Wikipedia talk:Avoid peacock terms/Archive 1

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Contents

Straw Poll

Supporters of "avoid peacock terms" include:

  • David Gerard (I love it, I love it)
  • Revolver (Finally...I made this remark at The Beatles a long time ago, which I consider one of the most awful offenders.)
  • Oska I absolutely agree with this very significant addition to the seminal Wikipedia style guide. Oska 02:03, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)
  • CheeseDreams Me. P.s. I don't like Haydn at all, and I think Mozart is mediocre, compared with Monteverdi. CheeseDreams 00:05, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  • jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 17:02, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC) Chiming in late. Not as bad as "ironically", but still inherantly POV unless backed up.
  • Deltabeignet (not a hard rule, but important to remember. Peacock terms should be acceptable placeholders for valid information, but not permanent additions.)
  • AI It is not overly broad, special exceptions of appropriately used peacocks should hold up to scrutiny. Less hot air.
  • User:GeeJo Very much agree with the addition. Opinion without anything to back it up doesnt belong in a serious encyclopedia.
  • ColdCaffeine Cite, CITE, CITE!
  • BenAveling 08:45, 23 October 2005 (UTC) Never say never, but as a rule, avoid.
  • McTrixie/Mr Accountable 11:10, 5 December 2006 (UTC) I cannot properly express how distracting it is to find "peacock terms" in an otherwise informative encyclopedia.
  • RAN It reads like a children's encyclopedia, or a fan magazine with them included. --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 17:55, 27 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Cosmic Latte Agree. Explained in my Mozart comment below. Cosmic Latte (talk) 02:55, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

Opponents of "avoid peacock terms" include:

  • NetEsq (overly broad)
  • kwertii (overly broad; pejorative name for a very useful and usually entirely appropriately used category of words; if a qualitative conclusion is generally agreed upon by the relevant scholars, then that should be stated directly, using so-called "peacock" and/or "weasel" terms.)
  • Tannin If Mozart was the greatest composer of the classical period, say so. Always tell it like it is. No more, no less.
    • A lot of people think Haydn was at least as "great" (whatever that means). And Glenn Gould hated Mozart. There are few universal concensus on "greatness". Revolver
A good example of why peacock terms are poor writing style.--AI 18:52, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Horrible example. It is a fact that Mozart is considered a great composer. The word "great" has a definite meaning in the English language, and it's not for us to throw words out the window. Was he the greatest? Who knows? This is a good example of why we should avoid superlatives, not comparatives (which is all a "peacock" term really is). Aelffin (talk) 02:35, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
Of course Mozart is considered a "great" composer. But there are plenty of people in the world who wouldn't consider him one. I'm not one of these people, but...what about folks who strongly prefer Baroque or Romantic? What about the vast majority of the world's population, which hasn't grown up with Western European music, and which may find such music utterly distasteful? Peacock terms present NPOV issues from the start. From another angle, everyone in WP needs to be sufficiently "great," or at least "notable," in the first place. So, to include such words in an article (without seriously qualifying them) is to be redundant as well as biased (unless all articles include the term, in which case bias is replaced by meaninglessness). Cosmic Latte (talk) 02:55, 8 June 2008 (UTC)
  • doom opposed, for the same reasons I oppose the "weasel words" guide.
    • ...
    • it's his (POV) :)--AI 18:52, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Wincoote It breeds unnecessay nervousness that worthwhile truths will be subjected to inappropriate pov allegations, for example a non-British user who thought it was pov to say that the Royal Opera is the leading opera company in the UK. This is fact not opinion (and I go to its rival on the London opera scene more often - because it is cheaper), and what better way is there of getting it across to people who don't know than just telling them directly? Wincoote 02:40, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    • People make "POV accusations", and sometimes they're wrong. Any such accusation, if invalid, can be refuted with further evidence; for example, if someone says POV to the Royal Opera, you simply answer they're the oldest, most popular, best reviewed (perhaps), they attract the top flight dancers, they've been declared the greatest by the International Ballet Company Evaluating Company Company. Only the last of those is a POV -- unless, of course, the article says "The IBCECC considers the Royal Opera to be the leading opera company". --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 17:02, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Yes, and some triggerhappy editor will come back with "Oldest, most popular, best reviewed, top flight dancers, declared the greatest? Oh my, what a bunch of peacock words. Let's delete those and...oh, look now the subject doesn't qualify as notable. Guess we'll have to RfD." This whole peacock term thing is yet another way to bring Wikipedia down to the lowest common denominator. (i.e. "If I don't like it, it must not be important.") That mindset defeats the purpose of Wikipedia. Aelffin (talk) 02:40, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
  • Apoc2400 I often look up a term knowing close to nothing about it. The importantness of the subject is important encyclopedic information. As long as it is NPOV, it's fine.
  • We delete pages that don't assert notability. Therefore it is nonsense to ban language that attempts to do so. I find the examples of pages that use "Peacock Terms" in an appropriate way below pretty convincing. Stevage 04:03, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
    We delete pages that are not notable. Slight difference. Regards, Ben Aveling 01:36, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
  • Too broad. Sometimes such words are useful.--Bkwillwm 06:12, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
  • too broad. Rjensen 07:28, 20 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Sometimes it is more effective to rapidly communicate a point and summarize. If articles only provide facts, and not any analysis or interpretation of these facts, what if the reader does not know how to take them? I use the example from this article, William Peckenridge, 1st Duke of Omnium (1602? - May 8, 1671) was personal counselor to King Charles I, royalist general in the English Civil War, a chemist, poet, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded his family's possessions to include the proprietorship of the Province of New Hampshire and the hereditary Lord High Bailiffship of Guernsey and Sark.. Now when I read this, it does not give me any sense of the importance or relative accomplishments of this person. Using a "peacock term" that simply outright states he is "considered, by some people, to be the most important man ever to carry that title," much more effectively communicates the point than giving the reader a handful of facts that may or may not have any meaning. Therefore I support peacock terms that are backed up with facts. Exclusive bad apple 05:30, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
  • too broad; does not work well when applied to the arts in particular - you would just be left with loads of "major"s, "significants" and "importants" (which will not in fact be affected by this). Or, much worse, people will work these in by quotation from historians etc, which will usually make for very turgid reading. But obviously terms to be used with care and restraint Johnbod 00:44, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Tysto — I'm somewhat on the fence. This article seems to recommend against all qualitative descriptions. "Brazil has a vigorous economy" is good writing if followed by some specifics. I'm reminded of NPR's Science Friday, where Ira Flatow is forever re-asking his questions because scientists give quantitative rather than qualitative answers.
Flatow: Is the moon big?
Guest: The moon is about 12,000 miles in circumference.
Flatow: Is that big?
Qualitative descriptions are very informative. --Tysto 16:47, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Peacock Pejorative, Dukes and Tolstoy

I disagree with this guideline, and also with the pejorative designation "peacock terms" for this category of words, for much the same reasons as I've already stated on Wikipedia talk:Avoid weasel terms. We're not writing a math textbook here, and it is not fitting to always use exact, scientific language when talking about qualitative rather than quantitative fields of study. Certainly, these "peacock terms" can be misused to convey a POV, but this doesn't imply that there are not legitimate uses for this category of phraseology. If a particular duke is generally regarded by historians or others who study dukes as the best/worst/whateverest person to carry the title, then that is important information to have in the article. Better than either example above (assuming that William Peckenridge is, in fact, widely regarded as one of the most important Dukes of Omnium ever) would be:

William Peckenridge, eighth Duke of Omnium (1642? - May 8, 1691) was personal counselor to King James I, general in the Wars of the Roses, a chemist, bandleader, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded the title of Omnium to include protectorship of Guiana and right of revokation for civil-service appointments in India. Peckenridge is widely regarded as one of the most important men ever to carry his title.

Likewise, I think the Tolstoy example over on Wikipedia talk:Avoid weasel terms presents a perfect instance of the type of situtation where so-called "peacock terms" and "weasel terms" are entirely appropriate. If a qualitative point is generally accepted by those who study a topic, then it should be so noted in the article in the clearest manner possible - which necessitates the use of "weasel" or "peacock" terms. Count my vote against this one, too. Kwertii 00:27, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The thing is that this policy (call it a strong suggestion?) addresses a real problem. Have you ever noticed how so very many obscure rock bands or albums are vastly influential and highly critically regarded, going by their articles? "Avoid peacock terms" or something synonymous is pretty much the appropriate response. (Look at some versions of Mariah Carey for an egregious example.)
Note also it says "Avoid peacock terms," not "Peacock terms are banned by policy and to be deleted on sight." - David Gerard 01:06, Mar 7, 2004 (UTC)

The example used here is highly confusing: "and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" -- is this an attempt at humor? Or is it encouraged practice to mix real and fictional identities in this way?

This passage is exemplary of "show, don't tell". Like many of the style examples, it should not be considered encyclopedic in itself. I'm sure the mixture you referred to was intended as humor, and I consider it harmless. 187.143.14.227 (talk) 12:36, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

Predictions of rampant deletionism, and a quest for actual examples

hehe. I see your point. Though, I think that the obscure rock band articles will continue to be like that, even with this policy. That's just unavoidable; everyone's going to write up their friends' band as vastly influential and highly critically regarded; all that can be done with that sort of thing is just to fix it when it happens.
It's nice having a policy style suggestion to refer them to. Particularly in cases like Mariah Carey, where the edit history reads like a circle of fans assiduously restoring the peacock terms whenever deleted.
On the other hand, having a formal policy like this will frequently be used as justification for editing out "good" uses of "peacock terms", removing potentially vast amounts of useful information like that War and Peace is generally regarded as Tolstoy's best work, or that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are Tolkien's best work, or that most people who study dukes think that Duke Peckenridge was the best Duke of Omnium ever, etc.
Are there a lot of examples of this happening? Do they ever get sorted out on the talk page?
There're just waaaaaaaay too many cases where this sort of wording is "good" and should be used - not to mention that having a negatively cast title for this type of word automatically biases the sort against using these terms. Kwertii 01:36, 7 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I think it having a negatively cast title like "peacock terms", and the resulting bias against their use, is a good thing in general. It's a phenomenon I've always wanted a term for so I could gently suggest not acting otherwise, and "peacock terms" is an excellent one. (Perhaps I've been appalled by too many press releases.)
I suggest it be moved to a more general style guide with a strong caveat to discuss it on the talk page. (The answer to "Critics acclaim it as ..." is "name some, or lots, in the article if it doesn't break the flow.") This is much more style-guide level stuff than hard policy. - David Gerard 01:46, Mar 7, 2004 (UTC)

The discussion is doomed

I'm opposed to this entry for the same reasons I've stated in the "weasel words" discussion (I'm glad to see someone likes my Tolstoy example). I have to say that I think that the "But it's only a rule of thumb!" defense is pretty weaselly in itself. Far from being something to avoid, the usage of peacock and weasel terms are an absolute necessity to present a quick, general, summary of why anyone would care about a topic. It's often desireable to go on and provide more detail later, but trying to do it all at once is a formula for incomprehensible expository lumps, and it's one of my major peeves with a lot of wikipedia writing. Factual writing need not be dry, tedious and boring, and you will not achieve total objectivity (or even neutrality) no matter how tedious you're willing to get. - Doom 22:10, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
OK then. Do we have examples of articles which have been trashed with this as the excuse? - David Gerard 23:35, 29 May 2004 (UTC)
When you look at an article about a writer, and you find that it leads off with a detailed listing of biographical events without any explication of why anyone would care about this writer, then you're looking at one of the victims of this "just the facts, mam" attitude. -- Doom 18:20, Jun 1, 2004 (UTC)
Writing with lots of peacock terms is tedious and boring. It's empty stuffing that doesn't actually say anything. Avoiding peacock terms helps focus on the concrete, making writing more stimulating and enjoyable. Words like "great", "important", "best", "influential" are so abstract as to be useless. --ESP 18:03, 30 May 2004 (UTC)
"Ground abstractions in specifics" is a good rule. However, "Don't use abstractions" is not a good rule.
And further (probably the real dispute here): "Never present value judgements" is *also* not a good rule. -- Doom 17:27, Jun 1, 2004 (UTC)
Absolutely. However, "try to avoid value judgements without substantiation" is an entirely suitable rule IMO. I've given examples of the sort of article that really needs to be told "avoid peacock terms"; do you have examples of articles which have been trashed with it as the excuse? I want to know concretely how we can keep something like this but avoid practical examples of the theoretical objections being raised here - David Gerard 18:22, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Real articles sporting positive peacocks

David Gerard writes: 'Absolutely. However, "try to avoid value judgements without substantiation" is an entirely suitable rule IMO.'

