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User profile[edit]

Serge Woodzing is an old North American, with Danish, German, Belgian, Dutch and Swedish roots, who has lived in several European nations too. And continues to do so, seasonally.

Some opinions that are important to me are found below.

My interests, mainly, are in the areas of quality control and improvement on English Wikipedia regarding articles about history and historical persons, as I am a collector of literature on such topics since my childhood. And a bit of a language buff. Since I have seen how good cross-referencing works to help people find things, it is my firm belief that it is a good idea for us to have too many redirects from names that readers might find in literature, rather than than too few (what else would redirects be for?) - and that the same idea should apply to disambiguation pages.

I am an experienced Wikipedia editor who has worked on several Wikimedia projects for a long time, but then (before August 2009) from various IP addresses out of the United States and other countries. I've had a dispute arbitrated here once, successfully.

That is not to say I don't make mistakes or need help, as we all do. But please let us be nice to one another and discuss things constructively on the talk pages of articles involved - and let's focus on facts first, then, if at all, on personal opinions!

Here's hoping there won't be too much need for anyone to complain about anything to my talk page here! Grrrrrrrrrr! Purrrrrrrrrr! Yurrrrrrrrrrzzz, SW.

Languages & other templates[edit]

en This user is a native speaker of English.
es-3 Este usuario puede contribuir con un nivel avanzado de español.
fr-3 Cet utilisateur peut contribuer avec un niveau avancé de français.
de-3 Dieser Benutzer hat sehr gute Deutschkenntnisse.
it-2 Questo utente può contribuire con un livello intermedio di italiano.
sv-5 Denna användare kan bidra med en professionell nivå av svenska.
no-3 Denne brukeren/brukaren behersker/meistrar norsk flytende/flytande.
da-3 Denne bruger kan bidrage på flydende dansk.
nl-2 Deze gebruiker heeft een middelmatige kennis van het Nederlands.
Flag of Sweden.svg This user is Proud but disillusioned to be a Swedish Wikipedian in exile.
Scale of justice gold.jpg This user values third opinions and occasionally provides one.
Wikipedia Reviewer.svg This user has pending changes reviewer rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
Wikipedia Autopatrolled.svg This user has autopatrolled rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)
Wikipedia Rollbacker.svg This user has rollback rights on the English Wikipedia. (verify)

Brief notes[edit]

Singers don't "cover" great songs, they are themselves covered by great songs.

Req IAB here: 6 ./. 1.

Mediator here.

How to behave better and feel better here.

Neutral politicians?[edit]

A few Wikipedia editors apparently have such strong political affiliations, left-right-middle, that they publish them on their user pages, or have done so at one time. Can neutrality be expected from such users when they edit articles with content which naturally and obviously involves their political interests? The problem is partially covered by a Wikipedia essay called Political dispute.

What is phonetic empathy?[edit]

  • Quoting Wikipedia's Manual of Style here: "Do not introduce new and specialized words simply to teach them to the reader, when more common alternatives will do." (Also see Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable and Category:Wikipedia articles that are too technical!)
  • In that spirit, always try very hard to be phonetically empathetic!
  • Don't expect readers of English to be interested in learning phonetic symbols or listening to recorded pronunciation in other tongues: most readers of English aren't interested in language lessons, many get justifiably annoyed and lose interest.
  • Use established English exonyms whenever possible (also see below about article names)! Exonyms have been established by intelligent and knowledgeable linguists, very competent in their business, usually based on local phonetics primarily, and on legitimate etymology. They exist because it is supposed to be easy and reasonably accurate to pronounce foreign words, with as good a measure of phonetic feasibility as possible, in the language at hand.
  • Always avoid using any personal and place names in other languages that can be difficult for a reader of English to pronounce or even to know how to attempt. We are supposed to be able to read these texts to the blind and to children, I believe.
  • Don't put such names in texts ever, if the text can be clear enough and valuable enough without them, and (if so) also remove them wherever you see them, replacing them, if necessary, with the king; another Swedish town; a Polish government authority; an esteemed Lithuanian author; his Portuguese mentor; etc etc etc. What makes this particularly good advice and particularly smooth policy in WP work (as compared to set, printed texts where we often have to do battle with authors and publishers to get them to understand) is that here, we can pipe-link directly to the person or place in question, so that readers that are especially interested can go there, learn the tricky foreign names and try their best to pronounce them, if they need to and want to (not very many are interested).
  • If curious, check contributors' work to see if they are unnecessarily pushing more or less unpronounceable personal and place names in their own languages (other than English) into these texts, and try to convince them not to do that. Some also might push terms, sort of reveling in them, which go under their own actual or imagined expertise, such as Old English; or Icelandic ("Old Norse") to supplant just about any modern Scandinavian name. Many good contributors are not conscious of the havoc they are wreaking here in doing these things, it just comes naturally to them (but to no one else outside of their nationalities) that such-and-such or so-and-so for example can be called Mmowefjüdipneflisnöpåbwsz and that anybody should be able to handle that. A few people really understand this (2 great examples!), most people are totally unaware, a few can be pushy and obstinate about this.
  • Don't ever let anyone be intentionally disruptive!

My opinion regarding article titles in English for 20th-century and 21st-century people[edit]

Swedes, just as an example, have only had legal names, and legal spellings of same, since their name law was passed in 1901. People that lived past 1900 should be named at en.WP with the correct spelling of the treated person's legal name in their own country, no translations.

