the SSF, and are just rooted in highly localized editing politics, often simple matters of pride and control. Humans by nature seek power, even in games, and online forums, and informal parties. It's how we're wired. WP has been explicitly engineered to short-circuit this effect to some extent, but not quite enough.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:57, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

Words labelled as labels[edit]

Amongst earlier Proposed changes to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch#Contentious labels I proposed:

  • Changing the text from saying "Value-laden labels ... are best avoided" to saying "Value-laden labels ... may be best avoided"

and SMcCandlish expressed agreement that this would be a beneficial change.

The text currently presents:

  • Value-laden labels—... —may express contentious opinion and are best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject. In some cases, in-text attribution might be a better option. ...

However this IMO prescriptive/formulaic wording has facilitated to dogmatic discussions on more related to the application of rules than the appropriateness of content. See: Talk:List of terrorist incidents in London#Move for an example. My contention is that the current wording of the guideline may be taken to judge a title such as List of terrorist incidents in London as not being the best and this is before the appropriateness of the title has even been considered.

I also see the "are best avoided" wording to be in general contradiction with the opening text of WP:W2W which begins: "There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, ...". How can we say that "There are no forbidden words" but then assert that some "are best avoided"?

I twice attempted to make the change to a "may be best avoided" wording with the changes being reverted by Flyer22.

GregKaye 09:05, 24 April 2015 (UTC)

I explained why I reverted you, stating, "I disagree with changing 'are' to 'may be' because those are words that should generally be avoided in Wikipedia articles, unless widely supported by WP:Reliable sources and used in a way that adheres to WP:Due weight. We need no softening of language in that regard." My opinion on the matter won't be changing. And as pointed out in the discussion where I explained, you've been trying to get this text changed for some time, and started a WP:RfC on the matter. That WP:RfC gained no traction. You can obviously start another one, and advertise it by alerting the WP:Village pump to it. Flyer22 (talk) 09:12, 24 April 2015 (UTC)
Furthermore, as also noted in that discussion where I explained why I reverted you, I did my part to make that section better. Flyer22 (talk) 09:16, 24 April 2015 (UTC)
Flyer22 I really appreciate the part you played in the development of the text and consider this to go far beyond merely having tweaked the text as you had humbly described it. Thank-you.
I also completely agree with you that there are "words that should generally be avoided in Wikipedia articles". What I am saying is that a prescriptive approach in Wikipedia that, to my mind, dogmatically states "are best avoided". This comes in the context where we have WP:PG on issues such as WP:OR, WP:SYSTEMICBIAS and, as you have also pointed out, WP:Due weight. Very clearly we are not going present contents that are not well presented. Obviously the problems within the discussion at Talk:List of terrorist incidents in London#Move came prior to your excellent tweaking.
In line with your comment I would also think that it may be reasonable to present:
  • Value-laden labels... —may express contentious opinion should generally be avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject. In some cases, in-text attribution might be a better option. ...
Still thinking of the mentioned example of List of terrorist incidents in London, say there is an attack in London that editors think fits into this content but, for whatever reason news reports chose to use a different wording than terrorism and terror, this should not necessarily mean that this story should be automatically barred from inclusion or, carrying this conjecture a little further, just because one theoretical story which had not been described in terrorist parlance had been referenced in the article, there should be no need, on this basis, to change the article title. However, most potential problems would seem to have been resolved by your edit and I am pleased to have drawn attention to the issue. Say, for whatever reason news reports chose to use a different wording than terrorism and terror, this should not necessarily mean that this story should be automatically barred from inclusion or, carrying this conjecture a little further, just because one theoretical story which had not been described in terrorist parlance had been referenced in the article, there should be no need, on this basis, to change the article title. However, most potential problems would seem to have been resolved by your edit. For my part I am pleased to have drawn attention to the issue. GregKaye 12:57, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
I still disagree. Flyer22 (talk) 13:47, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
Also, as noted here, PBS reverted me -- reverted to the stable mess of a text. Flyer22 (talk) 15:01, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
President Reagan meeting with Afghan Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office in 1983

I have reverted this edit by Flyer22 on 22 March. Let me give you an example of how to handle this see the lead to the Al-Qaeda

It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, the United States, Russia, India and various other countries (see below).

