Talk:A Vindication of the Rights of Men/Archive 2

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FAC: AmEng, BrEng, etc

I have reluctantly opposed the promotion of this article:

I take no pleasure in opposing promotion and do so only after much thought. This article has strong national ties to Britain and should be in British English, or at least be dialect-neutral ("commonality"). To accommodate practical concerns raised by American editors, I made a few trivial good faith edits to make the article dialect-neutral. Ignoring commonality, these were reverted soon after explicitly so that US English would prevail. This reversion was neither in the spirit of Wikipedia nor in compliance with MoS. This article therefore cannot "exemplif[y] Wikipedia's very best work" nor "meet the featured article criteria". I will gladly support this article, which is in all other respects excellent, once it reflects the consensus of the community at large. Deferring this discussion until after the FAC is closed is putting the cart before the horse.

I believe that dialect-neutral English will improve rather than diminish this article.

--ROGER DAVIES TALK 18:21, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

To make the opposite case, I believe that American English is appropriate since the scholar who chiefly writes, maintains, and edits this page is American. The tradition of republican scholarship is more an American than a British one, for obvious reasons, despite the fact that Wollstonecraft herself was British. The same is true of feminist scholarship, and many American feminist scholars study British women such as Wollstonecraft without having to write in British English. Usually when a book is published in a certain country, the idiom of that country is used, regardless of the country of the subject. The fact that much Wollstonecraft scholarship has therefore been written in American English means that this article is not unusual. Wikipedia leaves discretion for articles to be written in either British or American English, since it is not published specifically in one country. It is not the done thing on Wikipedia to change an article from American to British English, or vice versa; the prevailing idiom of an article should always be respected. There is also no requirement on Wikipedia to write in a neutral language that leaves out specifically American or British words; the guidelines advise editors to bear that consideration in mind but give no mandate for editors to neutralise words in existing articles that they feel are in American or British English—that would involve rewriting most of Wikipedia. Therefore, I disagree with Roger Davies, particularly as the changes he proposes are so much against the wishes of the principal editor, who brought the article to FAC as part of an extensive series of featured articles on Wollstonecraft, all written, perfectly legitimately, in American English.qp10qp 18:45, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
The fact that "the scholar who chiefly writes, maintains, and edits this page is American" is irrelevant, because no editor owns an entry (see WP:OWN). I do not oppose FA status on the basis of this issue, because the content is the key element for me in FA status, but I still strongly believe that the general policy clearly states that the subject of the article is what determines the appropriate English idiom. (User:QP10qp suggests that it has to do with the individual scholar, or the predominant language of scholarship; that is just not workable. Are we supposed to edit the article every time the balance of scholars working in a field shifts? Are we going to get into "mini-trials" over what constitutes significant scholarship? And what about when scholarship is published in both dialects? Or when the principle scholar chooses to publish in another dialect for publishing reasons, historical reasons, personal preference reasons, or what? The subject of the article is much more direct & immediate than looking to the secondary sources. There will sometimes be issues in picking an appropriate dialect for the subject, but it's just one level of issues.) --lquilter 19:10, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • PS - with respect to the very good work & hard work that Awadewit puts into this article & the MW article, nevertheless, it is not that burdensome to write in British English. In fact, one could simply not revert other editors' corrections to BrEng. --lquilter 19:12, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • PPS - While Qp10qp is correct in many its statements about policy, it critically leaves out the line in WP:ENGVAR that states:
    In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic.
This is crystal-clear. --lquilter 19:15, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I felt that I addressed the point about national ties by saying that I do not feel that there are strong national ties to this subject. Rights of Men and Rights of Man are documents of international significance.
You have misinterpreted some of what I said. I did not say that the article should be written in American English because that is the predominant language of the scholarship; I was suggesting that the fact that scholarship on Wollstonecraft has been written in American English means that there is nothing unusual about this one being written in American English. The readers are therefore unlikely to be fazed. I did not mention the fact that the first idiom used in an article should be adhered to because I assumed we all took that for granted. Checking the origins of the article, the first idiom-specific word appears here [1], which, as I expected, is in American English. (I expected it because Awadewit strikes me as entirely honest and I believe would have continued in British English if she felt that was the existing mode of the article.) I should have mentioned that before I mentioned the point about the wishes of the main editor of the article: the two are inextricable in this case. I think you therefore drew an unintended conclusion from my comments, that I was suggesting the idiom of an article should change when the main editor changes. I don't suggest that at all. I suggest rather that the existing style of an article should be maintained, on the understanding that that style is the original style of the article.qp10qp 19:46, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I think you therefore drew an unintended conclusion from my comments, that I was suggesting the idiom of an article should change when the main editor changes. I'm not suggesting you suggested that (!); I'm suggesting that that is the logical conclusion of your argument, that language of scholarship should dictate. (The fact that audiences won't be surprised may be useful in figuring out whether the language issue should determine FA status or not, but it doesn't help to resolve the actual question.)
I hear you that your main point is that "the existing style of an article should be maintained, on the understanding that that style is the original style of the article". However, again, WP:ENGVAR is clear about this:
In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic.
Your statement that VRM and VRW are "of international significance" is not an objective standard that will be easy to distinguish from "notability", and, as an exception, would swallow the rule -- since anyone could argue that any work that is "notable" is of "international significance". I can see the talk page arguments now, national chauvinists and internationalists on both sides of the matter. ... The point is that the fairly objective and bright-line standard established by WP:ENGVAR is to avoid just these kinds of debates -- whether there is "international significance" or "predominant scholarship" or what-have-you.
Respectfully, lquilter 20:17, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
One is forced to argue points like that when put onto the defensive by people wanting to change the idiom of the article on account of the guideline (not policy) that this may be done if national ties to the subject overrule the usual principle of maintaining the existing idiom of an article. You must accept that such a change is unlikely to go unapposed. As you say, the question is infinitely debatable. That's inevitable.qp10qp 20:24, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
Infinitely debatable indeed :( I have no strong opinion either way, although I do object to using less effective wording in order to avoid any spelling controversies (as was done previously). It's unfortunate that such a small difference can cause such enormous wrangling. Kaldari 20:37, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I feel, 1quilter lquilter, that you are deflecting the point about the international significance of Rights of Men by saying that one could argue the international significance of most things. Not at all: I wouldn't dream of arguing that everything notable was of international significance. I must admit I have always read that guideline to refer to things like Fish and chips or Corn dogs, topics embedded in specifically British or American culture, not to works of political philosophy that possessed significance in more than one culture. Wollstonecraft actually lived in Paris during part of the French Revolution and had a child by an American who was running ships through the British blockade of France (she worked on his behalf to regain the ship after it was lost). For her, republicanism came before nationalism. Ideas like hers were deeply alien to Britain, where republican movements were quickly crushed, whereas in America and France republican ideas became a significant part of the intellectual and political climate and of the evolving polities. You may disagree with this argument; but since you are arguing for a change to the article and for an exception to be invoked, you will need very strong arguments to convince me that it is invalid.qp10qp 20:57, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm not trying to deflect anything. I think it's sophistical to try to argue that Wollstonecraft did not have strong national ties to England. Yes, she lived abroad; yes, she had relationships with non-English people. But she lived in England by far most of her life (and I'm not sure why living in France assists with an argument about which English variant to use), and by far most of her relationships were with English citizens/residents. Yes, she critiqued England's government; so what? I critique the US government, and indeed despise nationalism of all sorts; but when we're talking about linguistic variants and trying to figure out who is associated with what, there is no question that I -- even though I know plenty of non-English speakers and non-Americans, and have traveled abroad, and wish for the dissolution of all national boundaries -- nevertheless I grew up in, and write in, American idiomatic English. Wollstonecraft wrote in British-English of two-plus centuries ago, when the differences weren't quite as advanced as they are today, but we trace it linearly based on where she's from, and use the modern equivalent. Consider Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. They lived abroad, critiqued American policy (both before and after the Am. Rev.), wrote things which have international significance, and so on. Nevertheless, it's apparent that they are principally identified -- by birth, primary residence, and primary association -- with the United States, and so we write their articles in modern-American English. (It's "LQuilter" for "Laura Quilter", btw, not "one quilter".)--lquilter 21:43, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
You misunderstand me. I'm not arguing that this article should be written in American English, but that, in my opinion, there's no compelling reason why it should not be. And surely a compelling reason is required. qp10qp 21:51, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, there is. It ought to have been in British English in the first place (or dialect-neutral). --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:32, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
To take your last point to its logical conclusion, this would come down to nationality: an article about a British person or work should be written in British English and an article about an American person or work should be written in American English. That would be a narrow line for Wikipedia to take, I fear. Think of all the lovely articles that would need to be altered, like this one that I helped with: The Log from the Sea of Cortez. This article about an American book was written from scratch by an Englishman, in British English. qp10qp 21:51, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
... and should, as a matter of courtesy and Wikipedia convention, be in American English. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:32, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Qp10qp's assertion that for Wollstonecraft 'republicanism came before nationalism' is a spurious argument, being English and a republican are not mutually exclusive. The assertion that 'radicalism was deeply alien' to the English is absurd and overlooks the republican Protectorate government which ruled England Ireland and Scotland between 1649-1660 after the regicide of Charles 1. The Newington Green Dissenters who influenced Wollstonecraft were the heirs and successors of these radicals and the link between religious non conformists and radicalism is evident. It seems to me that QP10 and Awadewit are using fallacious reasoning to try to deny Wollstonecraft‘s nationality in order to construct an argument for using American English. (Wollstonecraft spent a fraction of her life abroad and had a brief relationship with an American). Natalie West 02:17, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