First of all: that's not what this rule says, is it? If you believe that sentences should have verbs with their subjects, you don't recommend that people avoid using subjects.

(And: how hard do you try and avoid it, and how much substantiation is necessary? I also claim that reference to a general consensus view is often okay, though that's derided next door as the use of "weasel terms".)

David Gerard continues: ' I've given examples of the sort of article that really needs to be told "avoid peacock terms"; ':

I understand that there are problems with empty fanboy gushing, my complaint is that these rules appear to be attempts at attacking a symptom rather than the problem.

David Gerard: 'do you have examples of articles which have been trashed with it as the excuse?'

It isn't hard to find examples of the use of "peacock terms" (known in ordinary english as "superlatives") that seem entirely appropriate. Try doing searches of the existing wiki nodes for phrases like "most influential"; "world's greatest"; "most significant", etc.

Here's a selection:

Bertrand_Russell

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (May 18, 1872 - February 2, 1970) was one of the most influential mathematicians, philosophers and logicians working (mostly) in the 20th century, an important political liberal, activist and a populariser of philosophy.

Marco_Polo

Marco Polo is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest explorers -- although some skeptics rather see him as the world's greatest storyteller.

String quartet

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - wrote sixteen quartets widely regarded as among the finest quartets by any composer

Unix

The early development of what is believed to be one of the most influential operating systems in history was unique, and nobody would have predicted the growth of UNIX after its first incarnation.

Tourism in India

Perhaps India's best-known site is the Taj Mahal, one of the world's greatest architectural achievements.

Alain Robert

Alain Robert, born April 7, 1962 in Valence, France, is one of the world's greatest rock and urban climbers.

DOOM

Due to its contributions to the first-person shooter genre, DOOM is widely regarded as one of the most influential games of all time.

-- Doom 20:36, Jun 3, 2004 (UTC)

That isn't the question I asked. The question I asked was whether articles were being trashed with this as the excuse. Do you have examples? I'm not questioning that superlatives are appropriate in many cases, at all. - David Gerard 20:52, 3 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Now that was a fast response. I was just ducking in to try and improve my examples.
But anyway: yeah, I know I'm not directly answering the question that you asked, because what you're asking for is quite hard to dig up. If your point here is that there's a need to think about the effects that rules have on the group dynamic, consider the plight of a would be author that starts feeling vaugely guilty about the way they're writing about a subject, and decides to put it aside until they can find a way to re-write it from a god-like view stripped of human values. Or consider the kind of writing that I was complaining about: articles that launch into factual detail without making an attempt to explain why the subject is worth discussing.
Here's an example that comes to mind of that syndrome... though I fixed it with the judicious addition of a "weasel" ("Best known for") rather than a "peacock" in this case (though maybe "very distinctive style" counts).
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?title=Damon_Runyon&diff=2844604&oldid=2481286
Or if you like, you could join me over in Talk:Gary_Snyder where I ponder how to improve the lead "Gary Snyder (born May 8, 1930) is an American poet and environmental activist. Often associated with the Beats, his work represents one of the most significant attempts to bridge the gap between nature and culture in 20th century literature."
-- Doom 21:57, Jun 3, 2004 (UTC)
Both are to be avoided if possible. That's why this is in style guides rather than hard policies.
I'm having similar troubles writing about Australian indie rock bands. Amongst the many things Wikipedia is not is a rock'n'roll fanzine. I'm seriously thinking about a separate wiki for the purpose. But for Wikipedia purposes, the exercise reinforces (to me) why "Avoid peacock terms" is an excellent guide for articles on subjective phenomena of this sort. - David Gerard 22:24, 3 Jun 2004 (UTC)
A "rule of thumb" is generally taken as something which is usually true, not something thing which quite often isn't. I posted a half-dozen examples of well-written articles that are "exceptions to the rule". I could post another half-dozen today. How many days would I have to keep going before you'd admit that this "rule of thumb" isn't?
I've found it useful to keep in mind, and useful in describing what's wrong in many other articles.

Scribbling in the Sandbox

Anyway, I've started playing around with writing a possible replacement for these two disputed rules. Currently it's in my sandbox (where it's less likely to be trashed immediately): User:DoomSandbox. Discussion welcome. -- Doom 06:45, Jun 5, 2004 (UTC)
That's excellent! I'll probably have a play with it at some stage soon - David Gerard 11:36, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I'd like to think you're joking and you wouldn't actually want to replace two rules about clarity in writing with something entitled "Using Superlative Compliments and References To Consensus". Can you possibly be serious? --ESP 17:52, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I'm not wedded to this particular terminology, but I suggest you actually read the commentary on the two disputed pages, you might notice that many people say they object to the terms "peacock" and "weasel". These are made-up terms that don't mean anything before you read the articles, and they're also unnecessarily derisive. They admittedly have the advantage of being colorful and possibly easier to remember. Possibly the article should be titled "Peacock-Weasel Miscegenation".
By the way: is it expected that a beginning author is going to read the entire style guide before writing an article? It's already much too long. I had the impression you folks want to use these pages as ammunition to shoot down people you're arguing with by referring back to the style guide. -- Doom 21:51, Jun 10, 2004 (UTC)
"weasel wording" is a common term in English. ("peacock wording" isn't, but IMO should be.) - David Gerard 22:28, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Well, "weasel" isn't unusual as slang, but the article is using it in an extremely specific way that *is* unusual. Non-specific attribution certainly isn't the only form of "weaseling", and maybe isn't *always* a form of "weaseling" (this is one of the points of contention). -- Doom 05:53, Jun 11, 2004 (UTC)
The name is presently awful, but the article looks like it could become something good.
Another re-write is out in my sandbox, if anyone's interested: "Be cautious with compliments and mass attribution". This one has a shorter title (with some simplified terminology), and I've changed the introductory spiel into a conclusion. -- Doom 06:43, Jul 20, 2004 (UTC)

Deletionism in Action

The objections appear to be that these may be damn useful rules for writing, but people fear they will be misused for unwarranted deletionism. How to 2. emphasise they should be applied at article creation 1. get them applied at article creation? - David Gerard 21:26, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)
"but people fear they will be misused for unwarranted deletionism", that isn't *exactly* what I'm afraid of... though I do note that the beginning of the Gary_Snyder article has been ravaged by a rather dogmatic application of what's supposed to be "just a rule of thumb"... -- Doom 05:53, Jun 11, 2004 (UTC)
In that case, put it back and justify better in the body of the article? - David Gerard 07:49, 11 Jun 2004 (UTC)
"Ravaged"? You asked to have some help making it clearer! It's not dogmatism -- it's just writing better. I don't think you quite understand that. You seem to think these rules are here to make people feel stupid or wrong. But they're here because we have some special pressures in Wikipedia due to NPOV, and there are some things we need to do to keep NPOV from making flat, empty prose. --ESP 22:14, 11 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Strangely enough I don't think the lack of understanding is on my end. I think you're over-interpreting neutrality (perhaps confusing it with objectivity?).
A small example: "Gary Snyder is a beat poet" is harder to support than "Gary Snyder is often associated with the beat movement". Despite the fact that this includes a dreaded weasel, it's probably more accurate, and certainly more neutral.
So yeah, I'll probably try and improve the Snyder page at some point... presuming I'm not getting into an edit war with a fanatic. -- Doom 01:22, Jun 12, 2004 (UTC)
I understand where you're coming from. NPOV make it difficult to use peacock words in an article. We end up using a lot of verbiage to explain whether or not someone was really one of the most important great poets or not. The thing is, readers don't care. A sentence like Some people may think that Gary Snyder was one of the greatest poets, but others think he was among the most influential is just devoid of content. It's much better to stick with the facts, and let the reader decide how great or influential he was. It reads better, and it's more informative. --ESP 05:20, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
ESP wrote on 05:20, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC):
I understand where you're coming from.
Actually, I'm pretty sure you don't. What I'm worried about is a kind of reductionism, a tendency to say what's easy to say (e.g. who did what when) instead of what really needs to be said (why does it matter?). My *guess* is that you've fallen into a philosophic trap: you beleive that it's possible and desireable for an encylopedia to restrict itself to hard-edged, measurable facts; i.e. you have neutrality confused with objectivity.
(This is an understandable error: the world is so full of empty hype and sloppy thinking, I can sympathise with a yearning for simple truth and certainty, but you can overdo these things...)
NPOV make it difficult to use peacock words in an article.
Here's an interesting quotation from Wikipedia:Neutral point of view:
A special case is the expression of aesthetic opinions. Wikipedia articles about art, artists, and other creative topics (e.g., musicians, actors, books, etc.) have tended toward the effusive. This is out of place in an encyclopedia; we might not be able to agree that so-and-so is the greatest guitar player in history. But it is important indeed how some artist or some work has been received by the general public or by prominent experts. Providing an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations or references to notable individuals holding that interpretation, is appropriate. For instance, that Shakespeare is one of the greatest authors of the English language is a bit of knowledge that one should learn from an encyclopedia.
Compare that to this remark you made in a talk page next store:
ESP wrote on 18:19, 5 Mar 2004 (UTC) in Talk: Avoid weasel terms:
What metric do we have for saying which of Tolstoy's novels is "greater"? Why is that encyclopedic, anyways?
So, lacking a metric for greatness, you declare it irrelevant. But this does not actually seem to square with the NPOV discussion... (But could you do me a favor and don't immediately jump into that page and hack it up so that it agrees with you?)
We end up using a lot of verbiage to explain whether or not someone was really one of the most important great poets or not. The thing is, readers don't care.
Oh please. Very often the reader does care.
A sentence like Some people may think that Gary Snyder was one of the greatest poets, but others think he was among the most influential is just devoid of content. It's much better to stick with the facts, and let the reader decide how great or influential he was. It reads better, and it's more informative.
Look back at my "small example" about Gary Snyder being a beat, or a guy associated with the Beats. One is arguably wrong, the other is indisputably a fact. Now you're saying that brevity trumps accuracy?
And as I -- and other people -- have tried to explain, it frequently reads *very* badly to lead off with a bunch of facts without explaining where you're going with the facts. (If you believe it's possible to list facts *without* having any intent behind them, then we're back to the "philosophic error" I was talking about above...) -- Doom 20:11, Jun 21, 2004 (UTC)

A perfect of example distinguishing positive peacocks from offending fowl

Doom, et al, I understand your concerns. Frankly, almost every example you cited, I don't have the slightest problem with. (The example where text is bolded.) Certainly, making a statement about the general concensus of someone or something is not out of line. I don't think David or I are saying otherwise. HERE is an example of what we ARE talking about, and maybe you will see the difference. This is a version of the opening paragraph of The Beatles from around February 2004.

