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Extended content

RFC on Sorting of Names with ParticlesEdit

This issue has to do with the sorting of surnames that are preceded by prefixes known as particles, such as de or von. The rules for sorting of surnames are complex and depend on the customs of the nationality. The question is whether names should be sorted based on the national origin of the surname, or the nationality of the person. An example is Luann de Lesseps, an American socialite and reality TV personality, whose surname is that of her French nobleman husband. Should she be alphabetized as: A. de Lesseps, Luann (nationality of person, American) or B. Lesseps, Luann de (national origin of name, French) or C. It depends. If so, specify what it depends on.

Enter your !votes with a brief statement as A or B. Enter any back-and-forth comments in the Threaded Discussion. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:52, 16 September 2019 (UTC) I have updated the RFC to add C. If specifying C, please indicate what it depends on. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:48, 16 September 2019 (UTC)


  • Oppose both A and B. The correct answer is: it depends. If we have evidence that the subject prefers one usage or the other, we should follow that. The two given choices A and B are insufficient, and we should not start making rules for things that would normally fall under editorial judgement per WP:CREEP. So formulating this RFC as a binary choice between which of two new rules we should impose was a bad choice. —David Eppstein (talk) 01:22, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support A, B or C. It is standard practice in the library and archive world to index names by the particle if the name is not native to the country from which the individual comes and without it if it is. So, in this case, as she's American it would be A, but if she was French it would be B. However, this would only apply if it was her birth name. Given it's her married name and her husband, as a Frenchman, would be indexed without the particle, it's a less cut and dried case. -- Necrothesp (talk) 09:09, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support B. Lesseps, Luann de. Since her name is a French name that she still uses post-divorce, given to her by marriage from a French nobleman, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, and the traditional cultural usage as well as historical indexing of the name is to sort by the surname not the particle, I think one would conclude that in this case it should be indexed under Lesseps. I see no reason to index them differently because of nationality. AnAudLife (talk) 17:25, September 16, 2019 ‎(UTC)
  • Support B. The sorting order of names should depend solely on the name, not on any other factor that has nothing to do with the name itself. ~ ToBeFree (talk) 15:59, 17 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support B - The sorting order of names should depend on the national origin and history of the name, not of the person with the name. If related persons in a family have different nationalities, they should still sort together. Robert McClenon (talk) 06:45, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
  • C – it depends. The same name is apt to be indexed differently by language and other cultural considerations. Jan van Leuwen in Amsterdam probably expects to be alphabetized under L, and even most English-language sources would do so (at least formal and academic publishers would, and WP is one). But a Torontonian, Londoner, or San Franciscan named John Van Leuwen (and he probably would capitalize the V) would generally expect alphabetization under V. "Van" is just an opaque name fragment in English, but means (and is parsed as) 'of' in Dutch.  — AReaderOutThatawayt/c 22:44, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
  • C - Make it simple and base it on the same reliable English-language sources that presumably informed the rest of the article. We can spend hours parsing a name's history and details of cultural usage but at the end of the day, if the New York Times (or some other reliable source) uses de Lessup, Luann, then why not go with it? If equally solid, respectable sources use different naming conventions (there's plenty of that) then sort it out on the talk page. Glendoremus (talk) 04:48, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support C, The sorting of names with prefixes varies according to cultural tradition. This case refers to an American television series, and an American person, written in American English. I see no reason not to follow American procedure per WP:MCSTJR, with the proviso that an American name means the name of an American person, regardless of the history of the name, as that is the simplest logical interpretation of WP:MCSTJR. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 05:01, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
  • A it depends on the article language - the description is correct that the rules are complex and depend on the customs of the nationality. The order or capitalizing of nobiliary particles in grammar guide (Chicago Manual of Style et al) or common answers would be hard to describe. (I'll note that I have seen cases such as John le Carre listed under l and under C, and Vanderbilt as a single string is obviously under V, Van Gogh is capital V but not Vincent van Gogh, , Charles de Gaulle is lowercase d, but not Cecil De Mille, and then Martin van Buren and so forth.) But there could at least be a simplification convention for practicality that the usage in a list would dependent on the article language (e.g. in British English) so that the list would consistently follow one set of rules and a name can be found. In the context shown I think that would be to start with the particle and to capitalize it as the first letter: "De Lessups, Luann"; "Le Carre, John"; "De Gaulle, Charles". Cheers Markbassett (talk) 05:39, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support C. Due to the inconsistency between the subject's nationality and that of the first person known to have the surname, sorting Mrs. de Lesseps in a way that is analogous to the way she invokes her name (i.e. de Lesseps, Luann) seems the most appropriate. KyleJoantalk 00:03, 20 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support C. With German names, both options are required, as with French, Dutch, etc. There are names such as von Allmen where the «von» is a necessary part of the name, and there are other cases where it is a detachable nobility prefix, so we need both options. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 07:14, 27 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Support B. Depends on the language of the article: sorting is for the benefit of the reader, who cannot be expected to know the subjects' nationalities nor their various sorting conventions. Besides, I'd look for Richard of York under Y whether or not "of York" is really a surname or not. Batternut (talk) 08:28, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
  • D Sort on the particle for everybody. No exceptions. --Khajidha (talk) 15:45, 1 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Support C. The sorting should be based on the most usual capitalisation of the article in the full combined first and last name. If the article is capitalised, it should be used in sorting, if it is not capitalised it should be ignored in sorting. Advantage of this rule is that no deep digging into origin of name and person is needed, while the used spelling needs to be sourced anyway.−Woodstone (talk) 06:24, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
  • C Follow the sources for the speciifc case, and failing that (if sources are not clear) use editorial judgement. This is to complex for per-defiend rules. DES (talk)DESiegel Contribs 22:46, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