If the arguments seem fallacious it is because they are a response to a fallacious proposition: that an article about a British person should be written in British English and an article about an American should be written in American English. I have never come across such a notion outside Wikipedia. One is trying to point out that Wollstonecraft did not identify with British nationalism, and that the British establishment was hostile to her brand of radicalism. One wants to prevent a writer like Wollstonecraft, who has often been written about in American English, from being owned, as it were, by the British branch of English on Wikipedia. The proposition for such demarcation is found in a guideline, not a policy, and has no logic behind it that I can see. You may disagree; but editors need not follow guidelines blindly: they are not set in stone.qp10qp 02:49, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
It doesn't matter what the British government and Wollstonecraft's relations are/were. We're talking about British English, which is a language. The fact that you write I have never come across such a notion outside Wikipedia. suggests that you understand that that is an assumption/guideline in Wikipedia. ... There's no "ownership" by a language branch. It's a matter of setting simple rules to avoid protracted discussions like this one. There is a simple rule ("guideline", whatever!) in place, and we don't need to argue about whether there are editors who like one version or another, or anything else: We simply need to figure out what her "strong national ties" are, and they are clearly to England and therefore we use British English. --lquilter 03:05, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
We are not going to agree on this. Nationality and national ties are not the same thing. I am Cornish, for example, and do not identify with Britain; if I was famous (ha), I would be disgusted if my article could only be written in British English. Wollstonecraft can't make the point herself, but if she could I think we both know what she would say about strong national ties to Britain. This guideline, now that its discretion has been reduced, is so odd that I wonder if the people who wrote guessed that it would be used to attempt to change the writing style of a series of featured articles. Of course, since it is only a guideline, it is not mandatory, thank goodness.qp10qp 03:29, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
There were efforts before it was featured, FYI. --lquilter 03:40, 5 October 2007 (UTC)


When we knitters find that our yarn is snarled, we patiently go back and try to tease apart the threads to unwork the tangles. I suggest that we do likewise here, taking the time to patiently distill the arguments on the various sides. Let's agree on what the arguments are, shall we, before judging their truth, weighing their significance, and finally resolving them?

My cursory reading suggests the following list of arguments. I've indexed them (B1, A1, etc.) so that we can refer to them conveniently. But let's compile the list together; feel free to add new ones! Willow 20:44, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

I think we should be careful to distinguish the arguments from the evidence adduced to support those arguments. The former defines the points of contention, whereas the latter helps us decide the relative validity and weight of each argument.
My initial reading is that the pivotal arguments are B1, B2 and A1: specifically, whether the work (and indirectly its author) have such strong national ties to England that it requires a conversion from AmEng to BrEng. Let's try to tease apart those arguments and make progress! I'll make a new section below.
I'm trying to be fair and impartial on all sides, and I hope that everyone will give me the benefit of the doubt. However, I must register my astonishment at the energy that has gone into this debate. We should all plumb our hearts to ensure that our motivations are focused on the good of Wikipedia and the edification of the reader, rather than on anything personal or nationalistic. At the same time, we should avoid impugning lower motivations to others and strive to see the issues through their eyes; human hearts have many chambers, and cannot be sketched without losing their complex shadings.
I would also like to express my sorrow that the discussion was not handled — more deftly. I'm sorry to say so, but there are finer, more elegant ways of carrying one's point than by running roughshod over another's feelings, as I am sure will occur to everyone once the heat has faded. There is also a noble grace in conceding small points for a greater good. Wikipedia's finest treasures are the enthusiasm of its editors for contributing and its collaborative spirit; I beg you, do not sacrifice them for a Pyrrhic victory. There are paths of discussion that do not trample those flowers; let us walk them. :) Willow 11:27, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Pro BrEng

B1) This work has strong national ties to England and should be written in British English.


  • The work concerns a debate among British citizens on the principles of good government.
  • The work critiques British policies and a British politician.

B1½) The author, Mary Wollstonecraft had strong national ties to England.


  • MW was born in London, and died in London.
  • But she also lived in Ireland and France. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • The EU is British English bailiwick (see B11) though some Irish editors use Irish dialectical spellings.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • You have got to be kidding me. There was no EU in the eighteenth century. That is irrelevant. Dialects were far more diversified in the eighteenth century than now. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • And why do we care about whether she lived in Ireland and France, since the English that she would have written would have been the same wherever she lived? --lquilter 01:35, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Are you saying her English never changed (not true - Wollstonecraft herself even said as much) or that English itself wasn't different in different places (patently untrue)? Besides, you know better, Lquilter! English, even in the same location, wasn't very standardized in the eighteenth century! Godwin himself often spelled Wollstonecraft's name "Wolstonecraft" or "Wolstoncraft". :) Awadewit | talk 03:40, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • No, I'm not saying her english didn't change, or that 18th c. english was standardized. I'm saying it doesn't matter where she lived; we just look to where her "strong national ties" are. A simple test. --lquilter 03:50, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • But of course it isn't that simple. England/Britain didn't have a cohesive national language yet, but you accept the premise that using the cohesive language it eventually developed is acceptable. I see no reason to prefer that one when the article is already established in another dialect. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I accept the premise that it's a simple rule easily applied in this instance that would avoid this dispute if followed, and the potential for countless similar such disputes on English-language articles. --lquilter 12:44, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • MW was buried in England, first in London and then in Bournemouth England.
  • I find place of burial irrelevant. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Why not? So, British soldiers buried in the United States during the Revolutionary War are American? British soldiers buried in Germany during WWII are German? British sailors buried at sea are....? Percy Bysshe Shelley is...? Awadewit | talk 03:40, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • She married an Englishman, William Godwin, and was a British citizen.
  • I fail to see the relevance - but if you think it is relevant, please remember that she also had an affair with an American, Gilbert Imlay, with whom she fathered a child, Fanny Imlay. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Marriage to a Brit conferred nationality automatically at the time, just in case it was in doubt. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • For many years, MW claimed to be married to Imlay, with whom she obviously had a deep attachment; Imlay even lied for her, claiming she was his wife at least twice. That relationships lasted much longer than her relationship with Godwin. The only reason she married Godwin was to grant legitimacy to the child they were about to have. She did not really endorse the marriage (they lived in separate houses). If you want to use MW's own views, that is a very weak piece of evidence. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I'm not talking about her views. I'm referring to the legal fact of marriage conferring British nationality. The wedding register is available for inspection at the Family Records Office in London. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • This is a specious argument. I am a Brazilian citizen by virtue of my father being a Brazilian citizen when I was born. That does not mean that an article written on me (if there ever is one) should defer to my non-existent Brazilian roots in any way (I have been to the country once, for about two weeks, and I don't know the language). Legalities are often superfluous. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • More or less, this is the heart of the argument. No one is really disputing she was British, as far as I can tell, although you probably could. The issue is whether this is the basis to make the decision on at this point. The article is well-established - as are all of the other articles on MW and her works - why change them now? I find the "she was an eighteenth-century Briton" argument unconvincing, as I have said repeatedly, and explained why. Other, such as Roger Davies, find that the crux of the matter. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that this is the heart of the argument. Which is why I wonder why people are disputing her various English/British ties and trying to make much of her ties elsewhere. --Lquilter 12:42, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • WP identifies her daughter, Mary Shelley, as "English". She was born and died in London.
  • Mary Shelley spent important parts of her life in Europe. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • See next point.
  • According to WP:ENGVAR the British English "strong national ties" extends to European Union countries. (British English is one of its official working languages.)
  • That is absurd - there was no EU in the eighteenth century and English was not the "working language" of eighteenth-century Europe. It was French. This policy is presentist. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Why is it absurd? You think everything should default to AmEng? The bailiwick rules are to prevent a chaotic free-for-all and endless bickering. UK has closer national affinities to Europe than the US. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Again with the strawman argument! I never said everything should default to AE.
  • I think that you could make arguments both ways: "UK has closer ties to Europe than to the US" and "UK has closer ties to the US than to Europe". Both of these seem supportable to me. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
The UK's ties to nations of all sorts are of no help in determining between BE and AE, so they're not really relevant. --lquilter 12:48, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Wollstonecraft spoke eighteenth-century British English with a Yorkshire accent. Awadewit | talk 23:06, 4 October 2007 (UTC) (Moved from A2.)
  • Meaning the article should be written in eighteenth-century Yorkshire English. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Poſitively amuſing ! –Outriggr § 01:57, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • No, because we write in modern English. The question is whether we write in modern BE, or modern AE. Modern BE is the heir to 18th century Yorkshire English. Descendants who stuck around Yorkshire would be speaking modern BE today (with a Yorkshire accent). --lquilter 01:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • To me that is just irrelevant. Even the most culturally sensitive scholars do not do this, probably because it is insulting: "I am going to honor you by trying to write in a dialect that is kind of like yours." - It rings false. Awadewit | talk 03:40, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
The guideline's purpose is not to honor anyone, or to provide cultural relevance, or anything. It is to avoid protracted disputes like this one. That is why there is a simple, bright line rule ... nothing to do with what the subject would have liked (subjective & hard to prove), nothing to do with "authenticity", nothing to do with what the editors prefer ... just a simple test: "strong national ties". Only if there are no strong national ties, do we then resort a variety of other ways to pick. It's a (preemptive) dispute resolution process; not a preference or a statement that one is "correct". --lquilter 03:49, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • We've been through this before: you are once again conflating accent and dialect. They are very different things. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Actually, I was very careful to say accent this time. I'm not sure what the problem is here. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • First you said "British English with a Yorkshire accent", which is fine. Then next reference you said "Yorkshire English" (a Norse-based dialect), which is totally different. Clearer? :) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Frankly, I think "strong national ties" is anything but a bright line test. There are many works and authors that I would have absolutely no idea what dialect anybody could even claim was the primary dialect for the article (Thomas Paine comes to mind immediately). That is why practical choices such as "whatever the article is written in first" are far simpler rules.
  • And if you don't think that the BE/AE distinction has anything to do with cultural preferences, I urge you to revisit the MW debate, where I was accused of perpetuating an "American hegemony" by writing in AE. Editors attach cultural significance to BE and AE - why else would all of you still be here? I am still here because I edit these pages day in and day out. Why are you still here? What is your interest? That the article follow every line of the MOS? That is hard to believe. No one cares about the MOS that much. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Some people do care about BE/AE, and that is why a rule was developed to avoid disputes. The rule is intended to provide a bright-line distinction that minimizes disputes like this one by finding some non-contributor points to go on first, because (a) contributors do not WP:OWN the article, and (b) wikipedia strives to be internationalist and to overcome its US origins. (and, IMO, (c) because contributor-based rules lead to disputes like this one). --Lquilter 12:42, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Wollstonecroft never set foot in the United States. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Strawman argument. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Why? You're claiming that living in Ireland and France is significant at [B6]. --ROGER DAVIES TALK
  • It is a strawman argument because no one has ever claimed that she went to the United States. It is relevant that she lived in Ireland and France when you only listed her residences in England - you cherry-picked your evidence. You said she was born in London and died in London, conveniently leaving out the fact that she spent time in Ireland and France. But all of this is beside the point. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry if you think it was cherry-picking but she did spend at least three-quarters of her life in the UK. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that MW's various residencies are beside the point. It is convenient to leave out Ireland & France because they don't really affect MW's strong national ties to England. Had she decisively immigrated to France, lived there most of her life, and so on, then MW would fall into one of those gray areas where it was arguable what her strong national ties were, and then we would go to the next point: If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic. --Lquilter 12:42, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Irrelevant. That is the library that decided to purchase them, so what? There are plenty of British authors whose papers are in the US. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Libraries. 16 separate archives in the UK. (Three in the US.)--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • This is just not relevant, I'm sorry. It is an accident of history. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I have just checked - there are more Bronte manuscripts in the US than in Britain. Using your logic, the Bronte sisters are therefore great American novelists. :) That argument just doesn't work. Awadewit | talk 10:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • It's a national tie to America certainly but rather overshadowed by their UK nationality and residence, don't you think? :) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 10:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • There's a blue plaque outside the house in Walworth, London (just round the corner from the Old Vic theatre, where she lived just before the publication of "The Vindication of the Rights of Women". There's another one in Hackney, London, too. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • No one is disputing she lived there. Awadewit | talk 00:28, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • You are certainly disputing with every ounce of strength in your body her legion strong national ties to Britain. I really don't understand the point. No amount of chipping away is going to turn her into an American. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • What? I have never disputed her ties to Britain or the book's ties to Britain. I have never claimed she was an American. This is insanity. What I have disputed is the relevance of that point for the dialect of this article. Awadewit | talk 10:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Will you concede that her national ties are overwhelmingly British and that strong national ties are the primary determiner of dialect choice? Or will we continue to have increasingly surreal conversations over ever more finely split hairs? --ROGER DAVIES TALK 10:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