The Beatles are the most influential popular music artists in modern times, ranking alongside with Bach and Beethoven for sheer historical impact, affecting the culture of Britain and America and the postwar baby boom generation, and the entire English-speaking world, especially during the 1960s and early 1970s. Certainly they're the most successful, with global sales reaching past 1.3 billion records sold as of 2004. Their influences on popular culture extended far beyond their roles as recording artists, as they branched out into film and even semi-willingly became spokesmen for their generation. The members of the group were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), all from Liverpool, England. The effect of the Beatles on Western culture (and by extension) on the rest of the world has been immeasurable.

Notice how much more is bolded here than in the examples you gave. Also notice how much more boring, fluffy, and devoid of content it reads. (It has changed somewhat, since then, I should mention.) Revolver 00:27, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I wouldn't say that it seems boring and fluffy exactly, but it doesn't read much like traditional encyclopedia writing either. It's overblown, and needed to be toned down -- much like the Gary Snyder example I was talking about above -- and you're right, the current version has indeed been toned down... but according to the weasel/peacock rules, there's still a lot of stuff in there that's supposed to be avoided. You're supposed to feel guilty for saying that the Beatles was the most influential rock band of the sixties?
My contention is that the problem isn't the weasels or peacocks, the problem is in the attitude of the person doing the writing. Telling someone to fix the symptom rather than the problem is just wrong -- it's like slapping make-up over the measels. (Though actually, I guess the real thing that's bothering me is these two rules don't make any effort at distinguishing between measels and freckles.)
Look at the wording of the current version of the "avoid peacocks" rule: what it literally tells you to do is to launch into a bunch of factual statements that're supposed to imply what you're getting at without actually saying it. My claim is that we shouldn't be encouraging that style: it's really okay to just tell them. -- Doom 07:06, Jul 20, 2004 (UTC)
I agree, this should be an informal style guideline, not an actual policy. How to word a style guideline that aims to discourage the "problem" rather than the "symptom"? It's hard to give clearcut norms that would apply in every case, so in that sense it's a matter of judgment often. But then again, so are most things when it comes to good writing, but that doesn't stop us from making informal guidelines or suggestions.
As for feeling guilty to say they were the most influential rock band of 60s, that's not what the article originally said (I would say what it says now, "among the most influential popular music artists"...even if you disagree, it's hard to say that Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, James Brown, or the Rolling Stones aren't very closeby in the running.) The Bach/Beethoven analogy is a red herring, and the last sentence says nothing. The stuff in the middle is not really so bad. Revolver 21:15, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I would add, even the way it's worded now, it says "avoid peacock terms", not "abolish peacock terms". "But according to the weasel/peacock rules, there's still a lot of stuff in there that's supposed to be avoided." Again, boils down to subject interpretation of peacock. "Among the most influential popular music artists" or "an enormous impact beyond music" or something I wouldn't consider as such. "Ranking with Bach/Beethoven for historical impact", or "The effect of the Beatles on Western culture and the rest of the world has been immeasurable [without some kind of description]" I would. If someone has a problem that guidelines are subject to apply, I'm not sure what to say. That's something inherent about laws or even informal guidelines -- they can't cover all possible cases. Revolver 21:22, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I've repeated this a few times now, but let me try another paraphrase: there are limits to how far the "but it's just a rule of thumb!" defense can be used to cover a dubious rule. If the idea is that anything that can be misused should be avoided, then we've got a general rule to avoid using everything. Even if the idea is to avoid things that are frequently misused, that still covers a huge ground (e.g. statistics).
How to word a style guideline that aims to discourage the "problem" rather than the "symptom"? My answer is that you do it something like this: "Be cautious with compliments and mass attribution". You drop the pretence that you're talking about words, and make it clear that you're discussing attitudes. -- Doom 07:20, Aug 7, 2004 (UTC)

Proposal to consolidate advice on writing better articles

At present there are many articles in the Wikipedia namespace that seek to give guidance on how to write better articles. I propose consolidating these into a much smaller number. On User:Jongarrettuk/Better writing guide I propose how these could be consolidated. The proposal is not to change advice, just to consolidate it. If I have inadvertently moved what you consider to be good advice that is currently in the Wikipedia namespace, please re-add it. I'm hope that the proposal to merge all these articles, in principle, will be welcomed. Of course, it may be preferred to have 2, 3 or 4 inter-connected articles than just one and would welcome advice on how this could be done. (In particular, perhaps all the guidance on layout should be spun off into one consolidated article on layout.) I'm also aware that putting lots of different bits of advice together may throw up anomalies or bits that people now disagree with (including bits that I myself disagree with:) ). I ask for support for the consolidation. Once the consolidation has happened, the advice can be changed in the normal way. Please feel free to improve on the current draft consolidation, but don't remove or add advice that is not currently on the Wikipedia namespace. If all goes well, I'll add a new Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles page on the 19th, though maybe some bits of the new article will need to be phased in over a longer period. I'll also take care to preserve all the archived discussion in one place. jguk 19:39, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

"Gesture words"

I removed the section on "gesture words". A Wikipedia:Avoid gesture words article would probably be the better place for that discussion, rather than buried in the middle of this one. --ESP 13:35, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Another node

I've added my proposed replacement to the style guide Wikipedia:Be cautious with compliments and mass attribution -- Doom 22:49, May 8, 2005 (UTC)


I love this concept! It nicely nails down the number one annoyance I find with articles lately. There ought to be some kind of automatic "peacock filter" applied to all articles about pop stars, alleged "cult" filmmakers, and other celebrities whose articles are mostly the product of slppy fanboy/girls. - Unsigned anon comment from 24.90.94.112 (talk · contribs)

Addition on positive peacocks?

How about adding a section to this article about how to tell the difference between true peacock terms and useful info about a subject's importance? (Ordinarily I'd just be bold and edit such a section in myself, but since this is a controversial Wikipedia guideline I thought I'd test the waters first.) 68.226.239.73 01:39, 12 August 2005 (UTC)

What is the difference? I can't think of a good example of using "important", "the best", "significant". --ESP 18:03, 12 August 2005 (UTC)
Well, there's been a number of examples suggested earlier on this talk page. There's an entire thread entitled "Real articles sporting positive peacocks." Here's a few more examples:
"William Shakespeare...has a reputation as one of the greatest writers in the English language..." (Note also that the subject of Shakespeare's reputation is important enough that it has its own article.)
"Along with Plato, he is often considered to be one of the two 'most influential philosophers in Western thought."
"He is counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century..."
"...generally regarded as one of Europe's most influential thinkers and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. He had a decisive impact on the Romantic and Idealist philosophies of the 19th century, and his work has also been a starting point for 20th century philosophers."
"...is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century." (The Einstein article is a good example of the distinction - contrast this sentence with the third paragraph of its intro, which does strike me as being nothing but peacock despite the fact that it's all true.)
"...Beethoven is widely regarded as one of the greatest of composers. His reputation has inspired—and in many cases intimidated—composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him."
"Many scholars, including Aristotle, considered Sophocles to be the greatest playwright in ancient Greek theatre."
In all of these cases, if you don't know that the information that I bolded, you're lacking significant information about the subject. Look up these topics in any paper encyclopedia and you'll probably find words like "greatest" and "influential" in most or all of them. 68.226.239.73 23:40, 12 August 2005 (UTC)

Proposal to downgrade status of "Avoid peacock terms" in the Style Guide

The "Style Guide" box used on this page states that it was included as part of the Style Guide through editor consensus. However, a glance at this talk page indicates that there has never been anything like a consensus among editors over this page; quite the contrary, in fact. Many, many editors strongly dispute this policy. Therefore, I propose that it be removed from the Style Guide, and placed in a weaker "disputed style polices" section or some such. Kwertii 01:23, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

What the self-described opponents of this guideline seem to be saying that 'absolutely best' is OK if the person really is the best, even if it can't be justified somehow. The problem is that when there isn't a way to justify something, it's sometimes because it's not true. So we have two choices: we allow unsubstantiated claims or we don't. And according to WP:NOR, we don't. That means that instead of "most popular" or "best" we say "$RECORD spent $NUMBER_OF_WEEKS in the top 10", or we say that "$EXPERT said $BAND was the best in $WHATEVER".
This guidelines isn't standalone, it's just a special case of WP:NOR and maybe we should say that here and maybe in WP:NOR as well. Regards, Ben Aveling 06:01, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

APT allows non notable articles?

I also note that it's in direct contrast to various guidelines for deleting articles that make no claim to notability. There's also a slight problem with claiming that the reader will judge whether the ice hockey player, canton or species of beetle is worth the reader's time. I suspect in many cases they aren't, and they are not notable, but are included for completeness. Is it worth in that case actually including the words "An unremarkable ice hockey player who received an NHL ring (or whatever) by being part of the winning team in 1983, although he never played a game." Stevage 17:53, 20 December 2005 (UTC)
Such a player (assuming no other notability) doesn't deserve a page. An entry in the main article about the 1983 whatever is enough, probably more than enough. Using peacock terms about such a player would not make an article about the player any better, or any less deserving of an AFD. It might make an AFD harder to determine, but I don't see that as an argument for allowing peacock terms. Regards, Ben Aveling 06:01, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
Fwiw, I wasn't suggesting using peacock terms in that case - rather the opposite. I was suggesting explicitly downplaying the importance of the subject, lest the reader be misled. Stevage 21:37, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Why "peacock"?

Why is it called "peacock" terms? Where does this concept come from? /skagedal[talk] 11:08, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Presumably phrases like "proud as a peacock". The concept being that peacocks look proud, self-inflated etc. Stevage 13:34, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
A good assumption, I must say. —Eternal Equinox | talk 17:40, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

Style guide

Objections to this style guide on the talk page do not make it a rejected guide.

I'd love to see a formal discussion of the guideline, but until that time, it's incorrect to mark it "rejected". --ESP 23:58, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

I see no consensus for this guideline. See the strawpoll at the top of this page. It's also not being followed to any significant extent. You can mark it whatever you like, but this is clearly not a guideline that has "wide support". Stevage 04:07, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
So what do you propose? Articles should be allowed make claims unsupported by evidence if it makes them sound more significant? Regards, Ben Aveling 21:53, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
Well, the general principle against "instruction creep" suggests that no guideline is better than a bad guideline. So I would propose nothing. :) Stevage 21:35, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Actually, ESP, do you know of a formal process that made this an "official guideline"? Maybe it should never have been in the first place. Stevage 20:10, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Objections

These terms do not help establish the importance of an article. Let the facts speak for themselves. If the ice hockey player, canton, or species of beetle is worth the reader's time, it will come out in the facts. Insisting on its importance clutters the writing and adds nothing.