Threaded DiscussionEdit

  • According to this [2] there was a Proton family in New Jersey in 1880 and Protons lifespan has been decreasing recently ("An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your Proton ancestors lived in harsh conditions"). This [3] suggests there are Protons in far-flung India, Australia and Argentina. So this question about particles has more significance than one might think.
Seriously, we've talked about this recently with no resolution:
At that time I passed on someone's suggestion to start alphabetizing with the first uppercased word (i.e. ignore the particle if it's lowercased). We're certainly not going to countenance rules based on someone's nationality -- can you imagine that Arbcom case? (That's assuming we adopt a rule at all -- not convinced yet of that, as I still haven't seen the dispute on multiple articles called for in WP:NONEEDNORULE.)
Of course, in these days of <ctrl>-F I wonder how much this matters anyway. EEng 01:41, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
  • WP:MCSTJR states: Whether or not to include the particle in sorting can be up to the individual's personal preference, traditional cultural usage or the customs of one's nationality, and that American, Australian, Canadian, and English names generally sort on the prefix, regardless of capitalization. What is the correct interpretation of these guidelines? For example, all of the most common surnames in Australia in 2007 originated elsewhere. So, would Australian names in this context be names that originated in Australia, are popular in Australia, or names of Australian nationals? If it is all of the above, then wouldn't the customs of one's nationality encompass traditional cultural usage? Furthermore, regarding this case specifically, according to this New York Times article, the subject states that she prefers to be addressed as Mrs. de Lesseps. I wonder whether that qualifies as a personal preference. KyleJoantalk 01:49, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
  • In WP:MCSTJR it says, “Names with particles or prefixes are a complex field and there are exceptions and inconsistencies.” And then goes on to say, “Whether or not to include the particle in sorting can be up to the individual's personal preference, traditional cultural usage or the customs of one's nationality.” Firstly, we have absolutely no idea how she prefers her name to be alphabetized but we do know that she likes it spoken out loud as “Luann” or Mrs. de Lesseps, which is common, you don’t drop the particle when speaking the name. Secondly, traditional cultural usage is, according to WP:MCSTJR, “Generally, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish names do not include lowercase particles in sorting, but do include uppercase particles.” Example being Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat, who, according to Merriam Webster’s Manual for Writer’s and Editors should be sorted under Lesseps not under the particle de. *Note, Luann’s ex-husband, whose name she bears, is a direct descendant of the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps. Thirdly, Luann de Lesseps is of French, Canadian and Algonquin ancestry and she was born in America, so that brings us to the sorting by “custom of one’s nationality”. So what is the custom of American sorting? There are so many other American references like International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (page 68 & 69 of publication, but page 40 of PDF) and the Merriam Webster’s reference I cited earlier and many others that also support sorting by the surname and not by the particle in American reference and catalogue. I don’t want to clutter this area up with a massive amount of links but I will if asked or if necessary. Let me also add, that indexing members of a family bearing the same name that all have different nationalities not only sounds absurd but extremely complicated, unnecessarily tedious and would open up a world of problems in other cases, which is maybe why most indexing instructional references prefers sorting by traditional cultural usage. How would one know to look up Luann by the particle and her ex-husband by the surname? In this particular case, Luann is listed and mentioned along with several other socialites on the The Real Housewives of New York page so making this determination is important for alphabetization purposes. Lastly, WP:MCSTJR also states, “American, Australian, Canadian, and English names generally sort on the prefix, regardless of capitalization.” Her name is neither American, Australian, Canadian or English, as we’ve already deciphered that it is indeed a French name. What this seems to boil down to is does Wikipedia want to adhere to American cataloging norms and customs and index as Lesseps, Luann de or under a different set of indexing rules yet to be established? AnAudLife (talk) 17:19, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
  • Comment: I am not convinced that we have established that de Lesseps is a "French name". How is "French name" defined in this context? Is du Plessis a French name or a South African name? Most of the people I know with the name are from families which immigrated over a century ago and cannot speak French at all. Is van der Merwe South African or Dutch? At which point does a name become Australian? Are the names that came over with William the Conqueror now English? · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 07:09, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