B2) Strong national ties versus editor dialect preference, per WP:ENGVAR.

  • What are the relevant points that we should think about, other than the stated preference of current editor(s) for AE? --lquilter 12:48, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • This is not accurate. The guideline states that reasons for changing it on the basis of strong national ties can trump editor preference, not simply strong national ties in and of themselves. This is a very important distinction. Simply showing that a subject has strong national ties is not adequate. What are the specific reasons in this case? That most readers of this article are going to be more familiar with British English? That Wollstonecraft scholarship has traditionally been publishing in British English? Well, obviously those are both untrue, but I would be curious what reasons you would put forth in this case? Kaldari 15:59, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Your remarks about scholarship are, at first sight, not supported by evidence readily available here in, say, the Mary Wollstonecraft#Bibliography. Three of four primary sources and five of out the eight cited biographies are UK-published.
  • Your readership assertion is just that, assertion. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:50, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I took that phrase to mean that "strong national ties" are a reason for changing it. You're suggesting the interpretation that, if an article has one established idiom, but strong national ties to another, that one must show something in addition to the strong national ties? --lquilter 16:38, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Here's the relevant text: "If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic. In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic."
This defines the basis in both examples for reason for change as "strong national ties". It's unambiguous.
In the preceding paragraph Strong national ties to a topic, it says "An article on a topic that has strong ties to a particular English-speaking nation uses the appropriate variety of English for that nation." No ambiguity about that at all.
This articles concerns a pamphlet by a British woman - who was born and died in Britain, and who spent most of her life in Britain - written in British English about British politics and British governance, and first published in Britain as part of a British pamphlet war. There's no ambiguity what her strong national ties are.
--ROGER DAVIES TALK 17:05, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, you've said that about 500 times now. But what are your "reasons for changing it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic"? Just showing strong national ties to the topic is not adequate. If there is not a single reason to change it on the basis of those ties, it should not be changed. Kaldari 19:09, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Where do the guidelines say - or even hint - that editor preferences override strong national ties? --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:50, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

B3) Its author, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote published in British English, using spellings such as "labour".

  • This is a little more difficult to prove with respect to VRM. I do not think we have MW's manuscripts. It would have been the printers who decided the spelling, in this case, and they were not always consistent. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

B4) 18th British English has a closer orthographical affinity to modern British English than to American English.

  • Perhaps, but that does not mean eighteenth-century British English is modern British English. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Agreed, which is why I said "affinity". --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:07, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

B5) An editor, ROGER DAVIES has pledged himself to maintain the article in BrEng indefinitely.

  • And what about all of the other MW articles? They are all written in AE. Awadewit | talk 23:03, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

B6) Part of the scholarship on WM is in British English. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:12, 5 October 2007 (UTC) Struck, along with [A3] --ROGER DAVIES TALK 09:04, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

B7) The guidelines given in WP:ENGVAR should be respected unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise.

Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Of course the guidelines should be respected unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. No one would argue with that. I believe, however, we are following the guidelines in this case (regardless of any reasons not to). Kaldari 16:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
One editor's serial refusal to write BrEng is not a compelling reason to overturn community consensus. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:50, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Pro AmEng

A1) This work does not have sufficiently strong national ties to England to compel the usage of British English.

A1½) Modern British English was not spoken by its author, Mary Wollstonecraft. Hence, imposing it on her work post mortem to mark it as British is a little like the famous quote, "Seven cities contended for Homer dead, through which the living Homer begged his bread." ;) Struck as relatively minor.

A2) The article was written originally in American English, and there are no compelling reasons to change it, per "Retaining the existing variety" argument.

  • Except that that policy is trumped by strong national ties. --lquilter 01:56, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Hey, just a clarification for someone ignorant: where does it say that? Willow 14:47, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • [[WP:ENGVAR|Retaining the existing variety
If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it on the basis of strong national ties to the topic. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 14:52, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

A3) Part of the scholarship on WM is in American English.

  • This is not part of the policy WP:ENGVAR. It is probably not part of the policy because it is an irrelevant consideration. --lquilter 01:56, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Struck in both ProAm and ProEng. This effects nothing as they cancel each other out. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 09:04, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

A4) The principal active contributor does not wish to maintain BrEng, for various reasons.

  • I would like to alter this to "The principal active contributor does not wish to use BrEng for ease of maintenance and updating". That is my primary reason. Awadewit | talk 23:06, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • And it is an irrelevant reason for determining what should be the primary usage in the article. See WP:OWN. If Awadewit and Qp10qp do not wish to write in British English they need not do so; they need simply refrain from correcting other editors who change it over. --lquilter 01:51, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • In my opinion, the larger problem is that we are talking about instituting a BE "word police" over the article. It is not enough that the article is well-written and well-researched. It must, for some odd reason, be written in a dialect that MW never spoke. Awadewit | talk 03:00, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
If you're worried about policing for language, then please stop policing it for AE. It is my firm belief that over time the articles will migrate toward BE because of the actions of (a) BE editors and (b) wikipedia editors familiar with the language policy who interpret it in the most obvious way. Even if all the people writing on this dispute were to refrain from switching back and forth, my belief is it would migrate to BE. "We" need not institute anything; that's what the wiki process of including many editors does for us. .... As for written in a dialect that MW never spoke: It doesn't matter that MW didn't speak it; we're simply trying to pick the modern variant that is most closely related to her association. Why? Because that makes for a clean straightforward rule, and I don't think there is a good reason to make an exception in this case. In fact, I think the only reason to make an exception is a very bad one: That the primary scholar on this set of articles wants it a particular way. That way leads to WP:OWN. --lquilter 03:20, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
It is not a policy - see posts below. Awadewit | talk 03:22, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
policy, guideline; santa claus, jesus. whatever. My perspective on policies or guidelines is that when they are well-done they are useful because they provide brightline rules. No more, no less. That's my perspective here, and I don't care about the diff b/w P and GL. I'm arguing from what seems sensible, not that we must follow or we will be bad people. --lquilter 03:44, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

A5) Once an article is written and stable in content, the guideline of WP:ENGVAR does not carry sufficient weight to compel the transition to a different variety of English, if that would compel the contributors to write and maintain the article in a variety foreign to them.