IMHO, this is totally incorrect. The introduction should establish extremely quickly the notability of the subject. Example of an overly modest intro that obeys this rule: Freddie Mercury "Freddie Mercury (September 5, 1946 – November 24, 1991) was a British Asian singer, pianist and songwriter for the English rock band, Queen." If you weren't familiar with the band, you could be forgiven for thinking we were talking about an un-notable singer for some tiny garage band.Stevage 07:11, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

You're right about that article, it needs some serious fixing and an intro that does what you say. But sprinkling peacock terms through the intro wouldn't be an improvement. It needs a complete rewrite; start with a summary of the man, his talent, his popularity, his controversial nature, then work through all of those things and more. If that sounds a lot harder than just saying "he was the greatest", it is. Regards, Ben Aveling 08:24, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Yes, a complete rewrite would be the solution to most problems. But I argue that sprinkling a few phrases like "exceptional voice", "phenomenal stage presence" and "very successful songwriter" would improve the article as it currently stands. It could be improved further, of course - but these "peacock terms" would be in the short term an improvement, not a detriment. Stevage 21:33, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
I just wanted to point out that the Freddie Mercury example above isn't really valid here. For purposes of determining notability for Wikipedia, notability of the subject is demonstrated by the article as a whole, not just by the introductory paragraph. Freddie Mercury and Queen have many, many albums, awards and historical, verifiable information that can be included in their article, all of which serve to objectively prove Mercury's fame and importance. You can, in fact, simply say he was "lead singer of Queen" in the introduction, then follow that up with a long list of his actual accomplishments, and that would leave the reader just as impressed with his background as if you included the phrase "leader of the famous rock band Queen", etc. No reasonable person is going to read only the first sentence or two of an article and claim the subject is notable/not-notable without reading the rest of the article.
So in reality it's not actually necessary for an article about Queen or Freddie Mercury to literally say he's "groundbreaking" or "famous" or whatever. You can list his actual accomplishments, and thereby demonstrate directly to the reader just how important they are.Dugwiki 22:05, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Page rename

While I support the guideline, I dislike the name. Some suggestions below. Additions and comments welcome. Regards, Ben Aveling 11:37, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

  1. Avoid wank words
  2. Avoid empty claims
  3. Avoid hollow praise
I don't think 'hollow praise' captures it. The first is borderline offensive. Maybe work the word 'vacuous' in there somewhere. Hopefully this will steer the guideline somewhere useful. Instead of saying "Don't use words like 'the greatest'", it should be saying something like "don't use superlatives unless they're justified in the body of the article" or something. Stevage 21:31, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
"Avoid hyperbole" too. -Quiddity 18:24, 10 June 2006 (UTC)


--how about "avoid unnecessary adulation?

Another thing to consider is that this guideline can also cover exagerated negative comments. For example, an article shouldn't normally use phrases like "hideous", "reprehensible", "one of the worst", without proper citation of a reliable source using those words. Just as you shouldn't heap unverified praise on someone, you likewise shouldn't pile unverified scorn.
With that in mind, I agree that "peacock" is misleading, since it implies only positive phrases are a problem. How about calling it "Avoid uncited descriptions"? Meaning that if you're going to call something "one of the worst/greatt", you should have a corresponding citation backing you up. Dugwiki 15:24, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
"Uncited assessments" would seem to describe the idea more accurately. john k 16:48, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
I'm ok with "uncited assessments".Dugwiki 18:41, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

The Duke of Omnium

Because I am a massive dork, I have changed the Duke of Omnium example around so that (aside from the joke reference to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) he has become a plausible 17th century English nobleman. I've put his birth rather earlier, made him a counselor to Charles I instead of James I, changed the war he was a general in to the English Civil War, changed him from a bandleader to a poet, and changed his additional titles to being Proprietor of New Hampshire and Lord High Bailiff of Guernsey and Sark. I also changed him from the 8th duke to the 1st Duke, as duke creation really only got going again under Charles I, and really not until Charles II. I hope this is all acceptable. I found the anachronisms of the previous version distracting. (Now I am half-inclined to write an entire fake biography of this imaginary duke - I imagine he became Marquess of Omnium in 1641, when he became one of the moderate constitutionalist peers who switched over to supporting the king due to the overreach of the Long Parliament. He spent the Interregnum years on his estate, writing poetry and conducting his chemistry experiments, and generally avoided royalist conspiracy. At the Restoration, he was honored with the title of Duke of Omnium, and was given various honorary positions, but didn't participate too actively in the politics of the day...I am an enormous dork, I know. ) john k 13:59, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

Heh ;) --Quiddity·(talk) 18:35, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

Golden Age, Silver Age

I was discussing elsewhere the use of "Golden Age" and "Silver Age" to refer to the Golden Age and Silver Age of Comic Books (and "Platinum" as well). Like most "ages" they're a bit fuzzily defined (depending on who you ask), which was the main point of the discussion... but given that these terms are widely used by comics historians BUT possibly imply a value judgement, would you say they're peacock terms or no? --HKMarks 00:43, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

I'd say

I'd say that you can use them as long as they refer to identifiable time periods and aren't just vague BS. If there really was an era that many people would recognize as being "Golden Age of XXX" instead of just, "A long, long time ago, in a distant land..." Smith Jones 05:35, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Moved from project page

moved from project page by ESP

Except that reputation, how someone is or was considered, someone's 'standing' and its change with time, are interesting in themselves and they are not efficiently communicated simply by listing some facts of a person's life. To someone new to baseball, reciting Babe Ruth's stats does not say as much as a few peacock terms. They are useful aids to orientation in a subject, that is all.RuthieK 13:24, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Peacock template

Can we squeeze a link to {{peacock}} in here somewhere? The Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words page has a link to {{weasel}} in the "Improving weasel-worded statements" section, perhaps we can do something similar? --Lethargy 19:07, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm glad you posted this, and I concur, as I came to this page to look for the template :-) --plange 03:22, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Canonical a peacock term?

In most contexts, is canonical not a term used to describe music which sounds similar to a canon? That's how I've most often heard it used, anyway, and that's the first definition listed at Dictionary.com.[1] -- Cielomobile talk / contribs 00:52, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

It has other meanings depending on the context - see canon. Are you thinking of the "fixed collection of texts" 'canonical' (e.g. Western canon or Biblical canon) or the canon (fiction) usage? I'm most familiar with the fiction usage myself--in that case it's generally not a peacock term. However, describing something as "part of the Western canon" probably could be. --HKMarksTALKCONTRIBS 03:53, 30 September 2006 (UTC)
I think you're mistaking "canon" for "cannon", Cielomobile. --NewtΨΦ 15:42, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

Historical giants & peacocks.

I get the idea behind this policy, along with that of "weasel words". I see what they are meant to accomplish, and I'm glad that there aren't tens of thousands of articles running around pretending to be the most important this or the most influential that. But some topics are genuinely worth the term, and I think that using it truly does impart something.

First of all, Einstein really was one of the most influential and important physicists of all time. The "one of" is crucial, but so is the "most influential and important" part - that's something that I think the vast majority of people in the field, and outside of it, would agree with. Marco Polo genuinely is one of the most famous European explorers of the Far East. And Shō Shōken, even though none of you have heard of him, genuinely was one of the most influential native historians of the Ryūkyū Kingdom.

Secondly, when used discriminately enough, these terms can be extremely important. "Albert Einstein created the theory of relativity, which changed how scientists view the universe." Well, so did a lot of other people; Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, and whoever it was that invented string theory have also to a great extent "changed how scientists view the universe", each in their own ways. This sentence does not sufficiently convey that Einstein was, you know, Einstein.

"William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets, on a variety of subjects" or any variant of that which allows the facts to speak for themselves do not sufficiently convey what the current opening line on his article does: "William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language, as well as one of the greatest in Western literature, and the world's preeminent dramatist." Now, that sentence is almost entirely peacock terms, but it's all completely true, and is essential to imparting the extreme importance of Shakespeare.

Without using peacock terms - where appropriate - it becomes difficult for readers to be sure of the importance or significance of something. Proper scholastic writing uses peacock terms all the time - where appropriate. Now, we all know the Beatles, Einstein, and Shakespeare. But if I gave you Lafcadio Hearn or Edward Said without ever using words like "first to..", "significant", "influential" or "important", how would you, as the stereotypical naive reader, have any idea how crucial these two writers are to their respective fields?

Thanks for letting me share my two cents. Again, I think that having guidelines on these things, and keeping an eye on less responsible editors, are important. But bringing the axe down on all use of "peacock terms" is a mistake. LordAmeth 22:25, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Famous and Infamous and Legendary

Can we add these three terms as "peacock terms"? Any objections? When people use legendary I am never sure if the biography is a fable or if they mean that the person is real and also has fables written about them. --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 19:35, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

we can keep famous and infamous because they tell us something--but yes let's ban "legendary" as too ambiguous. Rjensen 20:36, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
What do they tell? I think "famous" and "infamous" are also empty. They are subjective, its better to say what accomplishments made a person notable. --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 07:15, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree. Everything featured on Wikipedia is "famous" to enough of a degree to warrant an article in the first place. At any rate, it's a kind of pointless word that doesn't help comprehension. Dylan 19:30, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

I would actually argue that a large number of very unexceptional people have Wikipedia pages. However, most of these entries are made up of two or three sentences. Boab 06:24, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Merge into words to aviod

I proposed this by template but it was removed because "(these are distinct pages; no discussion on talk". Here is the discussion on talk. No they are not distinct pages. They both, actually with wessel words three, pages talk about words to avoid. From various reason, but these are still words and constructions to avoid. Actually "legendary" is in both of them. This only proves that having three separate pages will only lead to duplicity. Actually I think that all three pages are too wordy. This is a wikipedia guideline not an essay. Having only one page would make editors to shorten it. Splittin it to three later five, ten pages will only prolong the text.

Actually what made me to propose changes to MOS is my experience with Wikifiing pages. I went to pages with template "Wikify" and tried to improve them. But it is often impossible to say what is the reason of the tag. It only leads you to Category:Wikipedia style guidelines, that has so many pages it is impossible to read them all. Especially when they are changing. I do not expect that even administrators read them all. Can you expect occassional users to read them and follow them? What we need is much shorter MOS, that will contain all important information. There can be essays, but this binding guideline should be much much shorter.