The name de Lesseps in this particular case: Luann's ex-husband is a direct descendant of the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps (who developed the Suez Canal), can be traced back to France as far back as the 14th century, prior to that some of his ancestors, it is believed, came from Spain, see Wikipedia. Which takes us back to WP:MCSTJR, “Generally, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish names do not include lowercase particles in sorting, but do include uppercase particles.”AnAudLife (talk) 14:01, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
Not quite my point. Does the MOS explain how a name is allocated to a nationality? If it does I have missed it. Two immediately obvious possibilities are that the person with the name is French (either a national of France, or French speaking), or the name has a French origin, which in this case is not disputed. In the case of American and Australian names, the second option is unlikely, as most Australian and American names originated in other countries, including France. For consistency we must consider the possibility that the first option was intended, but it remains unclear. The context of MOS suggests that the first possibility may have been intended, so there is a need to know how a "French name" is defined in this context. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 14:33, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
Exactly. Unless we have data that supports the notion that the first person with the surname de Lesseps had adopted or were given the surname while under French jurisdiction, the exact origin of the name is not and will never be fully known. The reason it’s colloquially known as a “French name” is because the people known as having the name are/were French nationals. KyleJoantalk 21:54, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
@Pbsouthwood: Some would argue that we're all descendants of Adam and Eve who had no surname that anyone knows of. Some could also argue that we all evolved from apes who had no names at all. At some point we have to draw an intelligent conclusion. As I stated previously, de Lesseps can be traced back to France as far back as the 14th century, that is a far cry from the one century you spoke of when referring to people you personally know with a French surname. And since the 14th century is as far back as we can go with this surname, then that should be the accepted origin until we learn otherwise. AnAudLife (talk) 22:59, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
I am clearly not getting my point through, so will try again. I do not think that the origin of the name is what WP:MCSTJR refers to in American, Australian, Canadian, and English names generally sort on the prefix, regardless of capitalization. However, there are discrepancies between different sources on whether to sort on the prefix or not. I think that it is the nationality of the person with the name. I accept that this could be clearer, and it is possible that the intention of the person who wrote the guidance may have differed from my interpretation, but until someone comes up with a reasonably plausible explanation of what constitutes an "American, Australian, Canadian, or English name" other than the name of an American, Australian,Canadian or English national, I consider the name should be sorted on prefix. Whether the first person to bear the name on record was French by nationality or home language, or whether the first instance of the name on record was written in France or elsewhere is to my mind not relevant. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 04:38, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
Okay, obviously there are different interpretations here of the sentence "American, Australian, Canadian, and English names generally sort on the prefix, regardless of capitalization. However, there are discrepancies between different sources on whether to sort on the prefix or not" in WP:MCSTJR. I still believe the intention is to refer to NAMES, it even says names, not meaning the nationality of the individual, but the names. WP:NAMESORT is written in great detail about sorting many different surnames and it covers a lot of name origins; Arabic, Chinese, Icelandic, Nobles, Spanish, French, Jewish, etc., and then it covers American, Australian, Canadian and English in the sentence we're discussing. I can't imagine the nightmare of indexing based upon where someone was born and I sincerely doubt the author meant it that way. Additionally, The New York Times article that is being referenced, is being completely misconstrued. Luann de Lesseps is talking about how on the show she had chastised Bethenny Frankel for introducing her as "Luann" instead of "Mrs. de Lesseps" to a driver. She references it being "a level of respect", she believes it's proper manners to not introduce someone by the first name only (I watched the episode). Both Luann and Alexandre refer to themselves as Mr. or Mrs. de Lesseps, they don't drop the "de" when being introduced or spoken to. This has nothing to do with how she prefers to be indexed and I can't understand why anyone would draw that conclusion from this article. AnAudLife (talk) 05:50, 19 September 2019 (UTC)
"American, Australian, Canadian, and English names" is obviously referring to the names of people from those countries. It is saying that for native English speakers names such as "van der Waals" or "de la Mer" sort under V and D respectively, regardless of how such names would be sorted in the source language. --Khajidha (talk) 03:18, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
PS - the idea of indexing by what language a name derives from is what causes my nightmares. If a person is named "Pierre de la Whatever", then his personal name is "Pierre" and the rest is his surname and would be indexed under "D". That is the only thing that makes sense to me. --Khajidha (talk) 16:22, 23 September 2019 (UTC)

