Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia is not a dictionary/Archive 5

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 4 Archive 5 Archive 6

"Wikipedia is not a dictionary"

Just for sake of clarity, what does this mean?

Does it mean: "if an article will amount to nothing more than a dictionary definition, it should not be a Wikipedia article".

OR does it mean: "we can write this article using a meaning of (article topic) which does not agree with the usual dictionary definition."

Thanks, Wanderer57 (talk) 04:51, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

This page means the former. Pages which can not be expanded beyond merely lexical content (that is, meaning, origins and usage of a word or phrase) belong at our sister project, Wiktionary.
The latter is also true but exceedingly rare - and discussed in detail on one of the Manual of Style pages if I remember correctly. Rossami (talk) 05:35, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

Policy change - soft redirects

See discussion at Wikipedia talk:Deletion policy#Allow (some) soft redirects to Wiktionary. I propose to allow some WP:Soft redirects to Wiktionary, such as {{wi}}. --Kubanczyk (talk) 16:00, 9 May 2008 (UTC)


There is a discussion at talk:WINAD about the possibility to turn this page into a disambiguation page with self references. Cenarium (talk) 13:56, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Articles about potentially controversial concepts

There are a number of articles that I have been watching and/or editing for a long while which are about terms/concepts that some writers use and other writers reject. It seems to me that the ambiguity hanging over these articles can keep NPOV disputes running. New antisemitism (a "concept") is the subject of a current mediation. Chav declares that it is "a stereotype" but vandals and good faith newbies often add unsourced material in which the term unproblematically describes a group of people. Byzantine Empire is FA and starts off declaring the subject to be "a term". And now there is a dispute on Terrorism about whether the subject should be described in the lede as having no definition. Does anyone else share my feeling that this is an area of continuing difficulty? Itsmejudith (talk) 12:06, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Proposed addendum

WP:NOTDICDEF states that, "In some cases, a word or phrase itself may be an encyclopedic topic, such as old school, Macedonia (terminology), or truthiness. Articles about the cultural or mathematical significance of individual numbers are also acceptable." However, a comparable statement is missing from WP:DICDEF! This has led to some confusion (e.g., [1] and [2]). Therefore, I think it might be useful to add the following statement, or something like it, beneath these columns:

The above columns largely represent fuzzy sets, distinguished from one another by traits common to the families of encyclopedia and dictionary articles. Some articles do not fall neatly within one set, and some may overlap the two. Some content, then, may be eligible—at least in part—for both Wikipedia and Wiktionary.

What do you think? Cosmic Latte (talk) 11:32, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