BTW.: I do not really think that all these words should be avoided. For example saying Pele is considered to be greatest footballer of all times cannot be replaced by saying he scored so many goals, win wordl champs, etc. The reason for saying this is that when you ask somebody who is the greatest footballer of all times, he will very likely reply Pele. It does not have anything to do how good he really was, it has more to do with legend about Pele. So carefull with those lists of words to avoid. It is mostly true, but not always. --Jan.Smolik 15:46, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Your suggestion to lump it all together is not acceptable. Each time I want to highlight a weasel word in the text, I use Template:Weasel. Each time I want to point out a peacock term, I use Template:Peacock. Each template refers to a specific page. There is no need to confuse our editors. The difference between weasel words, peacock terms, and other objectionable words is substantial. Keep the pages distinct. --Ghirla -трёп- 11:02, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
As for peacock terms being unavoidable, in an example such as the one cited, there is also the option of quoting respected sources that assert Pele is the greatest. Lawikitejana 21:04, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

"Wikipedians are pretty clever"

"Wikipedians are pretty clever" sounds like a peacock term to me. 71.107.4.235 04:15, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Versions of this in other languages?

I'm curious to know to what extent the non-English Wikipedias have some of these same guidelines; I'd urge that anyone who knows for sure that they do have them, please add the inter-wiki links to the appropriate pages. More than once, for example, I've wanted to be able to point someone to this topic when I have been editing the Spanish-language WP, but I don't know if the topic exists there or what it is called (obviously, I can't just translate it literally into Spanish and expect people to know what I'm talking about). Lawikitejana 20:59, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Weasel v.s. Peacock

"William Peckenridge, 1st Duke of Omnium (1602? - 8 May 1671) is considered, by some people, to be the most important man ever to carry that title." To me, this example of peacock terms looks to be just the same as weasel words. Who are some people? It should be possible to identify which people held this opinion or which poll determined that some protion of a population held the opinion. I would argue that the peacock phrase is "William Peckenridge, 1st Duke of Omnium (1602? - 8 May 1671) is the most important man ever to carry that title." MCG 16:20, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

That is why people say that weasel words should be merged into peacock terms...And I agree. As you have shown, they are both the same, really.71.107.40.194 07:01, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

The concepts are similar, but they're not identical. For example, the unreferenced sentence "William is the most important man to ever carry the title" is an example of a peacock term, because it is asserting high importance without verification. By contrast, the sentence "Some people consider William to be a notable title bearer because (examples given)" is an example of a weasel wording, since you are asserting that "some people" express this opinion without specifying who.
Of course, as I said, the concepts are similar, so merging the articles would probably work too. But I wanted to clarify that there is a slight difference between a peacock term and a weasel word. Dugwiki 18:20, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Template for a specific sentence?

Does a peacock template exist for a specific sentence, akin to the {{fact}} template? Spa toss 23:14, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

There should be a template that we could personalize to include the phrases that we think are peacock terms. A.Z. 20:59, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Great idea! Boab 06:23, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Examples

I think there should be more examples -- as many as possible --, of how to show, not tell things. I added an example about Brazilian economy. I hope other people add other examples. A.Z. 18:14, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

Show, don't tell

This page could be called "Show, don't tell." One advantage is that, while "peacock term" refers to something positive, the page frowns upon any vague word to describe a subject, be it positive or negative. A.Z. 18:27, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

The idea of this page

So the idea of this page is to encourage editors to fill up the lead section of an article with examples which prove someone is important, famous, influential etc, instead of just saying so? Kappa 22:49, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Not only the lead section, but other sections as well. Wikipedia is a source of verifiable information that attempts to be as objective as possible. A.Z. 23:32, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Isn't the lead supposed to be a summary not a list? Kappa 01:03, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
A summary can be a list of things. I think I'm having trouble understanding your question. Perhaps you mean that it would be best to just say "he was important" than to list all things why he was important. Since the lead is an overview, I guess it shouldn't be a comprehensive list: it should, nevertheless, not use vague and subjective terms like "important". It is unverifiable whether something is important or not. We cannot evaluate a list of verifiable information, then take our own conclusions about it, and use a vague word to describe our conclusions in the introduction. This just doesn't help readers. A.Z. 17:56, 15 September 2007 (UTC)
Suppose we had reliable sources for a statement like "famous actor" or "influential musician"? Kappa 09:29, 16 September 2007 (UTC)
That's still a POV. --Agüeybaná 14:53, 16 September 2007 (UTC)
WP:NPOV is over there, but thanks for stalking me. Kappa 19:57, 16 September 2007 (UTC)
In my opinion, there can't exist reliable sources for a statement like "famous actor" or "influential musician" because those phrases simply don't mean the same thing to all people. If they don't mean the same thing to all people, they are of no use to Wikipedia. They can never be used here (unless there's nothing better to use). Wikipedia is supposed to be something that everyone can read and everyone can understand, not something that can have multiple interpretations and certainly not something that anyone in the world can disagree with, and certainly many people will be able to disagree that a given musician is influential. When you say "Musician B said that his work was influenced by that of musician A", this means pretty much the same thing to everyone. This is useful, objective, verifiable information. A.Z. 02:41, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
I've added a comment about when it's okay to mention fame or reputation. This guideline conflicts with policy in that CSD requires an assertion of importance/notability to avoid having an article deleted. Unfortunately these articles sometimes fall into a two-step trap, where someone removes a statement of notability on the theory that simply claiming something is notable is inherently peacock, and then the article gets deleted for not asserting notability. For a new or stub article, sometimes the best way to say someone is famous is to simply say they're famous. That's not POV because being well known is neither an insult nor praise, it is a statement of an objective fact. If a reliable source says that someone is famous, then we can use the usual verifiability rules to see if that statement can be included. As an article fills out over time, one hopes there will be some good details, but even there the introductory section can summarize. This is supported by the history of discussion on this page and by usage on Wikipedia. There was always some discussion about whether "fame" is really a peacock word, and it was added to the list only later. Wikidemo 01:44, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
This page advises to avoid peacock terms, not not to ever use them. Articles evolve, and there's no problem if their first version has a lot of peacock terms. But it won't be a great article until someone removes them. In my opinion, "famous" shouldn't be used in Wikipedia. This word means nothing to me and I, personally, do not ever want to read here that anyone is "famous". I find this would be embarrassing to Wikipedia, but this is just my opinion. If you write that some magazine said they're famous, that's fine. If you write that they sold 50,000,000 albuns, that's fine as well. There are millions of people who could qualify as famous. Some are known in a specific field, some in others. For the information about fame to be meaningful, you'd have to specify to whom they're famous (to people of which country, for instance) and how famous they are to them. Otherwise, Albert Einstein and Zélia Duncan would both qualify as famous, lots of people would qualify as such, rendering that the term means nothing. I hope I haven't been too redundant here. A.Z. 02:41, 20 September 2007 (UTC)
Fame is a real and measurable (if hard to quantify) attribute of some people, institutions, phenomena, and events. It is particularly useful to note that something is famous when talking about local celebrities or iconoclasts, or events in a place's cultural history because public awareness or acceptance is directly related to notability. Just as Paris Hilton is one of a long line of superstars who is nothing without fame or notoriety, so too at a local level are characters like Frank Chu and the World Famous Bushman. Often, the difference between a notable song, novel, store, product, etc., and a non-notable one is simply that the notable one is better liked or more widely known. If that's merely a matter of the Wikipedia editor's taste and cannot be communicated to the reader, sure, that's peacocking. But if a claim of fame or popularity comes from a reliable source, it can be useful. Sure, there may be a million people and things that are famous somewhere in the world. The real issue is that fame is relative to the situation. But so, according to Einstein, is time and gravity and we have articles about those things. The New York Times means something when it calls something famous. If they can sort it out we can too. Wikidemo 15:22, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Closed requested move

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was no move Duja 08:08, 12 October 2007 (UTC)


I believe this page should be moved to Wikipedia:Show, don't tell. Some terms are not "peacock", yet they are vague, and that's what this page frowns upon. A.Z. 04:30, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

Well, speaking of vague, how about Wikipedia:Avoid vague terms instead? ←BenB4 04:43, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
Both concepts are meaningful. I like the idea of Wikipedia:Show, don't tell, but let's keep the present article too. Raymond Arritt 04:47, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
Raymond Arritt, if we had both the peacock page and the "show, don't tell" page, what would be the difference between them? It looks to me that the idea of "Avoid peacock terms" is already included in the notion of "show, don't tell".
Ben, I think that "Avoid vague terms" suggests to people that they remove the terms when they see them. I have seen this happening with "avoid peacock terms". Because of the title, people simply remove the terms, without adding something that explains what the term intended to say, only that neutrally and not vaguely, which is the intention here. Some times, it can be more useful to leave the vague term: if you don't have anything better to replace it with, you could just wait until someone does. A.Z. 04:55, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
WP:PEACOCK would focus on avoiding hype (innovative, exciting, solutions, and so forth) while Wikipedia:Show, don't tell would deal with neutral vagueness. Wikipedia:Show, don't tell suggests taking positive action instead of simply deleting the vague term, which as A.Z. notes is not always advisable. Raymond Arritt 05:05, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
I see. You mean that both pages would deal with vagueness, only that the peacock are non-neutral. In addition to being non-neutral, they are positive. I didn't get why it would be useful to have a page exclusively for non-neutral positive vagueness. I guess it would be logical, if we had it, to have a page for non-neutral negative vagueness. I wouldn't actively oppose having them, but it seems to me that peacock terms (and negative terms) can be dealt with within "Show, don't tell".
When you replaced "large" with "vigorous" on this page, you said "vigorous" was a peacock term. Yet, the example below took positive action. Instead of deleting the word "vigorous", it replaced it with verifiable information about the size of Brazilian economy. A.Z. 05:25, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
Comment: Is the intent truly for people to reword certain inappropriately vague claims to mean what they are intended to say? If so, shouldn't the project page actually say that? Right now it just tells people to not use them, and tag them if they can't fix them. In Wikipedia language, that means "delete." Wikidemo 10:14, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
The page says "They should be especially avoided in the lead section. Let the facts speak for themselves." When there's a term and no facts, one should replace the term with the facts.
There are two examples to illustrate how to do this. The first is the one of William Peckenridge. Instead of saying "William Peckenridge was the most important Duke of Omnium", it's better to say "William Peckenridge was personal counselor to King Charles I, royalist general in the English Civil War, a chemist, poet, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded his family's possessions to include the proprietorship of the Province of New Hampshire and the hereditary Lord High Bailiffship of Guernsey and Sark."
The second example is that of Brazilian economy. Instead of saying that Brazil has a large or vigorous economy, one should say "According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity." Both examples link to the article on Show, don't tell. A.Z. 19:03, 23 September 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose move. This page has always been WP:PEACOCK, and should continue4 to be. If you want to write a more inclusive essay, feel free. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 05:31, 3 October 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The proposed names seem to water down the impact of the name. Vegaswikian 06:27, 3 October 2007 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Major Peacock Issue: Opening Sentences

One of the major issues that I have noticed with a lot of biographical Wikipedia articles involves a tendency to want to overstate the subject’s field of importance. This generally happens in the first sentence. Rather than providing the reader with a concise explanation for why the person is famous in the first place, a LARGE number of article launch into a large list of every minor activity that the person has ever attempted. Let me give you some examples here:

  • “Cheryl Sarkisian LaPierre (better known as Cher)…..is an American singer, actress, songwriter, author and entertainer.”
  • “Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939) is an African-American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress.”
  • “Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie (born August 16, 1958), better known as Madonna, is an American dance-pop singer-songwriter, dancer, record, film producer and actress.”
  • “Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1970) is an American pop and R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, music video director, and actress.”
  • “Sir Michael Phillip "Mick" Jagger (born July 26, 1943) is an English rock musician, actor, songwriter, record and film producer and businessman.”