A question regarding fonts...Edit

Over on 2I/Borisov there is a bit of concern that the "I" in that name when used in prose looks like a lower-case "L" in more default sans-serif fonts. It is tried to establist that "2I" stands, effectively, as "second interstellar", but its not a proper abbreviation, just the naming scheme of the IAU. As this is not a proper word, there's lack of context to know what letter that is actually mean to be.

Is there a way to handle this case to make sure the causal reader is not confused here between the upper-case "I" and lower-case "l"? Maybe using "code" or "pre" tags? --Masem (t) 18:14, 27 September 2019 (UTC)

Heck, I thought that was a 1. --Khajidha (talk) 00:19, 28 September 2019 (UTC)
Perhaps it could say in the lead "pronounced 'two eye Borisov'" to make it clear, if that's how it's prononunced. SchreiberBike | ⌨  00:39, 28 September 2019 (UTC)
The similarity, or identity, of glyphs for capital I (eye), lower case l (ell), and numeral 1 (one) is common in many sans serif typefaces. In some sans serif typefaces, capital I (eye) is thicker than lower case l (ell); in some, lower case l (ell) is slightly taller than capital I (eye). These subtle distinctions don't help until a reader discovers them. This ambiguity is one of the good reasons for avoiding sans serif typefaces altogether. On ancient low resolution monitors, serifs displayed poorly, so sans serif typefaces with thick strokes became common in computing.—Finell 22:58, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
Not to mention | (vertical bar). This is one reason why using sans-serif for mathematical formulae is a bad idea. Usually for English prose the ambiguity doesn't matter so much but here it does. —David Eppstein (talk) 23:28, 2 October 2019 (UTC)

Perished vs killedEdit

I got into an argument with Ke an at ther talk page. They created a number of articles on post-WWI Lithanian guerilla groups. They were actually copypasted copyright-protected text from this website, and wherever I found it, I revision-deleted the edits. The argument, however, was about on whether it is ok to write (battle in which 10 fighters) "perished" (see thwe website). It looks to me that this is POV, and the correct formulation is "killed". Ke an does not agree. None of us is a native English speaker. Opinions are appreciated.--Ymblanter (talk) 20:55, 28 September 2019 (UTC)