Pro neutral formulations

N1) "Wikipedia tries to find words that are common to all varieties of English" from WP:ENGVAR.

N2) No national usage is favored, albeit at the risk of a stilted expression or two.

  • Do you mean "favoured"? qp10qp 21:08, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Very funny! :D The terrible irony is that I grew up using British spelling because I thought it looked more "elegant". My teachers had to punish me for two years before I would switch. Even now, I'm apt to lapse into elegance. ;) Willow 21:29, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

N3) ROGER DAVIES will maintain a dialect-neutral version.

N4) No "spelling errors" for US or UK readers to trip over in the copy. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:17, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

  • Roger, please stop insulting British readers. Awadewit | talk 00:30, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm not. But this is controversial, so I'll strike it. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 09:04, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

N5) Absolutely NPOV about dialect. Avoids edit wars over BrEng and AmEng. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 00:17, 5 October 2007 (UTC)


The differences between dialects are not slight and to assert that they are disparages, in this case, AE and BE. I find the entire policy discriminatory. Since we cannot honor the language diversity of all article subjects, we should not privilege those who spoke a version of English. Since we cannot write about Dante in Italian and Tolstoy in Russian, we should not claim dialect privileges for English speakers. As it would be absurd to write this article in eighteenth-century English, I believe that we should premise our decision on practical considerations. The editors who spend the most time contributing to and maintaining the page should have choice of dialect, since they are the ones working on the prose day-to-day. It is the quality of the prose that is important. That is why I fail to understand the push to change words to "dialect-neutral" options when they are worse options, simply because they are dialect-neutral. Awadewit | talk 23:42, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

  1. Everybody - apart from you - acknowledges that changes are minor or trivial. WP:ENGVAR says that "the differences between the varieties (of English) are superficial." For formal writing, I entirely agree. Please provide examples where the shift to BrEng will damage the article. Remember we are talking only of a handful of spelling changes. Please provide a list of the uniquely AmEng constructions that are crucial to understanding this article.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • If the differences are "superficial", why are you insisting upon them? I, on the other hand, don't think the differences are superficial. I think they involve more than spelling. A dialect is not called a dialect without having diction and syntax differences as well. Awadewit | talk 08:55, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
It's not the volume of difference but their depth that is important. If the differences were as profound as you allege, Wikipedia would simply stop functioning; communication between editors would completely break down. Differences betwen AmEng and BrEng are slight. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:31, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
    • I never claimed there were specific Americanisms that were necessary to the article - stop presenting strawmen arguments. They are beneath you. Awadewit | talk 08:55, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
      • No strawman and please assume good faith. You have serially said that you believe the transition to British English will impact on your "brilliant prose". I am asking you to supply a list of constructions which you have used in this article which are incompatible with British English. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:23, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  1. BrEng is not a foreign language. Your repeated comparisons of BrEng with Italian, French, Russian etc are incomprehensible. If you only want to write in AmEng on Wikipedia, stick to subjects that have strong national ties to America.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
    • I have repeatedly explained this argument. I will not do so again.
    • "Stick to subjects that have strong national ties to America"? Take these worthless little articles elsewhere, eh? Apparently, I should never have posted these meticulously researched articles on British history and literature. Ah, why did I know it would come to this. Being ordered to cease writing about my area of expertise! That would be to the great benefit of wikipedia, wouldn't it, if I just took myself off to topics that I knew absolutely nothing about? Excellent idea. Awadewit | talk 08:55, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • If you want to avoid conflict over BrEng and AmEng, in patently British-oriented subjects, then you must either stop imposing AmEng on the topic or switch to American ones. That's what WP:ENGVAR is about, avoiding conflict. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:23, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • The edit screen says "If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly..., do not submit it." --ROGER DAVIES TALK 11:31, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  1. WP:ENGVAR is in place to prevent disputes and ownership issues. Your insistance that the editors who create and maintain an article should decide its dialect (and veto change) flies in the face of those policies.--ROGER DAVIES TALK
    • It is not a policy - it is a guideline. Awadewit | talk 08:55, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
      • WP:OWN is a "policy", and these arguments about what the editor(s) prefer are precisely what that policy addresses. --lquilter 13:06, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Whenever I copy edit a page, I always notify the writers of the fact that I do not know the ins and outs of BE and they should be on the lookout for my Americanisms; I respect the effort that those writers have put into their article. I am struggling to understand why Roger Davies (I believe it is only him at the moment) cannot accept what he has already described as a good article. I just do not care what dialect an article is written in - I care much more that the article is written well and has solid research. However, I feel that changing the dialect of the MW articles will make achieving this end more difficult. Since I am the sole researcher for all of them and the near sole editor (Kaldari helps out with Mary Wollstonecraft), any substantial changes at this point look like they will be coming from me or her. Frankly, I would love it if someone else who had read extensively on Wollstonecraft refined the pages, but that hasn't happened yet (check edit history). I do not see the need for someone to check over the pages for "adherence to BE". It would be far better if they were helping improve the prose or research overall. Awadewit | talk 23:42, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

  • It is a good article. It would be a better article if it complied with house-style. The fact that you think this is irrelevant is neither here nor there.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
    • I don't think blindly following rules is a good idea, as I said. Besides, this is only a guideline. I see no cogent argument for changing an established article. Awadewit | talk 08:55, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • If you truly do not care what dialect this article is written in you will drop your resistance to changing it to BrEng.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I can't relate to the A/B/N thing above. It's not a question of how British Wollstonecraft was but of whether it matters if the article is written in American English or not.qp10qp 00:53, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
People in wikipedia work on all different kinds of things, according to their tastes, abilities, and knowledge. It seems this would be a useful division of labor/labour: Editors who wish to provide research and drafting do so, and editors who wish to copy-edit, spell-check, fact-check, fix ref tags, punctuation, and/or English-language variants can all do so to their tastes and abilities.
There is a policy in place to deal with these disputes. The fact that Awadewit is currently the primary editor is not relevant to the policy. Not only is it not relevant, weighing it is clearly a WP:OWN issue.
The only relevant questions are whether there Wollstonecraft has a "strong national tie" to England/GB or not. Frankly I find the arguments presented that she did not have a strong national tie to be disingenuous. If we were to examine any "English" or "British" character at any time, they might have the sorts of Continental or trans-Atlantic connections that Wollstonecraft had. What, pray tell, would constitute "strong national ties" if not birth location, death location, majority of residency, national citizenship, native language, and a majority of ancestors, descendants, relations, and friends all also having primary residency/citizenship/birth/death in the same nation, and national claim upon the person? France and the US are not likely to claim Wollstonecraft in their national histories no matter what her tenuous ties to these places. ... The fact is that there have been strong feelings about this before, and there will be again, because policy is clear and her connections are clear and obvious.
--lquilter 01:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
It's not a policy it's a guideline. There's a world of a difference, because, unlike policies, guidelines are not set in stone. Earlier this year the same guideline was worded like this:
If an article has been in a given dialect for a long time, and there is no clear reason to change it, leave it alone. Editors should not change the spelling used in an article wholesale from one variant to another, unless there is a compelling reason to do so (which will rarely be the case). Other editors are justified in reverting such changes. Fixing inconsistencies in the spelling is always appreciated.
That's much more sensible, if you ask me. The MoS guidelines are in a constant state of change. qp10qp 02:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I agree. I find the fluctuating MOS a particular problem in debates like these. The notion that an article should be written in the dialect associated with that person just privileges English speakers, as I have repeatedly stated. Following a guideline simply because it is a guideline rather than thinking about its consequences is not something I am fond of doing. I have not seen a cogent argument for why these articles should be in modern BE. I feel that a guideline skewed so dramatically toward English speakers is not one that I can endorse and since it is a guideline and not a policy, there is no reason to enforce it, particularly since these are established articles. I believe the dialect decision should be made along practical lines - why redo articles that have already become well-established? Awadewit | talk 03:13, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
The MoS guidelines are in a constant state of change. Earlier this year I still read the policy and felt that there was a clear reason to change the MW-articles: MW's national ties. The guidelines haven't changed that much. ... How is this guideline skewed so dramatically toward English speakers? (I trust that we're on the same page here: Every distinct language gets its own wikipedia, and what we're talking about is simply English variants, and that what Awadewit means is this is a skew toward BE speakers.) It seems to me that it simply sets forth a brightline rule so that we don't have skews based on numbers of contributors. With close to 300M American English potential contributors to outweigh the various BE potential contributors, I'm not sure I see how the policy skews anything. --lquilter 03:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
That is not at all what I mean. What is mean is that the policy is skewed towards English-language speakers - and that is what I wrote. Because we cannot respectfully write Dante's article in Italian or Tolstoy's article in Russian, we are privileging English speakers by differentiating among their dialects. Dante's article can be written in AE, BE, Canadian English, Australian English...because we cannot write it in his original language or any version thereof. The same is true for Tolstoy. The fact that we are differentiating for English-speakers means that we are privileging them and discriminating against every other subject. That is my problem. Awadewit | talk 03:50, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Ah, but the WP:ENGVAR is only to distinguish between English variants; it is not about favoring English-language over non-English-language. WP comes in multiple linguistic flavors and people can write in those if they choose. Bias towards English language is, no doubt, a problem for multilingualism and non-English speakers in Wikimedia policies & development, but I fail to see what that bias has to do with choosing between English variants. --lquilter 12:57, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, let's think about the consequences of not having a clear-cut guideline based on the subject of the article. Instead, imagine a clear-cut guideline based on nationality or preferences of contributors. Since we can have multiple contributors of various nationalities, we will have to determine the national preferences of each contributor, and some will argue that some contributors are more equal than others. This is certainly at odds with WP:OWN and all manner of other WP policies and guidelines. Or, what other clear-cut rule would be proposed? No rule at all? Do what thou wilt? WP works through consensus. In our earlier debate, I was substantially outweighed and, according to traditional consensus theory, I abstained rather than maintain that particular dispute. However, I would respectfully suggest that editors might consider not just the current manifestation of the dispute, but the same dispute on other MW-related articles, as well as the likelihood of it arising again. And then consider why we have a guideline. If you're worried about following it "blindly", then please don't -- I'm not; I'm following this guideline because it makes quite good sense. --lquilter 03:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I didn't say there shouldn't be a clear-cut guideline. This is just clearly not the one - it is discriminatory. The one we used to have based on established use seemed much better to me. It does not conflict with WP:OWN as many things are established by previous style, such as citations.
I don't think that changing a series of articles to BE simply to avoid future discussion is a good idea; that way leads to the dark side. There must be a better reason than that. I don't find "MW was an eighteenth-century Briton" a convincing reason to write in twenty-first century BE. That is the heart of the matter. You find that convincing - I do not. Awadewit | talk 03:50, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm done. I've said all I can and am repeating myself. I have not and will not change AE to BE or vice versa on these articles. --lquilter 03:39, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I am as well and it is tiring. I will not engage in an edit war either. That is not what I am interested in doing. Awadewit | talk 03:50, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