I think no. In fact, I've proposed old school for afd and suggested that Macedonia become about the central concept, rather than the word (I think it is about that, but it's not described as that). Wikipedia articles are not about terminology, any article containing only terminology goes in wiktionary. The truthiness article is really about the concept that 'what I feel to be true is necessarily true' and the comedic moment and the reactions in the press to it, it's not really about the term per se although I would certainly forgive anyone for thinking that.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 18:09, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't see how any of that conflicts with my addendum. Of course "any article containing only terminology goes in wiktionary"--my point is simply that there is a grey area (if there weren't one, then this policy wouldn't come up in contentious AfD's in the first place!), and perhaps WP:CON can be reached in individual cases to see where that area lies. This sort of point is already made in WP:NOTDICDEF, so I'm just trying to align it with WP:DICDEF. Cosmic Latte (talk) 08:39, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
We can't really have rules that have deliberately fuzzy edges. There may be fuzziness in the application, but we need rules that are as sharp as we can make them.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 20:16, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
Then do you propose that the "In some cases, a word or phrase itself may be an encyclopedic topic..." clause be eliminated from WP:NOTDICDEF? If not, then I don't understand your objection to making WP:DICDEF more comparable to it. Insofar as there is consensus to have that clause in WP:NOTDICDEF, it makes sense to have a similar one here. Cosmic Latte (talk) 21:26, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
I am considering changing WP:NOTDICDEF, as it does not seem to accurately reflect the more general article here.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 01:46, 27 September 2008 (UTC)
I've changed it to align with this, the more general page. I removed the arguable examples. Unless they've survived an AFD I don't think that some random editor should add articles to policy and declare them 'encyclopedic' by fiat.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 02:21, 27 September 2008 (UTC)
Two of those articles (Macedonia and truthiness) haven't had to survive AFD; they've survived FAC! It is completely appropriate to call them "encyclopedic." Cosmic Latte (talk) 04:34, 27 September 2008 (UTC)
Merely having been FAC at some point in time guarantees nothing at all. Truthiness in my opinion is a single topic and I don't have any problem with it- it's really about a particular comedic theme, it's not simply a term that can be variously applied differently to many different things, there's no way it would get deleted. Macedonia (terminology) is totally different, I think it could quite conceivably not survive an AFD. I don't have any intention of trying right now though.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 05:00, 27 September 2008 (UTC)
I don't think Macedonia (terminology) is a good example of one of our many inappropriate pseudo-dicdefs since it's actually about a very broad usage of a term. It transcends individual languages, cultures, nations, political bounderies, etc, which is far more than can be said for shit. There might possibly be some inappropriate material that should be removed, but it's definitely not just about a word.
Peter Isotalo 16:36, 27 September 2008 (UTC)
Listen to yourself will you?: 'it's actually about a very broad usage of a term'?- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 18:00, 2 October 2008 (UTC)
Whereas dictionaries push synonymous terms into different entries, encyclopedia articles are essentially supposed to be about all the synonyms of a term all piled into one article. They're not about every different usage of a term.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 18:00, 2 October 2008 (UTC)
That's what the Macedonia (terminology) article is. It's the polar opposite of what an encyclopedia is about.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 17:56, 2 October 2008 (UTC)
I again offer truth and justice as things with a bazillion definitions, many of which the articles touch upon. I hope we're not going to argue that a "compendium of knowledge" (to define an encyclopedia) shouldn't even broach the subject of truth, simply because it cannot do so without touching upon multiple definitions. Cosmic Latte (talk) 14:08, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
Truth and justice are defined in different ways, but the definitions overlap considerably. And there's a total difference, because they are trying to define the same thing. I'm not sure at all that Macedonia (terminology) is doing that in any way. It seems to be defining the term in mutually exclusive ways: It's a geography! No, it's a language! No it's a people! No it's a floor polish ;-) They're not defining the same underlying concept. It's just an extended dictionary definition because of that, because the underlying concept is actually different.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:38, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
One problem with encyclopedias is that when you merge synonyms together, there is a saying that there that there are no true synonyms; and this is something that I subscribe to. Terms for largely the same thing differ in usages and shades of meaning, but in an encyclopedia they are covered in one place. It's never entirely easy to know what should and shouldn't go in one article, but Macedonia (terminology) is far, far over my personal line.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:38, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

What about disambig pages?

Do disambig pages also have to follow "Wikipedia is not a dictionary" policy ? For example, see Bunk which a disambig page with wikilinks to various dictionary meanings of bunk. Jay 09:52, 11 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Well, good that this discussion was not archived even after about 5 years! We now do have a Disambiguation page is not a dictionary policy - WP:DAB#Dictionary definitions. Jay (talk) 07:50, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Ongoing problems with this policy

It is becoming clear to me that an article entitled Octopus (word) would likely be kept at AfD if it included enough etymology, historical usage, and popular culture references. Since this policy specifically states that an article about the word "Octopus" (as opposed to an article about the eight-armed mollusk) belongs in Wiktionary, such a "keep" result would be in direct contravention of this policy. Yet I could see it happening given recent and current results of other AfDs.

Something needs to give here.

I suggest that perhaps part of the problem is the focus this policy places on "dictionary definitions". The majority of commentators at most AfDs clearly view "dictionary definition" as something short and limited: "Any of several marine molluscs/mollusks, of the family Octopodidae, having no internal or external protective shell or bone (unlike the nautilus, squid or cuttlefish) and eight arms each covered with suckers." Anything more than that is, in their eyes, not a dictionary definition and therefore not subject to this policy, even if that additional content involves usage notes, etymology, and examples, all of which are necessary parts of useful dictionary entries.

Nearly any attempt to have lengthy articles about words deleted is met with "Keep, notable term" despite notability not being at issue.

Perhaps we should change the focus of the policy; rather than saying "don't include dictionary definitions," perhaps we should say "don't include articles about words except in certain very limited cases." Either that, or change the policy to say "dictionary entries are fine, including definitions, etymology, and usage notes, so long as it's a popular word or an entertaining article," which seems to be the actual consensus around AfD.

Why else would we have separate articles on Flatulance and Fart?