In many of the above cases, the authors are dishonestly implying that the subjects have made important contributions in fields in which they have actually accomplished very little. For instance, Cher and Tina Turner are not famous for being songwriters; all of their hits were pretty much written by other people. Although they may have written some occasional songs, I think that it is safe to say that they are famous for being singers, not songwriters. Moreover, I see no further evidence for songwriting in either of the articles outside of the opening se.ntence.

Another example from above involves the categorization of Madonna and Tina Turner as “dancers.” Although they may dance in live concerts and may have some talent, this is not why they are famous. I was also not aware that Mariah Carey is a “music video director” or that Mick Jagger is a “businessman.”

I believe that this a serious “peacock” issue that needs to be addressed. I mean, some of these opening sentences sound like grandmas bragging about every activity that their grandson is involved in. That is not what an encycolpedia article is for. Furthermore, this issue is pervasive even in article that have attained Featured Article status. However, it needs to stop if people are expected to take these articles seriously. Boab 06:11, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

Nothing there to indicate dishonesty. If there's an error in a claim over a person's profession or accomplishments it can be corrected by simply asking for sources, and if no sources are there deleting that part of the claim. I don't see what this has to do with peacock words, which are slippery words, usually lauditory, that defy verification. Wikidemo 06:30, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

In fact, these opening sentences have everything to do with the "peacock" issue. The problem here is not dishonesty on a literal level. After all, Tina Turner in fact did write a couple of songs, none of which were hits. Mariah Carey also directed a music video once. Perhaps Mick Jagger directed an episode of “Friends” at one point. These are all true things that could be cited in response to a [citation needed] tag. However, the problem is involves the false implication that Tina Turner is famous BECAUSE she is a songwriter or that Mick Jagger is famous BECAUSE he once directed an episode of “Friends” back in 1999.

The purpose of the opening sentence is to honestly explain to the average person why the person is worthy of an encyclopedia article. Furthermore, keep in mind that an encyclopedia article is designed for people who know nothing about the subject. In other words, think about your grandma. Although we all “know” that Mick Jagger is famous as a singer, the introductory statement may utterly confuse someone like her into thinking that Mick Jagger is a director of great Hollywood classics, for instance. Although this is not a factual error, it is dishonest in the sense that is misleads those readers not familiar with the subject. Boab 00:08, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

My understanding of this guideline is that it addresses the language issue, not the question of notability or verifiability. We have WP:N and WP:V to deal with that, and also WP:LEAD to deal with how to construct the introduction. There's a difficult tension between WP:CSD and WP:PEACOCK because WP:CSD often forces you to say something like "X is the leading Y" - or most influential, first, famous, etc., not because it makes for a good article but because the people trolling the new articles require that assertion of notability and will speedily delete a brand new article if it doesn't contain such a statement. I don't personally have an issue with asking people to state only the primary reason(s) for someone's notability in the lead, but that seems to be the province of WP:LEAD. For example, lots of stars paint. Robert De Niro paints quite well I hear, and Sean Penn perhaps. However, to mirror what you say you would not call De Niro an "American actor and painter." And everyone is an "educator" these days. "X is a world-renowned poet, feminist, speaker, activist, and educator" to which the answer is usually "X is a poet." Wikidemo 01:58, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Hi Wikidemo, I will have to look into some of these other categories that you list as well. My only point here is that a certain phenomenon exists with opening sentences that often gets taken too far. However, you may be correct in saying that this issue is covered with som eother tags. Boab 05:01, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

In fact, I am actually thinking about moving this thing over to WP:LEAD. Boab 05:05, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Is there a list?

Is there a list of peacock-a-mamie articles anywhere? I'd like to take a whack at one or two. Sincerely, GeorgeLouis (talk) 01:31, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Yes, see Category:Articles with peacock terms. -Amatulić (talk) 22:24, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Fallacy?

I don't get it: "The opposite fallacy is to disparage the importance of a topic," (This is in the section headed "Don't hide the important facts.")

What is fallacious, and what is it the opposite of? There should be a fallacy in the preceding paragraph, but I don't see one. Sincerely, GeorgeLouis (talk) 16:26, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

I've plinked away at this a couple of times recently, because I thought the original wording was quite unclear, too. What I think it's trying to say is that "peacock" is relative: saying Joe Don Baker is "the world's biggest box office draw" is {{peacock}} bait, saying the Amazon is "the world's biggest river" is not, even though the same words are used—which I also think is what Wikidemo is getting at below.
But I managed to leave "opposite fallacy" in both times, even though did bug me at some unconscious level. Let me take another whack.
It may be that "peacock terms" is the wrong title for this (I just tried to find some non-WP examples of this phrase, but Google seems to only find WP stuff...), since it's not the terms, but their inappropriate use that is the issue. "Puffery" is the term of art in advertising/marketing.--NapoliRoma (talk) 23:43, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Tie in WP:NPOV

While WP:N is mentioned in the article as this article, WP:NPOV should be as well. I tried to think of an easy way to fit it in but failed. Basically, WP:N covers topics only, while I recommend WP:NPOV as the first and most important policy addressing the all levels of content. Certainly, NPOV isn't the only one, but it deals with importance, weight, and balance which are ultimately how peacock terms need to be addressed. --Ronz (talk) 16:42, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Avriri

HI. may I address you to this article as well? Avriri Cinema Marina T. (talk) 14:56, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Problems with this guideline

I recently added a phrase, "Many if not most peacock terms would be appropriate under some circumstances, if they are true statements and can be sourced.", which I believe to be absolutely true but not reflected in this guideline. However, my addition was reverted. The problem is threefold.

  • First enthusiastic editors have heaped more and more words into this guideline that do not really belong. "Unique" is not a peacock term, for example, nor is "famous." They are simple statements that may or may not be true. Similarly, global, leader, well-known, "the most", and the majority of the other terms on the list have correct uses on Wikipedia.
  • Second, a few people seem to be egged on by this guideline and randomly delete what they consider peacock terms from articles and article leads. One of the more famous examples of late is here.
  • Third, after a claim to notability is removed by an over-eager peacock patroller, the articles are routinely nominated for deletion by notability patrollers, e.g. here.

A more recent example, here. Despite the peacock claim, Quixote Winery is in fact unique among wineries in California for its eclectic architecture and label design. The uniqueness is what makes it notable, and is well supported by the sources.

In addition, the examples are not apt. The first one illustrates a weasel word, not a peacock term. They both illustrate Show, don't tell problems rather than simple word choice problems. Under the circumstances, I think this page needs some attention because as is it does not represent consensus on Wikipedia.

-- Wikidemo (talk) 10:52, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

"Unique" means "one of a kind." If an assertion of uniqueness is true, it should be easy enough to prove (by reliable sources). As for these general guidelines on "peacock terms," well, many editors will not agree with them and can safely ignore them. If these editors err in individual case, then the general Wiki community (or active members of it) will make fixes and get the article on the right track again. In short, it is probably not worth the time to quarrel about what should be in this article. Anything added to it just makes it longer and harder to read. (We also get into the "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" world.) Sincerely, GeorgeLouis (talk) 19:13, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
It is worth my time to shorten and clarify this article. Those who have better things to do need not participate. It is not an isolated case. I have provided two examples that affected me lately, one of which was one of the more notorious incidents on Wikipedia this year and involved the founder of this project. One sees misunderstandings of the peacock guideline every day on WP:AfD. Here are a few other random examples of people misconstruing this guideline as prohibiting the words themselves rather than their improper use: [2][3] [4]. Wikidemo (talk) 21:05, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

re the deleted "You do not have to be great to be notable" sect

Another editor just deleted:

Even relatively unsuccessful subjects can still be notable, though perhaps for less glamorous reasons: the discredited scientists, the bankrupt companies, the backwater cities. Not everything is the best, the most important, or the most influential. There's something to be said for ugly ducklings, too.

A general guide of what is appropriate to include in Wikipedia is accessible at Wikipedia:Notability.

I think the point the writer was making was to counsel contributors that they don't have to inflate an article with peacock terms in order to justify its existence.

I won't revert the delete, but I'd suggest it's not off topic at all, and should be OK to keep in the article.--NapoliRoma (talk) 23:24, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

"legendary" and "top"

It says to watch for "legendary", although the articles on Santa Claus and Dingo use it- are these in the right places? Also, "top" is not always a peacock term. Thylacinus cynocephalus (talk) 01:28, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

Isn't that covered by "Do not hide the important facts" ? Santa Claus is verifiably legendary, and top things that really are top should be called "top".
I'm not quite as clear on dingos being "legendary" -- it seems to be a slightly puffed synonym for "well known" in this case—maybe not enough to flag as peacock, but it really could stand to be edited.--NapoliRoma (talk) 04:32, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

And traditional is sometime is really traditional, see Traditional Chinese characters

Warrington (talk) 16:10, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

Words to watch out for

This could become a vast list if people gave it have a chance. Just on the q's I can think of:

quakiest
quaint
quarrelsome
quintessentially
querulous
queasiest
quick
quirky
quite

Wikidemo (talk) 21:45, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Sorry, but I am not going to avoid them. If I need them, i will use them. Warrington (talk) 19:05, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

"Award-winning"

Quite a lot of articles have in their very first sentence "Foo is an award-winning [film/author/game/etc] ..." I think this term is sufficiently vague as to be useless; it always strikes me as something inserted by a fan who wants us all to know just how great Foo is. The phrase ought to be in the list of "Words and phrases to watch for". Name specific awards. (While you're at it, move it later in the lede than the first sentence.) jnestorius(talk) 00:23, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

Should read 'avoid superlatives'

And that is all. As is, this is a ridiculous "guideline" that nobody should take seriously. 76.178.247.180 (talk) 16:39, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Showing AND telling?

What happens if you "show" AND "tell" it at the same time, instead of showing alone? Ex. modified from the page:

"Brazil's economy is vigorous: according to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, it has the ninth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP)."

170.215.65.87 (talk) 23:22, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

Massacre

There is an extensive discussion going on at Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Israel_Palestine_Collaboration#Massacres about the use of the word "massacre" in politically sensitive articles. "Massacre", along with "atrocity" and a few others, are what I called "vulture" words - like peacock words only gory rather than gaudy.

Since words like this are bandied about in a number of projects dealing with political controversy, we at the Israel-Palestine collab thought it might be a good idea for an overall Wikipedia guideline on the issue.

Anyone out there want to take a look?

Thanks,

--Ravpapa (talk) 04:24, 13 May 2008 (UTC)

A few days later: Well, my call for interest in this subject didn't exactly cause a stampede. Nonetheless, I think this is a really important issue, and I may try my hand at a guideline myself. --Ravpapa (talk) 16:27, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Similar length examples

The concept of the Peacock term is poorly demonstrated by having the 'good' examples being much longer than the 'bad' example. Clearly a longer sentance can have more content than a shorter one, so the fact that the peacock terms convey little information can get lost. Should we perhaps modify the examples so the peacock examples are at least as long or even longer than a concise but informative alternative? -Gomm 04:29, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Requested move

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was no move. JPG-GR (talk) 03:48, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

I often refer to this policy when removing or replacing exaggerated adjectives, but every time i need to explain it in the edit summary or the talk page i feel awkward writing "PEACOCK". I feel that i am being impolite and not assuming good faith. After all, if i apply it to an artist, for example, i usually don't mean to say that the artist is too proud of himself as the word "peacock" implies, or even that the person who wrote the article is too proud of his taste. Most of the time those "peacock terms" are written in good faith.