The Gordian Knot

I was originally intending that we should weigh the points calmly and carefully, considering perhaps examples of parallel articles that use BrEng or AmEng. For example, does WP:ENGVAR require that articles on the legends of Cúchulainn or John Lennon's songs be written in British English? But that might take too long, and I worry that we might run out of patience. I also am beginning to feel as though I'm living in a parallel universe that is somehow just tangential to this one. ;)

Therefore, I'm going to be bold and cut the Gordian knot. I propose the following solution. (1) Awadewit graciously consents to allow Roger to alter her various spellings to BrEng. (2) Roger pledges to maintain the article as such, and to graciously allow Awadewit to continue to edit however she pleases, even in AmEng, in conscious defiance of the consistency clause in WP:ENGVAR. (3) Everyone will graciously avoid impugning ignoble and inappropriate motives to everyone else. (4) We go back to writing great Wikipedia articles and to getting VRM passed as an FA. Are we agreed? Willow 14:59, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Hybrid style is not allowed, I believe; this idea is a recipe for mixed British and American English. This solution overlooks Awadewit's point that there's more to this than a few words. In interfering with the idiom, Roger would be interfering with the prose and expresssion of the articles. (This point has not been understood—in fact it has been dismissed—but one can only write really top-class prose in one's idiom; it would be demoralising to know that one's prose would be deliberately damaged by the intrusion of British-English words into idiomatic American-English sentences. Please don't assume that this is a fallacious or spurious point; as a writer, I mean it sincerely.) Surely Roger can find thousands of other articles to change to British English where no one would object. Also decisions made today are not binding to future editors on wikipedia. Nor is today's MoS likely to survive unchanged. I very much appreciate Willow's wish to broker a compromise, but I feel that instead of cutting the Gordian knot, this solution would cut the baby in half.qp10qp 16:08, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I'm aware of the need to tread carefully, which is why I asked Awadewit to identify those special American-English phrases that won't render in British-English. But, before we go further, I'd like you please to reflect on something. Ever time you make an edit, you get a notice that says:

    If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly or redistributed for profit by others, do not submit it.

How has it come about that this text is now so precious that only you three can edit it? That anyone else "interferes" with it, or "deliberately damages" it? How do you reconcile that with WP:OWN? I'm not squaring up to you. I'm just genuinely bewildered. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 17:23, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I don't really edit this article....just a few copyedits during the FAC. I suspect that Awadewit would love you to edit with her, here or on other such articles; she does pretty much all the work on her own.qp10qp 17:35, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

I have to run, so unfortunately I'll have to be brief — never my strong point. ;) I'm very conscious of the hybridization risk, of the risk to prose glitches, of the risk of linguistic diffusion over time, etc. But I am appealing to you all, now, today, here, to reach higher, beyond ourselves, to stretch ourselves for a greater good. I appeal to you to trust me without proof that this will work out well; the suffering will be slight and the advantages several. Perfection comes in many forms. Willow 16:38, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

In my opinion, however, the greater good in this case is that Wikipedia should not be forced to depart from the good scholarly practice of the real world, whereby articles about Wollstonecraft may legitimately be written in either British or American English. In my opinion, no-one has presented a compelling enough case here to justify changing the idiom. In fact, the basis of the case seems to be "guideline says so"; but Wikipedia process is wiser than that. I think we all know the key phrase: "If the rules discourage you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia's quality, ignore them". (Not that an actual rule is at stake.) If we are talking about the greater good, then lets consider Jimbo's first principle of Wikipedia: "Wikipedia's success to date is entirely a function of our open community. This community will continue to live and breathe and grow only so long as those of us who participate in it continue to Do The Right Thing. Doing The Right Thing takes many forms, but perhaps most central is the preservation of our shared vision for the NPOV and for a culture of thoughtful, diplomatic honesty". Doing the right thing here, in my opinion, means either positively helping this editor and this article or leaving them alone. Neutrality here means allowing articles about works with international political and philosophical significance to be written in either British or American English, according the established style of the article. The smaller good is to fusspot over nationalistic rules and trivia.qp10qp 17:35, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
While what you say holds good for the academic world, it does not sit well with Wikipedia's broadly non-expert policy. This is not about nationalistic rules but policy that tries to bind, not sunder, a disparate community spread all across the world, of people of all ages, nationalities, and abilities. That said, here's a message I left on WillowW's talk page, just after I read her Gordian Knot proposal. It may be a way forward:

Thank you very much for efforts. I will of course accept British-English but my strong personal preference has always been dialect-neutral and still is. This would makes the copy entirely acceptable to the widest possible audience. With an atmosphere of cooperation and common purpose, and discussion over phrasing, the end result need not be stilted. The issue for me has never been that the article be in British-English but that American-English does not resonate well with the era and the topic. I do not mind at all editors posting in whatever flavour they favor, providing they cheerfully accept that consensus is for a dialect-free (or perhaps British-English) final version. We were very close indeed to consensus on this earlier in the week, but Kaldari reverted. Once again, thank you, You have no idea how much I appreciate this.