-- Powers T 13:29, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

  • Please see the section Change to Guideline status above which makes much the same points. Colonel Warden (talk) 14:03, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
    • I did, but that discussion stalled a few months ago and I wanted a fresh start. Powers T 14:32, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
  • AFD is unreliable due to the small numbers of editors participating and their uncertain level of knowledge. A possible alternative is to merge the many duplicate articles with synonymous titles. For example, Nucular might be merged with Nuclear. Colonel Warden (talk) 18:57, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
    • Unfortunately, merge proposals get even less attention than AfDs. Powers T 13:32, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
  • It may help to keep a list of AFD discussions in which there seems to be a lack of comprehension of the difference between a topic and the particular word/phrase used to describe it. A fresh example is: Nuked the fridge. Colonel Warden (talk) 11:48, 9 July 2008 (UTC)
  • We have another counter-example to this policy with the article about the word Meh which seems likely to be kept at its latest AFD. Colonel Warden (talk) 09:27, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
No, IMO that's not a counterexample. Look, all articles define at least one word or phrase- the title(!) Meh seems to be acceptable, since it doesn't have multiple meanings. Having multiple meanings would make it clearly non encyclopedic.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 16:06, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Please read the article which starts, Meh is an interjection, an expression of apathy, indifference, boredom. It can also be an adjective, meaning mediocre or boring.. This provides multiple meanings and grammatical usages. It is as dictionary-like as it can be. Colonel Warden (talk) 07:40, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
No, they're entirely synonymous.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 17:02, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Articles about words

Someone has added a section without discussion here:

Sometimes a word itself can be the basis for an encyclopedia article, if the word has been the subject of extensive discussion in reliable sources, other than dictionaries and usage guides. Some words (often ethnic slurs, profanity, and slang) have recognized cultural significance, such that an article can be written that is much more extensive than a dictionary entry. See Truthiness, a featured article, for an example of an article about a word that is not simply a dictionary entry. But note that a mere definition, etymology, and list of usages in popular culture is not enough to constitute an encyclopedia article.

I am reverting this addition since I see no direct discussion here and the addition would make the policy contradictory, complex and confusing. It seems apparent that the policy, as written currently, does not have consensus support and so should be deprecated rather than extended. Colonel Warden (talk) 07:46, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Note that that the guideline text which now appears in the box at the article's head talks of commonsense and the "occasional exception". This seems adequate explanation as to why the guideline is not always followed. Colonel Warden (talk) 07:51, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Change from guideline to policy again

I just noticed that this had been changed by a single editor without changing all the things that refer to it. He also did not have any recent discussion on the talk page, and so it's extremely far from clear that this is consensus position. I'm therefore reverting it pending further community input.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 17:14, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Examples of Wikipedia articles on words

There is a point of discussion regarding the policy that Wikipedia is not a dictionary. Looking at the AfD that Colonel Warden mentions above, I noticed that it mentioned this essay which mentioned the article Thou - a featured article (or dictionary definition, depending on your viewpoint). Curious, I looked for some more dictionary definitions, and found Humbug, Costermonger, Milord, Fête, American (word), No (word), Man (word), A and an, and stopped looking for individual words, and looked instead for categories - Category:English words, Category:Interjections, Category:Words, etc. There are hundreds here: Category:Words and phrases by language - such as Akata, Isibongo, Idle, etc.

The articles I have referenced vary in quality, and not all would survive an AfD - but some would, and they would survive for varying reasons which would challenge the standing policy that we must not have dictionary definitions. It appears that the community would like dictionary definitions on certain words and phrases, including slang words (Ratfucking, Banhammer, Fuck), and that the community will take such dictionary definitions up to featured article status. This appears to be such a widespread disregard of the "Wikipedia is not a dictionary" policy that it has gone beyond IAR into community consensus.

I feel that Colonel Warden may be right in his observation, and that this policy, misunderstood, ignored and unwanted as it is, would be better presented as a community guideline than a standing rule. I would support marking it as a guideline. SilkTork *YES! 01:10, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

I think the problem lies in how this part:

Wikipedia articles should begin with a good definition and description of one topic, however, they should provide other types of information about that topic as well.