Prior to a long debate on the talk page it used to say in the passive narrative voice " a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden" it now says "is a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden" what was the advantage of including the word terrorist in the passive narrative voice of the article? -- PBS (talk) 15:05, 25 April 2015 (UTC)

Agreed that sort of specific attribution is how to do it properly. There would be no problem including that "designated ... by" sentence in the lead; omitting it to try to hide the fact that the organization is generally considered terrorist, internationally, would be the problem. In essence, I think the "what was the advantage of including..." question is moot, generally speaking: The inclusion of the word wasn't the problem; rather, poor writing was the problem, and the word has been included in a different, more encyclopedic way.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:04, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
PBS, that does not answer what I stated. What you reverted to is a poor change because that is telling editors that they have to use WP:Intext-attribution for those words in such cases. They do not. And it is silly to state that they have to, especially given the fact that WP:Intext-attribution can mislead. To give a matter WP:Intext-attribution in a case where WP:Reliable sources widely label a subject a certain way, with that WP:Intext-attribution making it seem like it is simply a matter according to one source or a few sources, is a misuse of WP:Intext-attribution. Since you want that "stable text" to remain, I will start a WP:RfC on this matter in a day or so. Flyer22 (talk) 15:13, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
King David Hotel after being bombed by Irgun, July 1946
U.S. Embassy in Beirut caused by a after being bombed in April 1983.
During a war phrases often get used for diplomatic and propaganda reasons. For example the during the Falklands War British were very careful not to call it a war for diplomatic reasons to do with the UN Charter, as soon as it was all over bar the shouting, then British government politicians called it a war. Likewise during the troubles in Northern Ireland British sources always referred to the IRA as terrorists. Voices of "terrorists" like Martin McGuinness was banned from being broadcast in the UK. He is now a member of the Northern Ireland government. Is he still a terrorist? Was he ever a terrors? During the troubles American politicians and many American news sources shied away from calling the IRA and its members terrorist why? Politics obviously (did not want to loose the Fenian vote). What is more interesting was American court procedure before 9/11 see the Quinn v. Robinson case and political offence exception.[1][2] It is interesting how quiet the American authorities have become on the political offence exception since Americans civilians have become the target of terrorism and the IRA have ended their military campaign.
  1. ^ "Quinn v. Robinson, 783 F2d. 776 (9th Cir. 1986)". web site of the United Settlement. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Zachary E. McCabe (25 August 2003). "Northern Ireland: The paramilitaries, Terrorism, and September 11th" (PDF). Queen's University Belfast School of Law. p. 17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 December 2007. 
  • Systemic bias, if people are attacking the West and in particular the Anglosphere many English language sources will call them terrorists because as Bruce Hoffman pointed out "On one point, at least, everyone agrees: terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one's enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore." It is only when opinion is divided in the English speaking world over a "terrorist" organisation such as the IRA that one tends to get a split in the sources. However that is no reason for Wikipedia to us the label terrorist in the passive narrative voice.
  • The problems one runs into with your proposed changes is can Martin McGuinness be called a terrorist in the passive narrative voice of the article? If not Martin McGuinness then which BLP is it acceptable? It a person is found guilty of terrorist offensives better to state it that way. Eg see the way it is handled in the Martin McGuinness article. As the Telegraph points out in this article "Martin McGuinness: from convicted terrorist to political establishment" who shakes hands with the Queen.
  • In the article on King David Hotel there is mention of people who do not think it was a terrorist attack. So are you really suggesting that it is OK to label the 1983 bombing in Beirut a terrorist bombing (because it is commonly referred to that way) but not the King David Hotel bombing because some people in Israel have argued the other way. If however you say it was a terrorist attack then is it ok to lable Irgun a terrorist organisation in the passive narrative voice of Wikiepdia? What about the biography on Menachem Begin? it is much simpler in all these case to write articles where the accusations of terrorist and terrorism are attributed to the sources making the claims.