Now, on a lighter note, the text still contains at least two mahjor metaphorical bloopers. If you can find them, you get a copy-editor's Barnstar. How's about that?
--ROGER DAVIES TALK 18:15, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Nobody is trying to "prosecute a good editor" (persecute?) or "push her off the topic".(responding to orig ver) Yet you've said we are "trying to mind someone else's business" and we should "leave this editor and article alone" -- which sounds perilously close to WP:OWN, and, in fact, serves to push away other editors (like me). I believe we can have this conversation without derogating any person's contributions or motives. If Awadewit leaves as a result of engaging in healthy debate -- or even losing a healthy debate -- that is a loss to wikipedia, but it is not a reason to refrain from engaging in healthy debate. Frankly, I have enough respect for Awadewit's contributions and all-round level-headedness — even though I strongly believe that she is quite, quite wrong on this issue — that I do not believe she would try to hold hostage in such a way.
But look. What are we talking about here, really, if the MW-articles went to "BEng"? (a) spelling. AmEng editors could feel free to edit as they please, and BEng editors could "correct" as they pleased. (b) Punctuation -- similarly. (c) Very occasional (IMO) locutions that are AmEng-specific. Should a BEng editor change text to eliminate an AmEng locution, editors could have a limited discussion about that specific topic. "Why did A change the X text?" "Because X text was an Americanism. I changed it to British." "Okay, but it reads awkwardly now; how about variant Xy which skips the Americanism but retains the nuance in the original?" "Hmm, possibly, what about variant yX?" "Yes, that works..." Etc. I mean, seriously. Do we anticipate dozens and dozens of these things? Or, perhaps, just a couple per article? Are there other possible problems with the idea that editors work in their own natural idiom, but don't interfere with the efforts of wiki-gnomes with a BEng obsession? --lquilter 17:56, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I note with some amusement that we are all relentless copy-editors of our own comments .... --lquilter 18:10, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Well, our edits crossed and I had removed the bit about prosecuting, etc. When you quoted me, you cut out the accompanying parenthesis: "Doing the right thing here, in my opinion, means leaving this editor and this article alone (or positively helping them)". Please don't use selective quoting to make me seem as if I am advocating ownership of an article. You forever bring up this owning business, but Awadewit has said that she welcomes constructive assistance in writing articles, so may we assume good faith on that one? I said that, in my opinion, doing the right thing here means either helping the editor or leaving her alone. Nothing to do with owning. Awadewit loves to edit collaboratively, and so do I (not that I've ever edited with her): it's one of the joys of Wikipedia. It's confusing, however, and not enjoyable, when people who have contributed nothing to an article one has worked on turn up and start laying down the law. I once had to endure the declaration of a mediation during an FAC of mine, after a posse was rounded up via talk pages (fortunately, someone torpedoed the mediation and the article passed; but I thought, please, not now!). This is why I am sympathetic to Awadewit at this moment (apart from the fact that I believe that she is totally in the right).
And, of course, Awadewit wouldn't use emotional blackmail, and I doubt Willow's warning about a Pyrrhic victory was prophetic. I've seen too many good editors go, though, not to worry about the possibility. Speaking for myself, I'd get fed up if forced to edit with an editor who was there to police my writing into British English. American English can be very pithy and vibrant: you can't translate that tang into British English. I would lose interest.
qp10qp 18:37, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
This issue is not an "onslaught orchestrated by a guy..."; this is a recurrent issue on the MW-articles, and it no doubt will continue to be so even if Roger Davies and I utterly drop this discussion forever. In fact it's a recurrent issue throughout wikipedia, which is why the relatively straightforward WP:ENGVAR was developed.
... I mention WP:OWN not because you "advocate" it but because a number of comments made in this conversation bring it to mind, as do the general argument about a single editor's contributions. These are not "your" FACs, nor are they "hers". Awadewit doesn't get "assistance"; by definition in wikipedia awadewit is in collaboration with others, not receiving assistance from them. "Enduring" others' critiques is part and parcel of the wiki-model. I realize that one tends to feel proprietary when one is doing most of the work, including the work involved in shepherding something through.... Which is why friendly reminders about WP:OWN can be helpful. ... Let me suggest one further thing: What Roger Davies has done is as much a contribution as what Awadewit has done; which is to work very hard, thoughtfully, and sincerely on making Wikipedia functional and useful. Resentment towards good faith discussion and critique is not warranted, and should not lead to disparagement. --lquilter 18:58, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
This is not a challenge to what you just said, but a genuine request. Can you point me to where this is a recurrent issue throughout Wikipedia. I tried long and hard to catch up with this yesterday and read a couple of years' worth of MoS debate on the subject. I would be interested in seeing how this is dealt with in other articles. I've never come across it before and would have thought there are more obvious battlegrounds than Rights of Men.
On using "mine" about that particular FAC, it was hardly a case of owning; there were a whole bunch of us nominating. "Mine" means that I was involved. Please debate without treating my every sentence as a verbal crime. I would appreciate it if you would stop repeatedly quoting my words out of context and holding them up as if they were exhibits in a court of law. This is not about point-scoring but about whether it is acceptable for the article to remain in American English.qp10qp 19:14, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Per your request: Special:Whatlinkshere/WP:ENGVAR. And for anyone else wishing to read thru the discussion archives on the general subject: Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_Directory (look for "English" or "national var"). --lquilter 20:08, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
I looked through the MoS archives yesterday, and this doesn't seem much of an issue there. I saw no sign that anyone wanted articles actively changed.
I've just gone through lots of the likely looking links above, but mostly the guideline is linked passingly or in tags. Where the subject was discussed, it was discussed briefly, usually in relation to a particular word or article name. The main issue seems to be is/are (which I believe should be allowed either way in both British and American English, since the semantics are so ambiguous: is a team one or many?). I saw no evidence that this is a recurrent issue throughout Wikipedia, nor any consistency to the comments, which were largely superficial. I found no case of an entrenched argument, as we have here, or of editors insisting on changes, as ambassadors for the guideline, to a page they don't usually edit. Of course, I didn't look at all the links—I ignored user pages, for example. I would genuinely like to be shown an article on Wikipedia where this question was or is the sort of issue it is here. Unless I was unlucky in the pages I opened, I do not get the impression this is a big deal on Wikipedia at all; indeed, I am wondering if the present page (or this writer, Wollstonecraft) is the only one where the issue is being raised and resisted like this. One thing I did notice is that there are lots of badly written pages where the editors are confused and which would benefit from the attention of Roger Davies and lquilter more than this one.qp10qp 21:29, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps those pages and discussions could benefit from your attentions. It is highly offensive that you are, effectively, telling some editors to buzz off. I'm sorry that you don't see the WP:OWN issues, but I can't continue this conversation with you. --lquilter 21:41, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

The measure of nobility

That feeling of my parallel universe drifting further and further away from this one is becoming stronger, but I'll still try to reach across the divide.

It should be evident to everyone by now that each of us is arguing from different premises and, as such, we can reasonably expect never to come to a consensus through rational argument — or irrational, for that matter. ;) That suggests to me that our future road together does not lie along this one-dimensional track we've crafted, but — perpendicular.

Therefore, I'm pleading with you to forgo this tug-of-war — whose victory can only be Pyrrhic — for something better. I'm not asking you to discover and do the Right Thing; I'm asking you to do the Noble Thing. Not because this or that rule says so, not because "Oh dear, it might set a precedent for other articles", not because the Others are arguing so lamely, not because of anything rational. I'm pleading with you all to lay down your arms, have faith in a gracious solution, unfurl your wings and fly — upwards. Grander things await us all beyond this trifling battle-field.

Something must be conceded by someone — ideally by both sides here. Let the one most blessed with grace concede first, and let the others be more gracious in turn. Don't fear for the future; be great-hearted and generous now. Willow 20:27, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

FWIW, Awadewit and I have both said that we were not going to be editing from BE to AE or vice versa. When I do copy-edit I do so in AE because that's what I know, but I will certainly not reverse any edits either way. I have said for a while that my sense is that if the regular editors (and arguers of this point) refrain from edits pertaining to the BE/AE issue, that the articles will migrate to BE. Cheers, Laura --lquilter 21:43, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Then why hasn't this happened yet? As far as I know, for example, I haven't reverted any BE changes in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman regarding BE/AE since it has been made an FA (that would be since March) nor on Mary Wollstonecraft (that would be since February). Certainly none of the other MW articles has migrated towards BE at all. No one has tried to make any dialectical changes until now. The only person to make any substantial changes to any of the MW articles has been myself. I have rewritten the second half of the Mary Wollstonecraft article to better the reflect the new articles about her works (Kaldari, perhaps you could review those sections?). Lquilter, perhaps you could find some examples of articles that have drifted? If there is no evidence that articles drift, then this particular argument does not hold much weight. Awadewit | talk 22:25, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Willow, I understand the reasons behind your plea, I do. However, I do not think that the "noble thing" can be described as "I am tired of this debate, therefore I will concede". If such a philosophy were applied on more serious topics, the results would be disastrous; by logical extension, therefore, it is not a good idea here. I have always been willing to abide by the wikipedia policy of consensus. Consensus may sometimes be flawed, but it is wikipedia's governing system, therefore I must abide by it. At this time, I do not see a consensus to change the article to BE. I have made numerous, well-supported arguments for why the guideline regarding national varieties of English is not the best one to follow in this instance. It is on these and the counterarguments presented by other editors that I believe we should base our decision. Giving up on logic and accepting rule-by-MOS or rule-by-heartstrings is the way to madness and chaos. I think we all recognize this, as we are all attempting to provide arguments to the best of our ability. Awadewit | talk 22:25, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
  • I teach an argumentative writing class and a week ago, I spent an hour with my students discussing the importance of logical argument in life - what should I tell them now, do you think? My students asked me when it was acceptable to appeal to emotion (we were looking at logical fallacies). I said that it is sometimes acceptable, but one must always have an argument as well, otherwise the plea is suspect; moreover, the appeal to emotion is still a logical flaw - it is just convincing rhetoric. One must always weigh logic and rhetoric, no? I am happy that the editors above don't think I would resort to "emotional blackmail" - one of the worst "appeals to emotion" on wikipedia - and I hope that never happens, but like I told my students, relying on the rules of logic gives everyone a solid base to rely on in disputes, while "appeals to emotion" do not. While this debate might be protracted, I believe that, if we try to remain calm, and weigh all of the evidence, we could come to consensus. Awadewit | talk 22:25, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

I can't bring myself to equate grace with lassitude, but I concede that it can appear as such. ;) I wish only that you all could see this debate in context, and be willing to sacrifice the battle to win the war. I still hold out hope that someone will make the first concession and their counterpart will respond even more graciously.

That said, let me leave you all with a few gifts. The pivotal arguments seem to be

1. A hybrid AE/BE article should be avoided, yet...

2. Gifted contributors should not be compelled to compose their works in a foreign variety of English.

3. WP:ENGVAR is only a guideline and does not have the force to compel a change to BE and, in particular, to compel Awadewit to write in BE

and perhaps most contentiously,

4. The "national ties" clause of WP:ENGVAR would recommend that this article be written in BE, since the work concerns primarily British and French policies/governments/politicians. Incidentally, its author was also British.

The other issues that have been raised, such as WP:OWN, are red herrings, in my opinion. Ignore those and other secondary considerations, stifling them stillborn in your throats, and focus on resolving these four points to reach consensus.

FWIW, I feel that points 2-4 have been proven to my satisfaction. Although I find nationalizations of people and works silly per the Homer quote above, and much of the evidence adduced above weak, I feel that the preponderance of evidence favors the BE side over the AE side for "national ties". I think I can claim to be impartial on this point. That said, I feel that it is shortsighted to ride roughshod over Awadewit's feelings and that every effort should be made to accommodate her wishes; not because she OWNs the article, but because we Wikipedians are in a small boat and need to work harmoniously together and foster each other's productivity. Whatever the outcome, this debate has claimed far too much of all our energies to be worth it. Willow 23:05, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

  • We do all remember that VRM was written about the French Revolution in many ways, right? We have all read the article? VRM was part of the British debate over the French Revolution. Just checking on that. MW may have been British-Irish-French or whatever, but this work (the subject of this page) was dealing with issues that stretched beyond Britain. Just to throw that out there. Awadewit | talk 04:06, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Practicing what I preach

In the spirit of cooperation and in the spirit of challenging my own arguments, I have constructed a conversation with myself. I have done the best I can to present the sides as strongly as possible. Please present your own versions or revise. In the process of refining the arguments, perhaps we will reach Enlightenment.