is interpreted. My rule of thumb is that if the "other types of information" are compliant with our content rules (i.e., not OR or somesuch) and they fall outside the scope of Wiktionary (i.e., they would not be copied over during a transwiki), then you plainly have something more than a dicdef.
One also has to consider the reasons why we don't want dicdefs, usage guides, and the like on Wikipedia. In my view, the most important reason relates to WP:NOR: "how this word should be used" is advice, aka opinion, aka OR. "How this word has been used" by public figures, cultural works, scholars, or otherwise is not OR. I suspect that WINAD came into being, in the early days of Wikipedia, because the "dicdefs" of those days were actual dictionary entries: definition, usage examples, maybe some etymological info, and nothing supported by sources. (Sourcing only really came into vogue from about 2004 onward.) Being pure OR, those dicdefs plainly did not belong on Wikipedia.
But nowadays, with our emphasis on sources, even if our article about a word has, say, nothing more than a definition, some notes about its historical or contemporary usage, and maybe some etymological info -- as long as that information is sourced and is presented in encyclopedic format, then one can plausibly say that our encyclopedia article about a word is an encyclopedia article about a word, and not a dictionary entry. It doesn't violate any principle of what we're trying to achieve on Wikipedia, and in fact, it serves our goals. So, more often than not, such articles get kept.
Taking a narrow view of Wikipedia, and of WINAD's purpose -- to the extent that "encyclopedic information about words" is thrown out during the transwiki process -- has limited support on Wikipedia, and to my eyes, even less sense. We can have true dicdefs on Wikitionary and highly detailed, well-written, and sourced... shall we say "pseudo-dicdefs" on Wikipedia -- and for any given term we're better for having both a dicdef on Wiktionary and a pseudo-dicdef on Wikipedia that goes beyond what Wiktionary can do.
IMO.--Father Goose (talk) 07:09, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
No, it's never correct to have an encyclopedia article that is centered on a word. That's what dictionaries do, and do it better than the encyclopedia can or would want to. Encyclopedias are always centered on a topic, that could, in the most borderline cases be circumstances surrounding a word being coined for example, but the word itself is not an encyclopedic topic in itself. Or it could be on a single meaning of a word; that's fine, it's centered on one meaning.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:45, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
We have few absolutes on Wikipedia because we tend to find that absolutism can lead to narrow, blinkered thinking. "Never" is an unattractive absolute that suggests a lack of willingness to look for consensus. SilkTork *YES! 18:41, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
This policy is absolutely central to the wikipedia. We cannot remove it without dissolving the wikipedia into the wiktionary. If that's what you're trying to do, then fine, but you need to state that clearly.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:49, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
It is not a core policy. And, as evidenced above, it has been ignored for years to rather positive effect. SilkTork *YES! 18:41, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Actually this is a subarticle of WP:Is not which very definitely is core policy, and the very first content part there says that wikipedia is not a dictionary, and refers to this policy.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:01, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
There are articles that survive AFD that never should have done, where the arguments and policies were not correctly applied. To try to work that backwards and remove policies based on incompetent AFDs is a very, very, very, very bad idea. No policy will ever withstand that.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:49, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
It's worth reflecting on how policies and guidelines come about. We do stuff and talk about the best way of doing it, we make a page / essay of our discussions, we do more stuff and we refer to the page we made earlier of previous discussions to see if the page is helpful. The pages we find the most useful we call a guideline, the guidelines we use the most and agree on most we call policy. Apart from the core policies, every guideline and policy has emerged from doing and discussing. We didn't set up the rules first. The development of this page into policy is a good example: - start - August 2001, a year later August 2002, 2 years later August 2003, 3 years later August 2004, is put in policy category - January 2005, hmmm, "Usage Guide" has recently been added August 2006, differences table first appears, becomes a guideline, back to policy. SilkTork *YES! 18:41, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Just for the record, it was never a guideline. Just because one single user acting alone, with a deceptive edit summary vandalised the policy to make it look like it was a guideline to make a point, doesn't make it not a policy.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 18:54, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
If you want to make a change as fundamental to the wikipedia you would need to raise an RFC on that. Trying to change it by hacking it to say something different based on a few people's comments on a talk page isn't even in the same ballpark as what you would need to do.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 15:51, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
This is often how change occurs. Somebody raises a query. Sometimes the query grows into a movement, sometimes it doesn't. I have taken part in changes to various core guidelines, and it varies. Sometimes somebody just edits the page and nobody reverts it. Other times it takes months of discussion. It depends on the circumstances. SilkTork *YES! 18:41, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I don't think there's a welk in a supernova's chance of this change being made now. You would have to rewrite all the other policies as well; it would be a horrible mess. If you'd have tried this back in 2001 then there might have been a chance, but now? Nah.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 18:54, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I agree, for a couple of divergent reasons.
Now, I'm not very familiar with Wiktionary (have made a few dozen edits, scanned a few help pages, read a few hundred pages over the years (via right-click-search in my browser)), so I took some time to peruse the site again, to refresh myself, and see what has changed.
The main problem I had, and still have, is a lack of examples of what a "featured" Wiktionary equivalent is. (They have a "Word of the day", but it selects based on exotic-ness, not article quality (though that is presumably a factor)) I've now read through more than a dozen help/community pages, and I cannot find any pointers to how an ideal/finished/complete article looks. They don't seem to have an article grading system at all. I would guess that the 5 dictdefs linked on their main page (etymology, wiki, free, English, and dictionnaire) could be considered well-polished.
Their main policies/guidelines, for what they think belongs here, seem to be Wiktionary:What Wiktionary is not and Wiktionary:CFI#Wiktionary is not an encyclopedia. "Care should be taken so that entries do not become encyclopedic in nature; if this happens, such content should be moved to Wikipedia, but the dictionary entry itself should be kept."