Flyer22, you stated above "WP:Intext-attribution is clear that it can mislead. I have certainly seen it applied wrongly.". Where? (If was I bet it is easy to fix and use intext attribution) or you will run into the sort of bias problems I describe above.
--PBS (talk) 16:37, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
Take for example Boston Massacre, which is the example used at WP:POVNAME. Should we attribute and/or avoid using the word "massacre"? I'm not sure that's possible while still being consistent with NPOV. The key point here for me is that as far as I'm aware, it's standard practice that we can use contentious labels where RS widely apply them, and that it is a broader consensus than just this page. Sunrise (talk) 16:51, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
Despite what some people claim, there is no conensus that the MOS a style guide covers article titles let alone the wording of article titles. This is a MOS page and WP:POVNAME is part of the Article Naming policy. However if you look at the content of the Boston Massacre article it does not use massacre throughout the text or describe the British soldiers a murdering mercenaries , instead it uses neutral words such as "the incident" descriptive words such as "killing" (not murder). -- PBS (talk) 17:27, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. My point was that it is already established (as part of policy, not part of the MOS) that contentious labels can be used when the RS are sufficiently strong. That doesn't mean I think indiscriminate use is neutral, but I also don't think a neutral Boston Massacre article could be made without ever using the word "massacre," or only using it with attribution, given that (I assume) it's the name which is overwhelmingly used in the sources. Sunrise (talk) 19:21, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
This "MOS doesn't cover titles" nonsense really needs to stop. It simply isn't true. WP:AT policy and its naming convention guidelines explicitly defer to the Manual of Style again and again. There's no "conflict" between AT and MOS; anyone who thinks there is simply does not understand WP:POLICY properly, or how policies and guidlines work together.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:52, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
I don't even see why PBS is asking me "where?", when WP:Intext-attribution lists examples of how WP:Intext-attribution can mislead. It does that because WP:Intext-attribution has misled on Wikipedia countless times before. I don't see the need to go into my memory and pull out examples. But like I stated in my "15:13, 25 April 2015 (UTC)" post above, I'll get back to this later. I don't want to spend my Saturday or Sunday debating. On a side note: There is no need to WP:Ping me to this talk page since it's on my WP:Watchlist. And since I know that PBS and some others are watching, I won't WP:Ping them to this discussion. Flyer22 (talk) 17:00, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
@Sunrise: That's an important point. Per WP:BIASED, etc., RS are expected to make "value-laden statements", Wikipedia editors are prohibited from doing so by WP:OR, etc.
This list is being used to exercise and artificial constraint on core policies.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 03:39, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
I'm leaning more and more toward this view myself.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:56, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Re: "I disagree with changing 'are' to 'may be' because those are words that should generally be avoided in Wikipedia articles ...." (toward top of this subsection) – This is just another symptom of the fact that we're lumping together two clearly distinguishable kinds of terms; those that are verifiable with and need to be attributed to reliable sources ("cult", "terrorist", "criminal", "controversial"), and those which are inherently nothing but judgmental opinions or aspersion-casting labels ("pervert", "bigot", "extremist"). If we're going to list specific terms, we need to split them into two separate lists, and one of those should be prefaced with "are best avoided", the other to something more qualified. It probably isn't "may be best avoided", after all, but something else, like "should only be used if supported by the preponderance of reliable sources", or something like that. We were converging on "may be best avoided" because the munged list included terms that should always be avoid outside a direct quotation, and terms that are not problematic at all when we write carefully, and properly source what we're writing.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:48, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