1900 (no earlier) is a figurative cut-off year by which just about everyone in the world, who might be mentioned in historical accounts, had registered legal names. Of course this does not apply precisely, but it is helpful to have a cut-off to determine when it is and isn't appropriate to continue to use personal name exonyms.

My opinion regarding article titles for royalty[edit]

The easiest and most effective way to name the Wikipedia biographies of all royal people would be to use the format

  • [Name] of [Country] ([year])

where the year is the year that the person became royal of that country, by birth, marriage or appointment.

For sovereigns with numerals - Gustav III of Sweden (1771) - the year of ascension to that throne (when he began to be counted as the third) would be a good idea.

The country where a person was royal the longest - that includes everyone who is/was royal of... a country - should be used when multiple countries are involved in the same person's life story.

This system would avoid the use of titles in the article names, which is always inappropriate and should not be used only for royals, excluding Doctor So-and-So, Senator Whozeewhat and millions of other titled persons.

The years in parentheses would also clearly distinguish between royalty of the same name and country, such as all those Gustavs and Carls that Sweden has had.

My opinion regarding article titles in English for pre-20th-century Swedish royalty[edit]

It seems to me that it is far more important for us to use legitimate and phonetically viable English-language name forms in titling articles (called exonyms as per guideline[1]) than to count usage elsewhere in each and every case. Obviously, the older lesser-known royals of Sweden rarely, if ever, have been written about before in English by native-English-speakers, rather they have been covered in English usually, if at all, by Swedes with (1) little or no knowledge of the legitimate English name forms they could/should have used; and/or (2) with little or no interest in researching such things to do a better job; and/or (3) with some interest in promoting the use of Swedish phonetics in English at the dire expense of the English reader, who knows no Swedish and thus experiences only phonetic bewilderment and nonsense.

I feel confident that known and respected authorities (to me at least) like Debrett's and Burke's Peerage would agree with our always using legitimate English name forms (pre-1900) without ever tallying up what Swedes have written and used.

Exceptions such as Carl rather than Charles[edit]

Exceptions from obsolete tradition should be any names which once, when history was written in English, were always translated by standard, but today have become just as English on their own: Carl (the name of the current King) not Charles, Maria not Mary, Anna not Anne.

My opinion regarding consistent article titles for all queens consort and princesses consort[edit]

There is already accepted policy in place here at en.WP, it seems by overwhelming (?) consensus, that the article titles of these women should show only what they were called before they married male royals of other countries and, as consorts, became queens or princesses of them. The policy is bad. It is a naming practice which usually robs these women of the only claim to fame for which they are notable and relevant to us here. Sort of like listing Marilyn mainly as Norma Jean Baker or Garbo only as Greta Lovisa Gustafsson or Margaret Thatcher only as Margaret Roberts or Hillary Rodham Clinton only as Hillary Rodham. Silvia of Sweden, Queen is a highly notable person whereas Silvia Sommerlath was an Olympic hostess of no significance whatsoever to an encyclopedia. The same was true of her immediate predecessor Louise of Sweden, Queen who only was Louise Mountbatten before her marriage, having originally been Louise of Battenberg, in both latter cases a so-called minor German princess of little or no interest to anyone other than her own immediate acquaintances. She did have one namesake, who however was Louise of Sweden and Norway, Queen. Other comparable cases in the position, such as the many named Catherine, should very usefully be called Catherine of Sweden, Queen (1531-1535) and Catherine of Sweden, Queen (1568-1569) and so on.

The worst part of this policy is the enormous frequency of anomalies in article text like "Queen Victoria of Baden", where Queen Victoria of Sweden was intended (Baden has never had queens), and the negligence or lack of knowledge of editors in not correcting hundreds upon hundreds of such things.

OK though...[edit]

... now that we already have that confusing and degrading maiden name policy permeating all of en.WP (sort of like a medieval pestilence), we'll have to go for it. But at least the most important part of these names must be added consistently all over: not Richeza of Denmark for one queen and Richeza of Poland, Queen of Sweden for her grandmother; and not just Catherine of Aragon making anyone wonder weren't there more than one?, but Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, not Ulrike Eleonora of Denmark but Ulrica Eleanor of Denmark, Queen of Sweden, not Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland but Lillian Davies, Princess of Sweden, not Princess Birgitta of Sweden but Birgitta, Princess of Sweden and Hohenzollern et cetera.

Putting titles first here and there, furthermore, causes a huge amount of unnecessary extra work to get these people to sort correctly. Has never been done before in any encyclopedia and shouldn't be done here either.

Global not British or any other national perspective, please![edit]

I also believe just as much in a global perspective for all Wikimedia projects as I do in using the best possible English to reflect it here on en.WP. All of us who write here in the world's foremost international language need to take that privilege seriously. A user who has no valid reason to think he/she knows and writes good English should (1) be careful here or ask for help, (2) never act like an English expert and (3) never try to force his/her national language and phonetics on us at en.WP if actually irrelevant and disturbing. It is an indisputable fact that such attitudes and mischief do a lot of damage. A little dose of honest introspection and/or realistic humility goes a long way.

Each and every good text is supposed to be able to be read aloud as smoothly as possible. Why don't we all keep that in mind? That's why we have (and should write and say) Gothenburg, as a great gift to us in English for Göteborg, just one example of many.

Any constructive comments on these opinions of mine are invited on my talk page - not here, please! - comments primarily then, to be fully appreciated, submitted by users basically qualified to write about English and the feasible use of this language.

Serge Woodzing, September, 2009


  1. ^ 4th par. lead of guideline Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English)