Secondly. As Silktork suggests above, we have to take into account the original reasons behind this policy/guideline, in order to fully understand its intent (the spirit in which to interpret it). I would suggest that this policy was originally created to prevent the mass-creation of stub-definition entries at Wikipedia. -- In the good old days, when the links were red and sheep were scared (rambot says "baaa", and creates 30,000 geostubs), there were well-meaning editors who sought to populate those red links with some minimal information - when this was simply etymology and PartofSpeech information, the info was often moved to Wiktionary, and became a softredirect or a redlink again. Othertimes, the info grew into a full encyclopedic article. We must be careful to discern these two types, and treat them correctly and without haste.
Therefore. Any article that is more comprehensive or voluminous or encyclopedic than those Wiktionary pages (or any other example you can find), belong at Wikipedia. The examples and categories listed above are mostly good examples of that. The examples above (and elsewhere here) that are not encyclopedic in nature/size, should be moved to Wiktionary per standard procedure. (Similarly, large quantities of quotations centered on a specific word, are moved from Wiktionary to Wikiquote.)
This policy page tiptoes around that all that (in its current state), but it could be made clearer. I think we need linked examples of what should be kept and what should be moved. That might be sufficient to clear up the lingering confusion? If not, marking it as a guideline would be sensible. (Sorry if any of this explanation is muddled. I wrote half last night, and half just now). -- Quiddity (talk) 19:22, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I don't agree that that is currently what this policy says. The policy says that you are essentially only really allowed to talk about one concept and any very closely allied/overlapping concepts (synonymous concepts) in an article, and you have to define what overall concept you're talking about. The 2001 definition more or less did try to simply imply that dictionaries are short and encyclopedias are long, but I certainly think though that Diderot certainly didn't consider that an encyclopedia article is simply a dictionary article that is made longer. I mean check out this image of Diderot's division of knowledge:[3]; you can see that diderot was trying to divide things up conceptually, not just in terms of words. That the wikipedia is an encyclopedia is not something that you can really change, and we need policy to state what we believe an encyclopedia is or at least how it differs from dictionaries.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 20:27, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Just to give you an idea what you are toying with here. Consider an article like flight. It's about things that go through the air/space. However, flight can also be about running away or the feathers on an arrow. These are not covered in that article! If this was a dictionary, then we would be able to do that. This dispersion of things called flight into different articles is very, very fundamental to how an encyclopedia works.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 20:31, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Again, I think we need specific examples in order to clarify where the confusion is.
  • The Wikipedia articles thou and dude and fuck could not be moved to Wiktionary - they would simply be moved straight back. The Wiktionary articles wikt:thou and wikt:dude and wikt:fuck are what should exist there.
  • Wiktionary has the page wikt:flight, whereas we have flight and flight (military unit) and flight (disambiguation) and the rest (many of which are stubs, but have the potential for development into full encyclopedia articles). We could not simply merge all the content from the wikipedia "flight" stubs to the single Wiktionary "flight" page - they would simply delete it or move it back.
You [hint at] seem to be coming to this discussion with some specific AfDs in your recent past, that you think went wrong. What are the articles that you believe should be moved to Wiktionary? Have you tried copying their content to Wiktionary to see if it fits/lasts? (Wiktionary's smaller userbase makes this more confusing, because it could take months for anyone to notice and object to the new content... however, it's all worth thinking about.)
Coming from the other direction, is anyone in this thread actually a regular Wiktionary contributor? And/Or is this just a Wikipedia-centric eventualism vs immediatism vs inclusionism etc issue? -- Quiddity (talk) 22:26, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Now you seem to be trying to argue that dictionary==wiktionary and that any article will either go in the wiktionary or the wikipedia. The world is not either-or. There are articles that should very probably go in neither place, but simply were popular when AFDd, and kept.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 22:44, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
This policy is 'wikipedia is not a dictionary', not 'wikipedia is not the wiktionary'. The wiktionary is used just as an example of a dictionary.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 22:44, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
FWIW I think thou and dude are perfectly legitimate encyclopedia articles. Fuck is probably not, because it is used in multiple completely distinct ways, but good luck with trying to explain that to people in an AFD(!) I guess fuck is what IAR was intended for ;-)- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 23:05, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
(But you could break up fuck into its different meanings and merge it with other articles as appropriate, and that would be fine.)- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 23:07, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Quiddity's observations are very perceptive. Yes, some clarity and guidance in how to interpret when an article is suitable for Wikipedia via linked examples would be very helpful. Provided the page gives appropriate advice and follows existing consensus the whole question of this page being called a policy or a guideline becomes a mere technicality. I would rather the page were designed to be more useful and kept as a policy than it be downgraded to a guideline because the interpretation is not clear. Clearly the Thou article is an obvious example of what we want on Wikipedia. The question is, how do we word the article so that we give guidance on when to keep Thou and when to reject Textversation. We might need to consider rewriting the The differences between encyclopedia and dictionary articles section. We are now no longer considering the differences between encyclopedia and dictionary articles, we are looking at why certain articles are not acceptable on Wikipedia, and why others are acceptable. I'd like to open up this discussion a bit more via the Centralized discussion template, though I feel we need a clearer description of the aims first. People tend to balk at change, especially to policies, and a common reaction is to say "keep things as they are" if the issues are not clearly explained. What would be useful is if we could have two or three short bullet point reasons why this page needs to be changed, and at least one sensible consideration of why the change would be unhelpful. SilkTork *YES! 10:15, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