    PS: I've interspersed various responses above; if you care to see them, just diff my recent edits; they're all back-to-back.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:05, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

SMcCandlish the division not that simple. As is mentioned in the Bombing of Dresden article the historian Donald Bloxham considers "The bombing of Dresden on 13–14 February 1945 [to be] a war crime". He further argues there was a strong prima facie case for trying Winston Churchill among others and a theoretical case Churchill could have been found guilty. "This should be a sobering thought. If, however it is also a startling one, this is probably less the result of widespread understanding of the nuance of international law and more because in the popular mind 'war criminal', like 'paedophile' or 'terrorist', has developed into a moral rather than a legal categorisation". The problem we have here is that while a word may have a specific meaning in certain contexts "in the popular mind" some of these words have a "moral rather than a legal categorisation". As an example see the furore in America when Reuters did not describe those who destroyed the World Trade Center towers as terrorists.(Moeller, Susan (2009). Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-1-4443-0605-7. ). In the case of criminals it depends on the political circumstances surrounding the use of the term. In simple cases under a citizen's domestic jurisdiction the use of the term criminal is usually none controversial, but as soon as politics gets involved and particularly if there is disagreement between jurisdictions, then the term criminal becomes controversial and probably ought not to be used in the passive narrative voice of the article. For reasons like this is is often cleaner to write "John Smith was convicted of the murder of ..." rather than "The murderer John Smith ..." or "John Smith murdered ..." -- PBS (talk) 23:39, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
@PBS: I can concur will all of that, I think. And I know the division isn't that simple, but we have to start somewhere. Maybe a restart is a better idea. Your summary analysis there could be rewritten into instructional/example material for this page, actually. Aside from confusion of terms that can have judgmental connotations with those which innately do have them (a real distinction, even if there's a grey area), what has mired this discussion, and full acceptance of this as a real guideline, is the very idea of coming up with some list of "words to watch", rather than a principle and methodology, if you will, for critical editorial thinking that identifies such terms on the fly and in context. The title of this page is misleading for another reason, since terms or labels are not always single words, but are often phrases. E.g., "terrorist cell" is problematic for more reasons that some people attaching emotive weight to "terrorist". "Cell" is dehumanizing, as well as diminutive, and the phrase has become a conceptual unit, frequently depicted fictionally in a "here comes Jack Bauer to kick their asses" way; it's a pat trope, and what it conjures in many readers minds may not relate closely to the reality of the subject. I just a few days ago saw an RM debate on this very phrase, being used to describe people who were not even acting as a "cell". Anyway, I think this erstwhile guideline needs to be rethought as a guideline on how to identify "words to watch", not a list of words some editors have issues with.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:23, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
In Britain there is a charity called The Donkey Sanctuary working all over the world to stop people maltreating asses. -- PBS (talk) 10:22, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
I agree that it seem the basic thrust of the guideline should be methodological, given the terminological "gray areas", for example.
Perhaps the word "preponderance" should be avoided as a potential source of wikilawyering, as with the case of "climate change denialist/denialism/denier". In cases such as that, in-line attribution should sufficiently cover the use of the "gray-area" term in context, and not transgress NPOV with respect to DUE/WEIGHT.--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 14:26, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
Trying to avoid "climate change denial", however, is itself a WP:UNDUE problem, though. One side of that debate has science backing it up, and the other has largely just a bunch of indignant fist-shaking. They are not comparable. The only reason we're not lumping climate change deniers in with other denialist kooks like Holocaust deniers, is because American Republicanism has been sympathetic to climate change denialism for short-term economic reasons, increasing the popularity of that nonsense, and a significant number of editors are Republican Americans. This is really no different at all from WP being bent by largely the same editors to favor literal interpretation of the Bible as the truth. We don't permit that kind of extreme POV mongering from them on that topic, so why would we permit it on this one?  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:32, 2 May 2015 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: This issue continues to be under discission, now at AN/I.[11]--Ubikwit 連絡 見学/迷惑 11:43, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

Are adjectives the enemy?[edit]

Is this to Emmy Noether a good edit?

It's undiscussed. Perhaps would care to comment here? I assume it was done on the basis of WP:PEACOCK, specifically as interpreting this to mean "no adjectives of comparison whatsoever". Yet we cover the major and notable topics here, so sometimes a topic subject is the major work on a subject or a "leading mathematician" of their time writing "seminal papers" with "elegant" arguments and "profound" influences on others.

This was not a trivial article, it was already a FA and had been widely reviewed by others. These adjectives were justified in their use. Exceptional yes, but sometimes we're describing an exceptional subject and we need glowing praise with which to do it. That's appropriate accuracy in a narrow context, not hyperbole.

Or are all adjectives inherently subjective, unencyclopedic and to be removed on sight? Andy Dingley (talk) 17:00, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

grammar fix[edit]

The second sentence uses nonparallel construction in "expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, clichéd, or that endorse a particular point of view." An "or" should be added before "clichéd", or (preferably, IMHO) the "that" before "endorse" should be removed. Simple fix, but I can't edit this page 2605:6000:EE4A:2900:6250:C93B:E4D4:B4BC (talk) 10:29, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

Nevermind, ignore the "preferable" fix above as it doesn't actually fix the problem. The phrase needs either the additional "or" or a rewrite.2605:6000:EE4A:2900:6250:C93B:E4D4:B4BC (talk) 13:17, 18 May 2015 (UTC)


There has to be an entire class of words to watch similar to "only," a perfectly good word when used npov. "Nebraska is the only state to have a unicameral legislature." But not, "Texas only emits 3 x 10 to the ninth bushels of carbon monoxide daily." We don't really automatically have an idea whether carbon monoxide expressed in bushels is a small figure or a large when when used in the context of a fairly large, populated state. There should be a separate subsection that warns users from using this class or words in a pov manner. One "class" is words used to qualify data. Data should be "qualified" using other data, not adjectives nor adverbs. And maybe even providing a short list of common words, of which "only" ranks in the first 10 or 20 IMO. Thanks. Student7 (talk) 19:01, 18 May 2015 (UTC)