Argument 1:

  • Assumption: The manual of style must be followed.
  • Assumption: The MOS is clear.
  • Claim: The MW pages should be written in BE. (Or be dialect-neutral.)
  • Reasoning: The WP:ENGVAR guideline states that if a work or an author has a strong national tie to an English-speaking country, the article about that work or author should be written in that national variety of English.(Or be dialect-neutral.)
  • Reasoning: MW is British.
  • Conclusion: All of the MW articles should be written in BE. (Or be dialect-neutral.)
  • Counterargument 1: The MOS is not all that clear regarding this issue. For example, the third paragraph of WP:MOS reads:

"When either of two styles is acceptable, it is inappropriate for an editor to change an article from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so (for example, it is acceptable to change from American to British spelling if the article concerns a British topic, and vice versa). Edit warring over optional styles is unacceptable. If an article has been stable in a given style, it should not be converted without a style-independent reason. When it is unclear whether an article has been stable, defer to the style used by the first major contributor." This paragraph lends support both to the position that changing spelling (labeled as a "style") is acceptable as well as to the position that stable articles need a "style-independent" reason to change such things.

  • Counterargument 2: Blindly following the MOS defies the definition of a "guideline" laid out in Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines.
    • Counter-counterargument: Is this really the occasional exception? I think it is prohibiting us from achieving consensus, one of the core values of wikipedia.
      • Counter-counter-counterargument: I think that we are trying to achieve consensus right now and that the dispute over BE/AE is prohibiting us from effectively "maintaining" wikipedia (see Wikipedia:Ignore all rules - linked from the explanation of "guideline").
  • Counterargument 3 (dependent on accepting counterargument 2): Focusing on the subject of the article rather than the editors writing it to determine the dialect is counterproductive. Articles should be written with "brilliant prose", as we all agree. One of the best ways to achieve this is to free up editors to write in their own dialects.
    • Counter-argument:But any AE problems can be fixed by others - that is the brilliance of wikipedia.
      • Counter-counter-argument:I would fully agree, if eight of these nine articles weren't already FA (and the ninth seemingly about to become FA). They are supposed to represent the "best of wikipedia". If they end up continually in a "hybrid" state, that will not reflect well on wikipedia. The MoS specifically allows stylistic inconsistencies if there's good reason to do so. If it brings an end to this, that is good reason.
        • Counter-counter-counter-argument:But Roger has agreed to maintain them.
          • Counter-counter-counter-counter-argument:He has much less of an interest in doing so, since he has spent little time developing them. Also, he has now declared a preference for dialect-neutral language, which I strongly oppose, since it would eliminate historically important words such as "leveling".
            • Counter-counter-counter-counter-argument: (1) Roger is a man of his word, with a passionate lifelong interest in comparative linguistics and development of language, and no one here has any inkling as to his credentials. (2) Dialect-neutral would not automatically remove historically important words. They could be treated thus levelling. (It is doubtful whether 'leveling' connotes the right historical context in AmEng anyway. Merriam Webster places it in the plantation country of the South after the Civil War.)
              • 1) Awadewit believes Roger is a person of their word, but Awadewit is now even less interested in having Roger, a linguistics expert, monitor her edits. Awadewit feels it would be a waste of wikipedia's resources.
                • I don't claim expertise, just interest. :)) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
              • 2) Being interested in linguistics does not necessarily translate into a willingness to tediously monitor others' language. In fact, Awadewit would think it would be just the reverse - wouldn't someone interested in such a topic rather write articles on it than perform routine maintenance on others' articles? Awadewit | talk 19:18, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
                • It's not fair to argue that it's routine maintenance on one hand and of enormous consequence on the other :))) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
              • 3) I don't have an unabridged MW, but I find that an odd explanation for the US. It is certainly not one I have heard before. The OED certainly backs me up for the US and Britain, though. Awadewit | talk 19:18, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
                • Yes, it is extremely odd. MWU has "Leveller" (as you'd expect) and hyperlinks it to "leveling" (but not vice versa).--ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Argument 2:

  • Assumption: The MOS is a guideline and thus does not need to be followed to the letter.
  • Claim: There is no reason to change an established set of nine articles on MW, eight of which are FA.
  • Reasoning: Changing established articles needlessly disrupts prose that has already been deemed good by the community.
  • FALSE PREMISE Wikipedia invites change, saying on the FA banner, If you can update or improve [this article], please do.
  • The banner invites improvement. The claim here is that this is a needless, disruptive change that will not improve the article. Awadewit | talk 19:18, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Reasoning: These articles, for good or ill, were developed and are maintained almost solely by one editor who writes in AE.
  • Counterargument: Roger has volunteered to maintain BE in the articles. He is a very experienced fulltime (real life) writer and sub-editor. He is familiar with the political landscape of the period and the pitfalls of insensitive subbing.
    • Counter-counterargument: He has much less of an interest in doing so, since he has spent little time developing them. Also, he has now declared a preference for dialect-neutral language, which I strongly oppose, since it would eliminate historically important words such as "leveling".
      • Counter-counter-counter-counter-argument: (See above) In a less bellicose atmosphere, I would have discussed that before going on to tidy up Wollstonecraft indicts Burke's defense (a defense is a reply to an indictment) and untangle Burke fulfills the worst of his own ideas (which is not unclear).
        • [A "defense" is not always a reply to an indictment; Burke's Reflections is routinely described as a "defense". I agree the other could be better - "embodies"?] Awadewit | talk 19:18, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
          • (a) While not quite a mixed metaphor, it doesn't quite have the care of your usual prose. If you're wedded to defense, replace the "indict" (which gives it judicial resonance) with "attack" or "assault" or whatever for a uniformly military metaphor? (b) Good choice! --ROGER DAVIES TALK 13:59, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
            • I am wedded to "defense". The problem with "attack" is that it is used repetitively in the lead at this point, already, and I don't think that "assaults" is quite right. "Indicts" has that connotation of "this is wrong" that "attacks" and "assaults" does not. Other suggestions? (I have replaced "fulfills" with "embodies".) (This is far more fun than the other debate. Finding just the right word is so exciting.) Awadewit | talk 22:19, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
              • Then "indicts Burke for defending" etc. You can indict a person, you can't indict a defence. (This is pretty basic stuff.) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 07:39, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Another process I just taught. :) Awadewit | talk 23:19, 5 October 2007 (UTC)

Vindication of the rights of AmEn?

Can I try something? –Outriggr § 02:15, 6 October 2007 (UTC)


  • A1 (prime). Reliably sourced article improvement is Ideal.
  • A2. A Wikipedia editor e of nationality n cannot properly edit, in a manner that fully supports A1, an article a written in the dialect of nationality n.
  • A3. Wikipedia does not rely on "the existence of" any particular e to create, maintain, or improve an article.
  • A4. Statistically, the editor who researches and writes an article a is most likely among the pool of all editors to continue to improve and maintain a.
  • A5. An edit to an article that does not affect its meaning or quality is neither approved nor disapproved of. An article's current state is not precedent for future states that do not affect meaning or quality. Such edits have no effect on the degree to which an article is Ideal by A1.


  • P1. Consensus exists that an article on a subject of nationality Z must be written in the dialect of nationality Z. (That is, WP:ENGVAR states "An article on a topic that has strong ties to a particular English-speaking nation uses the appropriate variety of English for that nation".)


  • S1. A subject S does not have an article A in the English Wikipedia.
  • S2. The subject of A is universally recognized as relating to nationality Z.
  • S3. A Wikipedia editor Q of nationality Y has perfect knowledge of reliable sources on S and wishes to create an article on A. Q has no familiarity with the dialect of Z.


  • Q respects P1 and determines that the article A must be written in the dialect of Z.
  • Q determines that she cannot write the article because A2.

Conclusion 1

  • A1 and P1 are in contradiction.

Stage 2


  • P2. The truth of Conclusion 1 is ascertained; and to resolve the contradiction, P1 is weakened to allow for Q to create the article A in the dialect of Y, because A1 is prime.


  • S4. With P2, Q has now created the article Ain the dialect of Y.
  • S5. Editor R has imperfect knowledge of reliable sources on S and makes a commitment to convert the article A's dialect to Z, and to maintain that state as necessary. A5 in itself grants him this right. Policy is indifferent to dialect conversion.
  • S6. Editor Q makes a commitment to continue editing and maintaining article A, which by A2 must be in the dialect of Y.


  • S5 contradicts A3 and cannot, in itself, sway a debate.
  • S6 also contradicts A3, and cannot, in itself, sway a debate.
  • Because S5 and S6 must be taken to have equal (though undetermined) truth values, we examine their relation to the other axioms. S5 interferes with the prime axiom A1, because R's commitment will, on average (given A4), be in conflict with the ability of Q to realize S6, which directly supports A1. Note that S4 and S6 came into being only be relaxing P1.
  • In the new state S4–S5–S6, S5 least supports Prime Axiom 1, therefore the dialect Y should not be changed. (This holds if and only if Q's "knowledge of reliable sources" is greater than R's. Otherwise, neither commitment would impede the realization of A1 more than the other.)