It seems to me your test is incorrectly assuming that every concept has two names. That's really not the case; although it may commonly be. A test that only works mostly is of little use. We need a very good test indeed, not just one that works mostly. Is not a dude a concept that just happens to be referred to by the name 'dude'?- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 17:47, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
No, dude represents three concepts - man, dandy and greenhorn. The current content wouldn't work under these other titles because it is the particular word which brings these different topics together in the same article. Colonel Warden (talk) 18:40, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
I think the concept of dude is somewhere between the three really.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:01, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
And my central point is that it's acceptable to have multiple overlapping definitions for an article name, clearly there are overlaps between man and dandy and dandy and greenhorn and greenhorn and man; so even if you use different definitions it doesn't matter that much because they overlap. It's when they don't overlap that the argument that there is dicdef going on seriously starts to kick in.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:01, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
What ought to happen in this case is that the page would serve to disambiguate as between the topics of dandy, man and greenhorn/dude ranch. The main reason this hasn't happened is that some editors want to fill the article with fluff about "doood", Bill and Ted, etc which are just examples of usage and pronunciation, i.e. dictionary material. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Colonel Warden (talkcontribs) 19:12, 18 February 2009
I agree that you could separate them and disambiguate them, and it might be better if you did, but that you don't strictly have to, because they overlap. If there was a definition of a gear wheel as a dude- that shouldn't go there, that would be in another article and would require disambiguation. It's because then it wouldn't be largely synonymous. In encyclopedias synonymous material gets pushed together, in dictionaries they're pushed apart. That's the primary difference.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:49, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
And it's really crucial, because pushing similar things together make them much, much easier to understand and learn, and it gives a place to add more material in. The whole point of encyclopedias is to cover things, and commonality between things is a very powerful form of understanding; perhaps the only form.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:49, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
Dictionaries are OK for looking up words, but inappropriate for learning stuff. Right? And this is mostly why.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:49, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