I suggest renaming this policy page to something less offensive - for example, "Avoid superlatives" or "Avoid exaggerations". Apparently WP:SUPER is already a shortcut to this policy, and it makes a lot of sense to me. I understand that thousand of people are used to saying "peacock", but it's never too late to fix this.

Any other suggestion would be welcome. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 09:21, 23 May 2008 (UTC)

No replies - does it mean that i can move it to "Avoid superlatives"? --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 07:33, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Added a request to Wikipedia:Requested moves. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 07:41, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Oppose - I'll add a vote for preserving original verbiage. Descriptors like "Peacock term", "weasel words", and "scare quotes" have a flavor to them that "superlative", "ambiguity" and such don't. There is an explicit warning to the effect that editors should be prepared to grow a thick skin on every edit page, and "peacock term" is at the very least a memorable way of phrasing it that may stick in a new editor's mind in a way that "superlative" may not.
I should add that I haven't commented before because the header to this talk page pointed to a previous requested move that is long closed, so it didn't immediately hit me that this was a re-opening of the topic. You may want to give it a little more time before you take action, in case anyone else made the same assumption. Thanks, NapoliRoma (talk) 15:05, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
OK, i'm not taking action yet. I do still think that "peacock" is unnecessarily rude. Educating editors to cite sources is important, but it doesn't have to be rude. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 15:11, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
It's more than citing sources. Sources have been known to say the sort of things we deprecate here; there's a book titled Alexander Hamilton, the Greatest American, but that doesn't mean we should say so: we should state what Hamilton did, in relatively neutral language.
I don't see that peacock terms is insulting; they're unpopular here, and they should be, but that is because they are indeed bad for the encyclopedia. Attempting to make a politically correct description of bad or unpleasant things is an infinite and pointless loop; let's not. Use WP:SUPER as a shorthand if you like; I prefer something more vivid and memorable, but a softer approach may work better. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:36, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose move - "peacock term" is an excellent phrase for overselling a topic. "Superlative" can be an objective term as, grammatically, it indicates a comparison among more than two items, such as "longest river" or "shortest man to play in the National Basketball Association." In addition, this is one instance in which sugarcoating a message would, in fact, obscure it. B.Wind (talk) 16:33, 8 June 2008 (UTC)
Oh, and the WP:RM process is incomplete... B.Wind (talk) 16:33, 8 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Why replace a perfectly good term with one that is ambiguous? Vegaswikian (talk) 06:59, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Fictional caracters and literature

“vividly, overwhelming, dramatic, depth, complex, endless, greatest” These are words from the featured article, Hamlet. (!) These peacook terms are missinterpreted in many cases. It should be exeptions and rules with exeptions mentioned. Writing on a fictional caracter, for example. You can not say that the author made the caracter wise, charming, intelligent, with a great sense of humor and so on without a bunch of people jumping all ower you and taging it or cuting it away. Fictional caracters and literature are becoming really strange and dry if you are not allowed to use some atributes, adjectives or epithets. Considering the large amount of discussions on misunderstandings of the peacock guideline it would be a good ideea to mention EXEPTIONS on this topic.

Sincerely

Warrington (talk) 17:23, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

Bot

User:AlexNewArtBot/CleanupSearchResult picks up new articles loaded with undesirable words. Colchicum (talk) 19:58, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

Inline template

Can we get an inline template for peacock phrases? Karpouzi (talk) 14:12, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Merger

I'm proposing to merge this guidelines, with WP:WEASEL and Wikipedia:Avoid statements that will date quickly to avoid forking a guideline on avoiding vague terms into every conceivable vague term type. MBisanz talk 17:14, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Not sure the weasels belong here. Most so-called weasel statements would be fine if properly referenced. It is not the term that is vague, but those making the claim. There have been other propsals to merge it elsewhere. But a short repeat of the key points, with reference, in an "avoid vague terms" would be fine. Johnbod (talk) 17:21, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't approve of this proposal; peacock terms and weasel terms are quite different, and a single long document will not improve newcomers' ability to understand what the expectations are. A series of short, concise articles that address one problem area work best. Warren -talk- 18:25, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
I think this is ill-thought out. Mainly I object because these are well understood guidelines which a lot of experienced editors use as a pointer to style. If we move them they will get eroded by well meaning but insufficiently thoughtful editors and it will be harder to improve poor and inappropriate content. However the ill thought out is because if you do want to merge it no earthly stretch of the imagine could classify peacock language as "vague" ...wasn't there an "avoid unencyclopaedic content" somewhere which is much more appropriate so has that been tinkered to death too? --BozMo talk 19:18, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't think this is a good idea. These pages address three common and quite distinctive problems, which in my experience have very different roots:
  • Peacocking language comes mostly from promotional texts, and is used by people who are not familiar enough with NPOV and encyclopedic, factual writing, especially PR people which see Wikipedia as a marketing tool.
  • Weasel words, on the other hand, are factual on the surface, and are often used by people who are aware of the basic principle of NPOV but try to avoid the attribution part (see the Montreal example), often because they are too lazy to find sources.
  • WP:DATED has not much to do with the first two ("last Thursday" is an entirely precise and neutral term in other contexts), it is addressed at people who simply forget that what they write might still be read a year later.
So, these pages have quite different audiences. Their value is that they explain the corresponding problem concisely (but with enough examples), so they are useful for pointing editors there which are not aware of that problem. If they were merged into a page whose topic in the end would not be much less general than "Wikipedia:Writing better articles", i.e. which is TLDR for most people, they would loose much of that value.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 09:55, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Johnbod, Warren, et al even with HaeB, even though I wouldn't call people using weasel terms lazy. Rather usage of weasel words is a general hazard that transcends motives of laziness and has many reasons. Keeping these specific tags helps identify the problem clearly and adds immediate recognition to the issue at hand. Changing the weasel tag to a more generic term will create confusion. Same goes for the peacock terms. Dr.K. (talk) 23:44, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
  • Ok, I think we can consider the proposal rejected, & remove the tags. Johnbod (talk) 23:04, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Please distinguish "influential" alone and "influential"+reason

I will give an example which should NOT be in Wikipedia: He is one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. BUT what about: His unconventional methods of composing made him one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. Here, the WHY is explained. He was influential, OK, but why? If reasons are given, terms need not necessarily be regarded as peacock terms IMHO. With this composer, it is meant that he did not simply copy the techniques of his colleagues, but went his own way. -andy 92.229.83.141 (talk) 02:11, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

No, that still isn't acceptable, and in fact it's worse. Not only are you having Wikipedia claim that he was influential, but you are having Wikipedia pose yet another opinion ("unconventional") about composing methods. The WP:NPOV policy is therefore violated twice. The point is, Wikipedia must not make claims.
It would be OK if you cited critics and credited them: "Music critics generally agree that his unconventional methods of composing made him one of the most influential composers.(citation)" But compounding a peacock term with yet another adjective doesn't help. ~Amatulić (talk) 19:01, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Negative uses?

What about negative uses of these terms? I've seen it happen. — ThreeDee912(talk/contribs) 03:47, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

And what about negative words used in a corollary context, e.g. describing something as "unpopular" without adequate rationale or verification? Ham Pastrami (talk) 02:12, 20 March 2009 (UTC)

Prosperous

Is "prosperous" peacock term? The word has NPOV concern. One example I found in Goo Kim Fui. Otolemur crassicaudatus (talk) 21:44, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Flower

I always think of the term as using "flowery" text ... what's involved in making wp:flower as one of the links? Ched (talk) 06:56, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

 Done. I went ahead and created the shortcut WP:FLOWERY. It's just a basic redirect. -- OlEnglish (Talk) 19:07, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
Cool, thanks. To be honest, back in January, I don't think I even knew how to create those redirects .. lol. I just happened to notice today when the page showed up on my watchlist, that it had even been considered. Thanks OlEnglish! ;) — Ched :  ?  19:13, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
No prob. :) -- OlEnglish (Talk) 19:17, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Peacock word in out-of-the-way article

There's this, which has been sort of a slow-moving thing for a while. I went for a third opinion, but that editor seemed ignorant of WP:Peacock. If I'm somehow mistaken here, OK, but it seems like the entire purpose here is to introduce a peacock term where it does not help the article. Croctotheface (talk) 01:56, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

Another option might be to ask the editor to cite a source for the term "renowned". Renowned just means the subject is famous, or notable, which it'd have to be in order to have an article in the first place. So it may just be unnecessary wikipuffery or a POV pusher. -- OlEnglish (Talk) 19:15, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
Have you pointed this guideline out either on the article talk page or to the editor's directly? — Ched :  ?  19:17, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
Not yet, I guess I'll wait and see if the editor replies here first. -- OlEnglish (Talk) 19:28, 23 April 2009 (UTC)
I've pointed it out on both the talk page and on his page, yes. Croctotheface (talk) 19:33, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Use in quotations

I suggest that this guideline be amended to make clear that it applies to what Wikipedians themselves write. It should not apply to a direct (verbatim) quotation from a named source or to a paraphrase of the named source's work.

This seems to have been taken for granted in prior threads on this page -- obviously one can quote some notable authority to the effect that Mozart was a great composer, if the quotation will improve the article. Unfortunately, the omission of an express statement to that effect leaves the guideline open to abuse. Here's the current version of a passage from the Tea Party protests article:

On April 14, Steven Leser reported on the liberal website OpEdNews that the domain name "chicagoteaparty.com" was registered during the 2008 presidential campaign by "a right wing radio talk show host ... with ties to several major[peacock term] Republican think tanks".[1] On April 15, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leveled accusations[weasel words] of astroturfing as well, stating: "This initiative is funded by the high end... it's not really a grassroots movement. It's astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class."[2]

  1. ^ Leser, Steven (April 14, 2009). "Tea Parties are a Sham and a Fraud – Part 3". OpEdNews. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  2. ^ Pelosi: This Is Astroturf, Not Grassroots Protest. By Brian Beutler. Talking Points Memo. Posted April 15, 2009.

The word "major" is indeed on the list of peacock terms, but flagging the use of it in a verbatim quotation is clearly wrong. The Tea Parties are a contentious political subject. This section of our article addresses the dispute about whether they were grassroots, "bottom-up" protests or were orchestrated by conservative leaders. I've excerpted the paragraph that presents the charge; the next paragraph presents the response, by reporting attributed statements from conservatives. This is consistent with the NPOV policy, which reads in part: "The policy requires that where multiple or conflicting perspectives exist within a topic each should be presented fairly." It would violate that policy for us to suppress or alter the presentation of one perspective because some editors disliked the style of it. (In any event, in this actual instance the cited source, Steven Leser, went on in his linked article to name the specific think tanks and to give his reasons for calling them "major". For us to include that information would be clutter, because it's too tangential to the Tea Party article, but it's there at the link for the reader who wants it. That's an example of why quotations don't raise the "peacocking" concern.)