WP:OWNership does not come into play, by A3 and A5. The swing factor is the assumption, perhaps uncomfortable, that an article's author possesses the greatest ability to realize A1 for that article. In this scenario, given the idealized axioms, dialect change has a negative impact on A1. :-D –Outriggr § 02:15, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

I love it! And that is the difference between informal and formal logic, my friends. I should show my students. :) Awadewit | talk 03:17, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
Excellent! Now to demonstrate how logical and nonpartisan you are, could you do one for me please?  :)))) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 17:12, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
Um, but, logic is non-partisan. That is why we should strive to use it. You did notice that your own positions are included in the argument, right? If you think that Outriggr has failed in being logical, you should demonstrate that by pointing out the logical flaws in his argument. Awadewit | talk 21:12, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
The major flaws lie in the matrix of (self-evident truths). I accept that they are idealised but there are limits.
It is focused on dialect. I've never proposed BrEng dialect. I've talked about BrEng spelling, specifically Oxford spelling. This uses -ize spellings and doesn't involve touching syntax. It's very low impact. However, there was resistance to this so I proposed dialect-neutral spelling, which does have slight syntactical implications but avoids entrenched positions. There is no ideal solution.
Introducing only BE spellings is what would hybridize the article, which is specifically against wikipedia guidelines. The article is written using AE syntax and diction. Adding BE spellings would most obviously hybridize it. Awadewit | talk 01:41, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
I just fail to see the reason to introduce "dialect-neutral" spellings. We would inevitably start to introduce stilted language in an effort to avoid words spelled or used differently in BE and AE. It is silly to hamper ourselves in that way. Awadewit | talk 01:41, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
The next major flaw is the assumption an editor can only "properly edit" articles written in their own dialect. This is your position, not Wikipedia policy and practice.
I would say that the assumption is an editor can only "properly edit" articles written in dialects they claim to know. I have never claimed to know BE or its spellings. It would be absurd for wikipedia to claim that editors can edit using something that they do not know. Awadewit | talk 01:41, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Next, A2 introduces a red herring about reliable sources. What has dialect to do with reliable sources? Policy is that articles accurately reflect reliable sources. Otherwise, it is original research. Citing sources enables the revising editor to check whether the revised version accurately reflects the reliable source. Nothing in this function is dialect (or spelling) dependent.
I don't think it is a red herring at all. The point is, if wikipedia becomes so entrenched about dialect that it refuses to allow those that are knowledgeable about a topic, but who write in a different dialect than the "guidelines" dictate, to contribute to the encyclopedia, it is hurting itself. If there had been a big banner at the top of the Mary Wollstonecraft article when I began it, stating "this article must be written in BE", I would never have written it because I know that I cannot write in BE, and wikipedia would have lost a good article (and many more besides). Awadewit | talk 01:41, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Now S3 is strange. It says: "A Wikipedia editor Q of nationality Y has perfect knowledge of reliable sources [for] article A. Q has no familiarity with the dialect of Z." Now, I'll recast it and introduce an axiom about reliable sources: "Editor Q wishes to create article A. Editor Q has no familiarity with the dialect of Z. Many reliable sources for A are written in the dialect of Z." Therefore: Editor Q does not have perfect knowledge of reliable sources for subject S or article A. Now I'm well aware (because you cite them) that you are very familiar with the sources in various dialects, so clearly none of S3 holds true.
I disagree with the formulation of that as well. Perhaps it should read "imperfect knowledge of dialect Z" because of course I would never claim that I have "perfect knowledge" of the sources. Who would? The point is, as I stated above, that I do not believe that I can write "brilliant prose" in BE. Reading something and writing something are clearly very different.
In saying "perfect knowledge of", I wasn't trying to flatter you Awadewit. In fact, personae did not enter into the equation at all. :) No, it was just an experiment, for one in strengthening ambiguities into bold propositions and seeing what comes from that. My only other comment on the above exchange is that a) I thought we were now using "dialect" to mean "spelling style" and b) yes, it is easy to read any "dialect" of English, but it is not easy to write it without a specialized experience that very few writers (need to) have. For example, I didn't know until this issue came up that the variation "-ling/-lling" is a question of Am/BrEng. If you'd all get your Canadian citizenship, you would find that these things matter much less. –Outriggr § 07:57, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Firstly, I assumed good faith all along. Secondly, I think the point is that Awadewit doesn't write in AmEng dialect, but in a high form of careful and formal Standard English, with AmEng spellings. This use of the high form is probably the reason the language of these articles is so universally acclaimed. BrEng/AmEng is a spectrum and Standard English straddles much of the overlap so, spelling apart, it's usually impossible to determine the nationality of the writer. (Citations available if you want them.) Interestingly, some of Awadewit's articles (e.g. Tennis Court Oath Some Thoughts Concerning Education), are so much in Standard English that there are no telltale divergent spellings and no clues to dialect. Even in this article, divergent spelling only effects six words. Despite various close readings, I cannot find any characteristically AmEng constructions. Finally, until this issue came up here, I didn't know that "fulfils" and "levelling" are also AmEng spellings (according to Merriam Webster Unabridged). --ROGER DAVIES TALK 14:33, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
I have not contributed to Tennis Court Oath as far as I can remember. Awadewit | talk 18:42, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
No, you're absolutely right. It was Some Thoughts Concerning Education, which is one of your featured articles. (Sorry, dreadful memory.) --ROGER DAVIES TALK 20:23, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Anyhow, you asked for flaws and I provided some. I hope this helps. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 17:46, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

I simply cannot understand what the MW articles lose by being in AE. You have consistently stated that the changes are minor, Lquilter has stated that BE has nothing to do with "honoring" MW, so why the insistence on change? To me, it simply looks like a desire to adhere to a poorly designed rule, a rule which if it were advertised widely when people first started contributing to wikipedia, could possibly drive editors away. We should make it easier, not harder, for editors to contribute in their areas of expertise. Awadewit | talk 01:41, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Firstly, congratulations on another FA! Secondly, the guidelines are in place to promote community and cooperation, to prevent turf wars and to prevent Wikipedia from having an exclusively AmEng voice. It is widely advertised (third paragraph of MOS). I learned the other day that the first Wollstonecraft AmEng/BrEng scuffle broke out in February, which alerted you to the controversial nature of your decision. Thirdly, I wonder how many new editors are driven away after seeing articles about topics to which they have strong national ties in "foreign" spelling. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 16:00, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
When I spent a couple of hours the other day reading discussions that link to that guideline, I came away with the impression that the guideline is not there to encourage people to go round changing the English style of articles. It is provided as a necessary guideline for editors who wonder how to establish the style of an article in the early stages of its development or what to do about a hybrid article. I sense that it envisages a change from one style to another only in a fledgling, neglected or undeveloped article.qp10qp 15:05, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Equally, I didn't get the impression that the guideline was designed to protect editors who know the rules but flount them. Both Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin started off with BrEng spellings, went past stub that way, but ended up with AmEng ones. The strong national ties and established variant rules were simply ignored. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 16:00, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Roger that the guidelines are there to help avoid disputes such as this one, but that doesn't necessary mean that the current guideline is a good one. The guidelines should be designed with the best interests of contributing editors at heart; I do not believe that the current one is. I don't think that readers are alienated by seeing good articles in a different dialect/spelling than their own. Wikipedia is the only place I have ever heard someone make that claim - that an article should take into account its subject when considering its spelling. It is all so very odd. If wikipedia wants well-written, non-hybridized prose, it is going to have to accept prose that is not associated with the subjects of some articles, I think. It is a massive waste of wikipedia's resources to have editors monitoring pages for spelling inconsistencies.Awadewit | talk 18:42, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
They already do as part of copy-editing. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:21, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
It is interesting that you should mention the William Godwin page. I haven't edited that one yet. Lquilter seemed to think that the MW pages would migrate toward BE without attention being paid to spelling/dialect. The Godwin example seems to suggest otherwise, but, of course, that is just one data point.Awadewit | talk 18:42, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
  • William Godwin is thus far a negative data point, but it doesn't really affect my point, since I didn't phrase it in an easily disprovable way. <g> ("Over time the articles will migrate"...) --lquilter 13:19, 13 October 2007 (UTC)
"Mary Wollstonecraft... started off with BrEng spellings". The two previous versions of that article were both plagiarized from other sources. Awadewit was gracious enough to rewrite virtually the entire article from scratch. As far as I'm concerned, she could have written it in Martian English and it would have been a 100% improvement from what was there before, guidelines or no. Kaldari 22:20, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. Martian English is a good choice because (unlike Venusian English, for instance) it is tied to neither BrEng nor AmEng spelling systems.--ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:21, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Right - and then I edited the article and Kaldari accused me of plagiarizing as well, having been burned in the past. :) But we moved past all of that and Kaldari took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. I would like to point out that in the first few months I started editing the MW article, which was basically my introduction to wikipedia, I was accused of plagiarism (no hard feelings!) and then attacked/assaulted for writing in AE. It was most demoralizing. That is what I mean when I say that these guidelines have the potential to drive editors away. Awadewit | talk 22:39, 8 October 2007 (UTC)
This is something which might be better raised at Talk:MOS. It remains to seen whether anyone will be persuaded that someone with a "professorial level of English" is unable to move between the world's two major spelling systems. --ROGER DAVIES TALK 08:21, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
I note that it is entirely unnecessary for Awadewit or any other editor to try to spell in a system unfamiliar to them, because a lot of editors like to go around & make that exactly that sort of minor fix, as recently happened on Mary Wollstonecraft. (Amendment: The editor came in to the article at Awadewit's request. I'm not convinced that invalidates my point but am happy to not cite it as an example, either.) --lquilter 13:16, 13 October 2007 (UTC)


What happened to the images? Why does it say "undefined" in the text where two of them used to be? Awadewit | talk 03:49, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Seems to have been a temporary problem with the Wikimedia image servers. Kaldari 17:56, 8 October 2007 (UTC)