I have just come upon Category:Etymologies. I think it would be interesting to do as Quiddity suggests above and examine what it is we do and don't want from a Wikipedia article, and how "Wikipedia is not a dictionary" is currently addressing that. Looking back at the talk page it reveals that people have been questioning this "policy" for some time. That indicates, at least, that the policy is not clear, especially when we have a good number of entries that exist apparently in violation of this policy. SilkTork *YES! 18:13, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

Not just exist, but are kept at AFD in violation of this policy. How else to explain why we have an article on Fart separate from the article on Flatulence? The problem is that people see a long entry and say "oh, that's more than a dicdef". (Another part of the problem is that dictionaries contain more than definitions, so the "dicdef" thing is extremely misleading.) Powers T 13:09, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
My god, everybody keeps violating consensus! We'll have to remind the community that what they think takes a back seat to policy.--Father Goose (talk) 18:44, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
Sarcasm doesn't do anyone any good here. If you're just here to write pithy commentary on others' comments, we could do without that. Anyway, I certainly didn't mean to imply that mere words can irrevocably overrule consensus (although there are certainly policies that are inviolable). The point is that there is a clear dichotomy between what this policy says and what people at AfD will keep. That needs to be fixed. Whether that dichotomy arises because of a genuine desire to disregard this policy, or because of a misunderstanding of this policy, or simply because this policy is out of sync with the current consensus on its topic, I don't know. But it must be resolved, because the plain language of this policy is not being applied right now. Powers T 22:39, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
Whenever a policy gets broadly ignored, that to me is an indication that the policy is wrong (i.e., not expressing a consensual position). I tried to make small changes to the policy about a month ago ([4]) to better sync up with the current practices, but that got rejected by a certain editor who shall remain nameless.
I apologize for the sarcasm. I guess I'm just frustrated, like you, by the failure of this policy to match reality. I think that is primarily due to a certain group of editors wanting reality to match the policy -- which has so far made it impossible to fix it.--Father Goose (talk) 01:47, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
You're probably talking about me, and if so I'm in no way offended, but I think that this is one case where there is no real room for compromise. That the wikipedia is an encyclopedia and that an encyclopedia is not a dictionary is not negotiable or a matter for argument. There's also a very big difference between the common sense definition of 'consensus' and what WP:CONSENSUS actually says. The first would soon devolve into wikiality (I've actually seen people try to argue that they can rightfully get together on a talk page and decide what the 'facts' the article shall contain should be independently of references saying completely the opposite and trying to justify it with consensus) the other is about agreeing on how the policy applies in any given situation. They are not the same thing at all.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 02:11, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
It seems that the community as a whole is very interested in keeping any article-about-a-word that is well referenced and contains more than a simple definition -- even if the content is nothing but usage notes and etymology. The typical comment is "Keep. Well-referenced, more than just a dicdef." Is that an expansion of the concept of "encyclopedia" beyond what is normally considered for inclusion? Perhaps so, but there has as of yet been very little support for halting that expansion. The question is, is it a conscious decision among AfD commentators to expand the definition of what an encyclopedia is, or is it a simple misunderstanding of what kind of content can go into a dictionary? Attempts to explain the latter have been fruitless, but the former doesn't seem to be in evidence either. It's very confusing, so I think I'd like to see some broader discussion of this policy. Powers T 12:54, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
Nah. I think it's mostly that people just like articles called fuck and fart and are quite prepared to WP:IAR to that end. I don't see that this is especially harmful, it's fairly harmless fun, provided it doesn't go too far. OTOH going to the polar opposite of completely allowing the expansion of all articles, to allow all and any articles to cover more than one meaning; you would tend to end up with synonymous terms covered in more than one place, and probably incompatibly. It seems to be undesirable, and even if you beefed up the duplication checking you would never know the right place to put anything.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 22:35, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
We already have that situation. For a fresh example of multiple articles about the same topic, please see Misquotation/Quote mining/Fallacy of quoting out of context. For a fresh example of a blatant dicdef, please seeWP:Articles for deletion/Moonbat (2nd nomination). We all seem to agree that this policy is a dead letter and so I shall mark it as disputed. Colonel Warden (talk) 22:55, 27 March 2009 (UTC)
Only in your dreams, vandal.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 00:24, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
None of those are really dicdefs anyway, according to this policy. A real dicdef has two or more antonym or at least distinct definitions. So you've created a fake policy in your head, compared it with a few articles, and then decided that the fake policy doesn't agree with them, and so you think the real policy is flawed.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 01:05, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
A dicdef has to have more than one definition? How absurd. Is this not a dictionary definition? Or this? Powers T 12:39, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
The term dicdef is usually used to mean a dictionary definition in the wikipedia masquerading as an article; so no, neither of those are dicdefs, they are just dictionary definitions in a dictionary.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 14:02, 28 March 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that's an accurate reading of this policy. Whether there's one definition or two, it's still not appropriate in Wikipedia, except in part as part of a larger article on a topic. Powers T 17:13, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with having definitions (e.g. rocket there's one definition of rocket right at the top). All articles have to define what topic they're talking about (See wp:ISNOT and wp:GOODDEF). But if you only have definitions then at best you're a stub and if its a stub then the article should be enlarged.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:48, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
No, it's what you are defining that's the problem. If you have non synonymous definitions of the title, then that's a dicdef. If you have multiple definitions that are synonymous even if they're of different words than the title then that's OK. Geddit? (For example space elevator, beanstalk, space bridge are all the same thing, and in the same article.)- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:48, 31 March 2009 (UTC)
In other words, an encyclopedic article is on ONE topic, that isn't simply the word. If it's on multiple topics that share only the title- dicdef.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 19:48, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia articles on words - edit break