The editor who added the tag after "major" is the same one who tagged "accusations" as an alleged weasel word. I personally see absolutely nothing wrong with saying that Pelosi "leveled accusations of astroturfing", but that's a question for a different talk page. I left in that part of the passage for the benefit of editors who conclude, as I do, that these tags are being overused in an effort to downplay certain facts. As we consider how to word this guideline, we must bear in mind how it might be misused. The POV warriors ye shall have always with you.

My specific suggestion is the addition of a new section, headlined "Exception for quotations", and reading as follows:

Do not impose Wikipedia style guidelines on sources that we cite or quote. It is proper to say, "Music critic Ann Bond wrote that Mozart was a great composer," or "Smith said, 'Senator Jones's acceptance of this contribution is a major scandal.'" Such indirect or direct quotations may be useful in presenting important perspectives, especially on contentious subjects, or in summarizing a widely held view.

JamesMLane t c 23:39, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

I'm not so sure about this. Suppose that we have two citations that we are comparing: One is that quotation from Steven Leser, who gives a logical reason why he calls them "major", and another is from a hypothetical alternative media journalists who never does such research and who simply says "Everybody clearly knows and has noted that the parties are a sham" or something like that.
The former citation would be more fit for Wikipedia, wouldn't you think? While we should not impose Wikipedia guidelines onto quotations, we ought to recognize that fact that a quotation that uses research and facts without peacock terms is a better thing to use than a quotation with peacock terms and without research. The Squicks (talk) 00:09, 24 April 2009 (UTC)
Good point, but that's probably a discussion for WT:NPOV or WT:RS. JamesMLane is right, peacock or weasel word inline tags have no business being in direct quotations and the two guidelines should be amended as such. -- OlEnglish (Talk) 03:19, 24 April 2009 (UTC)
Well, if there's a vaild question here to be raised about what is or is not a reliable source given the use of peacock terms- why wouldn't that be mentioned here? The Squicks (talk) 06:27, 24 April 2009 (UTC)
Primary and secondary sources can be as peacocky or not as they wish - they have their own quirks and style guidelines and we have ours. Even the most sterling of news sources use turns of phrase that we would not. Whether in each case that reflects on their reliability, or is quotable, is quite a different issue than whether we should use such terms in Wikipedia's own prose. I just visited wsj.com to take a look and every single lead paragraph on the front page has parts that would be inappropriate here. The first: "Obama has initiated [verb tense problem] what could become [CRYSTAL] the most radical [opinion] shift in U.S. relations with Cuba since the 1959 revolution, making some Cuban-Americans [WHO?] uneasy." The next: "For a Nevada town, rock music blaring from boomboxes [UNENCYCLOPEDIC] has proved...." Etc. Wikidemon (talk) 07:33, 24 April 2009 (UTC)
The use of the peacock terms wouldn't affect whether the Wall Street Journal or the like is considered a reliable source, but it would affect the value of the quotation for any particular article. There will usually be quite a bit of material that meets all our standards (reliable source, verifiability, etc.) -- more material, in fact, than we can include in an encyclopedia article. I agree with The Squicks to the extent of saying that picking and choosing what to include can take account of how informative each item is. That's not a subject that we can try to tackle in this guideline, though. JamesMLane t c 10:19, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

I editted "exceptions for quotiations" to point out that

  • peacock by proxy is not allowed
  • quotation should be a signficant, notable quotation.

eg Muhommad Ali'a self-peacock "I am the greatest" is notable as his catch phrase. I don't think that you can quote your own mother saying "Obama is the best President" and getaway with it, but the original paragraph suggested doing so. I suggest that its pointless to look to quotes to avoid peacocking. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 202.92.40.8 (talk) 05:19, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Removed as it was poorly worded and had no consensus. For example the Beatles article has many quotes from noted critics containing superlatives and peacock terms. --NeilN talk to me 05:41, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Shouldn't we merge this article with WP:AWW?

Weasel words and peacock terms are pretty much the same thing, so why not merge them?--75.18.170.3 (talk) 21:06, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

  • No Merge - Peacock terms, standing alone, are statements that appear to be statements of fact, but without backing. Weasel words make peacock terms appear to be someone's opinion, but without backing. For instance, "Mediawiki is the best wiki" is a peacock term; "Experts agree that Mediawiki is the best wiki", is weasel words cloaking a peacock term; but "Jimbo Wales says that Mediawiki is the best wiki" is an opinion, which is OK if its source is disclosed. That's my opinion, anyway. :) — Ken g6 (talk) 18:37, 12 May 2009 (UTC)
  • No Merge per Ken. Jujutacular talkcontribs 04:07, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Cartoon

I've made a cartoon-like image, File:Peacock terms (PSF).png to illustrate this page the way the weasel words page is illustrated. It seems that the other cartoon was controversial, so I'll let anyone who wants to discuss it for at least a week before I consider adding it to the page. — Ken g6 (talk) 18:03, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

I like it. :) -- OlEnglish (Talk) 08:46, 13 May 2009 (UTC)
I've thumbnailed it with a caption. If anyone has a better one, feel free. just a little insignificant 22:26, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Caption was changed from "This amazing peacock is amazing because he just is" to "This amazing peacock is amazing because he is amazing". I personally prefer the former and believe it to be less ambiguous in illustrating the term. Anyone agree/disagree/have better suggestions? Jujutacular talkcontribs 03:59, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Examples section

This constitutes weasel words, not a peacock term. THE AMERICAN METROSEXUAL 06:02, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Actually it was a mix of both. I took out the weasel wording. -- œ 17:21, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Dukes of Omnium

"William Peckenridge, 1st Duke of Omnium (1602? - May 8, 1671) was personal counselor to King Charles I, royalist general in the English Civil War, a chemist, poet, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded his family's possessions to include the proprietorship of the Province of New Hampshire and the hereditary Lord High Bailiffship of Guernsey and Sark."

Is this person real? I can't seem to find a Wikipedia page on him. If he isn't real, I think we should make it more clear in the article. If he is real... why can't I find a wikipedia page on him? MathEconMajor (talk) 04:40, 19 September 2009 (UTC)

"Exceptional"

Shouldn't the above be added to the list of words to avoid, unless referenced? I'm thinking of the overly used, POV and annoying phrase "exceptional performance" or "exceptional results"? Regards, bigpad (talk) 14:24, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

The problem with 'peacock terms' and 'weasel words'

Peacock terms and weasel words are peacock terms and weasel words in themselves. This is a rather fundamental problem. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 114.78.60.164 (talk) 20:59, 9 November 2009 (UTC)

"Famed"

This word should be added to the list of words to avoid. An IP just went ballistic over my removal of the term here. -- Blanchardb -MeMyEarsMyMouth- timed 17:01, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

is the formulation "Romania is a beautiful land" a peacock term?

is teh formulation "this beautiful land" or "Romania is a beautiful land" a peacock term ? Criztu (talk) 09:16, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

It's stupid to add. It can go anywhere and just looks childish. Better to be neutral and straightforward than some loving twit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 166.135.206.184 (talk) 08:37, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
is it a peacock term or not ? my level is over 9000!!! Criztu (talk) 09:14, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
Yes, although the assignment is not necessarily terribly accurate. In any case, it would be better for the text say "[So & so] describes Romania as a beautiful land.ref" Even better again if that source said other thing as well. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:52, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
Oh, i see, my question is not well put. i read "beautiful" can be a peacock term if it is not used apropriately. so if i say "Slavs also settled in this beautiful land." ending the "Goths, Gepids, Avars, etc. held sway over parts of what is today Romania" i am not bragging about how awesome Romania is, but merely avoiding repeating "Romania" like a robot. Criztu (talk) 20:21, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
If a reliable and reputable source says Romania is beautiful, then the editor can use the same terms. You can be flexible, and improve the language, maybe explaining what in particular is beautiful. No need for robotics. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 21:08, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

perhaps a revisit

Perhaps a revisit to an old issue: if a biography includes the fact that the subject has a PhD, is it peacockery to prefix their name with Dr. or is that just unnecessary redundancy? Naaman Brown (talk) 09:49, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

As a longtime writer and teacher, I must say I've never used the phrase "Peacock Term" to critique writing, and, frankly, I find Wikipedia's use of it to critique it's member's postings, along with a denigrating cartoon, to be questionable and borderline offensive. I'm surprised at the lack of professional respect and collegueality. --James Cihlar (talk) 22:25, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, and the term is a suitable one to tag flowery WP:POV writing, which has no place here. Of course, if someone can come up with other suggestions, please do so. –– Jezhotwells (talk) 00:41, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

John Doe changed to Jonny Doe

Done so because there is a real guitarist named John Doe. --Spiff666 (talk) 19:14, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Consolidation?

Please note that this page has been nominated to be consolidated with the primary Manual of Style page. Please join the discussion at the MOS talk page in order to discus the possibility of merging this page with the MOS. Thank you.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:26, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

Taskforce audit

The point addressed by this page is important, but I think our contributors would be better served if this material were incorporated into WP:Words to avoid, or a revamped Expressions to avoid. I suggest that a section on that page would (a) be the most effective means of conveying the present page's instruction to our contributors and (b) by way of consolidation, help us maintain the quality of the MoS.

I also question the utility and appropriateness of Words and phrases to watch for, which strikes me as one of the more glaring examples of example creep I've ever seen on Wikipedia. We don't want to have our writers double-checking specific words against an effective blacklist. We want them to learn and adopt a general approach to writing on Wikipedia that will steer them away from peacocky expressions to begin with. Similarly, the blacklist suggests to our hard-working gnomes that their time and energy is profitably spent on the elimination of specific words in the article space. But peacockery is often a more complex matter: we want to focus not on specific words, but on arming contributors and copyeditors with a clear, well-articulated philosophy of composition that enables them to most effectively improve previously written material, whatever specific words it employs.—DCGeist (talk) 18:45, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

Why do you "think our contributors would be better served if this material were incorporated into WP:Words to avoid," it can just as well be argued that "I think our contributors would be better served if this if it were kept separate" as each page has a different emphasis: KISS. -- PBS (talk) 03:49, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Multiple styleguide pages (a) make it more difficult for contributors, especially neophytes, to track down helpful information (b) and promote verbose, unfocused, counterproductive "explanations". The fundamental points of this article and of WP:WEASEL can and should be conveyed in about a paragraph each to serve the purposes of a Wikipedia guideline. Anyone who wishes to elaborate on these matters is welcome to write an essay.—DCGeist (talk) 08:28, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

Proposed replacement for this style guide

A proposed replacement for this style guide can be found here Gnevin (talk) 16:10, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

hinted

hinted a peacock word? Regards, SunCreator (talk) 18:49, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

Intention to move out of the MoS category

Unless a good reason can be found, I intend within a day or two to streamline the structure of this part of the MoS by removing this page from it. A new guideline that incorporates the plethora of "words to watch" we currently provide advice on will be launched in public space soon. The draft is here. Tony (talk) 09:44, 13 April 2010 (UTC)