I have little to add that has not been said by others above, but I strongly support this policy. The key point, to my mind, is the distinction that Wikipedia articles are properly about things, not words. An article covers a single thing (object, concept, person, whatever), regardless of what names are used for that thing. A dictionary entry, on the other hand, covers a single word, including all the things to which that word can refer. Words are things too, so it is sometimes appropriate to have an encyclopedia article about a word itself. I'm not sure I can articulate what the criteria for that are, but I know it when I see it. Orange (word) works; Red (word) or Blue (word) probably would not. At the least, to make an encyclopedia article on a word, you have to be able to say something more interesting about the word than would be typical of most words. You can't cover multiple non-overlapping meanings of the word. It works, though, if the word's etymology or usage history is interesting enough. --Srleffler (talk) 02:53, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

  • Orange (word)? That so clearly fails this policy that it makes me laugh. Please compare with Yellow - our article about the colour, which we plan to bring up to FA status. Srleffler's point is that articles about words are ok if the etymology is interesting. The trouble is that the etymology of any word may be of interest. Take the word interest, for example. Why is this used for both intellectual appeal and financial growth? The OED lists eleven shades of meaning for the noun alone and provides this etymology:

So, it seems that Srleffler sees the issue as being one of substance or length. This opinion is directly contrary to what the policy says: "Note that dictionary and encyclopedia articles do not differ simply on grounds of length. A full dictionary article (as opposed to a stub dictionary article, which is simply where Wiktionary articles start from) will contain illustrative quotations for each listed meaning; etymologies; translations; inflections; links to related and derived terms; links to synonyms, antonyms, and homophones; a pronunciation guide in various dialects, including links to sound files; and usage notes; and can be very long indeed. Short dictionary articles are artifacts of paper dictionaries being space-limited. Not all dictionaries are limited by the size of the paper. Wiktionary is not paper either.". In other words, long articles about words belong on Wiktionary, not on Wikipedia. Colonel Warden (talk) 09:02, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

The problem is, wikt:orange#Trivia says "See the Wikipedia article about rhymes for the word “orange”", and I don't think they want that whole section (Orange (word)#Rhyme) moved from here to there.
I don't think Wiktionary's inclusion policies align with your ideas about what should be excluded from Wikipedia (which seems to be what we are discussing, alongside how to interpret this page's policy intent).
Instead of arguing in circles, could you pick a (few) test cases and take them either to Wiktionary for discussion (if you're feeling diligent) or just to AfD (if you're not). Orange (word) or Dude or ...
My only concern is information-loss. As long as some project agrees that they take the information that you reject from here, then the sister-project idea is working. But if Wiktionary does not accept the bulky information that you reject (orange's section on rhyme, for example), then it is simply that the policy here is poorly phrased and needs to be clarified.
(or, to go abstract again, perhaps it means that your personal Wikipedia philosophies (regarding "Encyclopedia standards" and "Notability") are not as widely shared as you suspected!)
Or something. I need more coffee... -- Quiddity (talk) 18:06, 29 March 2009 (UTC)
  • You make a good point about information loss so I took a look at Wiktionary. Its comparable policy is:

Rhymes are included in their content because their main page says, "...and now includes a thesaurus, a rhyme guide, phrase books, language statistics and extensive appendices.". That said, I would have little objection to an article on the topic of Rhymes for orange as this seems to be a notable and distinct topic. What I do still object to is an article upon orange as a word, which is mostly etymology, as this is not our business according to this policy. Either the policy or the article must be mistaken. Colonel Warden (talk) 19:13, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

That seems to account with my intuition: articles where the word is the title are wrong in the same way that articles with the person as the title when it's about an incident that involved them (eg Muhammad al-Durrah). The wrongness lies in encouraging the article to go off on tangents away from the main topic; or at least misleading as to what the topic is. In the case of Orange (word) there is a dicdef section (boot to Wiktionary) and a section on rhyming; had the article focussed on the Rhymes for the word orange topic in the first place it wouldn't have gone wrong like that. Rd232 talk 02:00, 30 March 2009 (UTC)
I make a distinction between the policy, which is what ought to be happening, and what actually happens, which is whatever goes down when consensus occurs. You'd like them to be the same, but in practice, they rarely are, quite the same. In this particular case, an article on the rhyming of orange is a terrible idea for an article. Having that covered at rhyming would be perfectly good, and if that article got too big (and only then), then creating a subarticle of that name would be OK too, although probably should be divided up a different way if possible (like words that have no rhyming. Otherwise, the wikipedias policy is that articles are not about about single words. That would be an article about vagaries of the pronunciation of a single word, and it should be covered in a dictionary.- (User) Wolfkeeper (Talk) 13:12, 30 March 2009 (UTC)