I'd vote for "died" or (probably more accurately in the case of a battle) "were killed". "Perished" comes close to WP:EUPHEMISM and is not the clearest, most direct solution. Even if you don't agree it's a POV problem or euphemism, it has no advantage over simpler forms. Popcornduff (talk) 21:05, 28 September 2019 (UTC)
I was in a discussion here where most of the participants were of the opinion that even "deceased" was not acceptable, so I'd imagine "perished" would get the same response. Primergrey (talk) 21:49, 28 September 2019 (UTC)
I don't think "perished" has different connotations than "died", it is just a more convoluted and old-fashioned way of saying the same thing. "Died" is simpler and therefore preferable. —David Eppstein (talk) 21:56, 28 September 2019 (UTC)
But does one say - "died in a battle"? I think "perish in a battle" is more abstract than "killed in the battle", since one can die in a war/battle by not being killed - for example one can drown by crossing the river during the battle. What about the war and battle context? -- Ke an (talk) 05:03, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
Yes, one does.Doremo (talk) 05:07, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
Yes, many do. Killed / died/ perished is a stylistic choice and also a matter of emphasis.—Finell 23:21, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
"Perish" is a normal verb used in English to describing dying in a violent or sudden way. I don't think we should be limiting the range of vocabulary available for Wikipedia editors to use in describing events in articles. -- DeFacto (talk). 09:53, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
There are lots of good reasons to avoid certain words. We have an entire words to watch policy for it. Popcornduff (talk) 10:36, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
But the WTA are generally loaded terms, or otherwise biased, POVvy or used to imply or infer another meaning. This word literally means to die in a violent or sudden way. Why would we ban a word meaning that in the context where that is the precise definition required and replace it with a word meaning something more general, or a phrase saying the same thing? 16:11, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
I understand, but in the context of an encyclopaedia, the clearest, most direct, least connotation-loaded word (note how other editors feel the word is "poetic") is usually the best. I'm not proposing an outright ban, just saying it has no advantage for our purposes - just as I make a habit of replacing "utilised" with "used".
"Perish" does have a different shade of meaning from "die", but I consider that an acceptable loss of information. I also wonder how much that distinction really exists today - I didn't know today that there was a difference, and I write for a living. Popcornduff (talk) 16:18, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
I don't consider it part of a normal, neutral register, when used of people dying. It's just a bit too literary, poetic, and liable to sound affected. For occasional use only. William Avery (talk) 10:19, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
May be habit-forming. EEng 11:21, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
Personally "perish" might not be my first choice of word, but I think it is a valid synonym to be used for variety in an article. isaacl (talk) 16:15, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
I perhaps should have noted that "perish" is suitable as a later choice of words when the death was violent, sudden, or otherwise unexpected, or from a gradual emaciation (as per the dictionary meanings). isaacl (talk) 16:43, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
I tend to agree with William Avery that it's the sort of word one would use for artistic variation in prose, and is probably a little too affected for use in an encyclopedia. It's not really a euphemism, but it's still along the lines of being a word one uses to avoid using the plain, straightforward word "die". oknazevad (talk) 16:35, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
Yup. Died or were killed. "Perished" comes in the same category as "passed away" or (when referring to soldiers) "fell". It's just not encyclopaedic. -- Necrothesp (talk) 13:44, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
I am fully in agreement with DeFacto ""Perish" is a normal verb used in English to describing dying in a violent or sudden way. I don't think we should be limiting the range of vocabulary available for Wikipedia editors to use in describing events in articles." --Khajidha (talk) 15:15, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
I think it's better to use "died" ("drowned", "died of hunger", "died of old age") or "were killed" ("were murdered" in certain cases). Encyclopedic text should be as simple as possible and devoid of literary flourishes. For example, we wouldn't write "a tragedy befell his nation", we would write "his country experienced a catastrophe". Similarly, we shouldn't use "perished", "fell", "were slain", "were martyred", etc. — UnladenSwallow (talk) 16:50, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
Gone to see their maker, struck down, bought the farm, went to a better place, met his maker, lost his life, snuffed out, pushing up the daisies, terminated with extreme prejudice. A serious note: martyred is special; it's a technical term (of sorts) and does have its place EEng 11:04, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
You are right. martyred does have its place on Wikipedia as a term used in Christianity and Islam to refer to people giving up their life for their religious beliefs. I referred to its more recent usage in certain Islamic countries and India as a general term to describe battlefield casualties (see [4]), which would not be acceptable on Wikipedia. Also, how could you forget "kicked the bucket"? — UnladenSwallow (talk) 07:29, 3 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm uncomfortable with the use of "martyred" in Wikipedia's voice. I think we need to use careful phrasing with this word to emphasize that we are not saying that so-and-so is a martyr or was martyred, but that that is what their faith community says. --Khajidha (talk) 19:13, 3 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes we have to be careful. I'm just pointing out that martyr is not a mere synonym like the other terms, and that it does have its place. EEng 03:58, 4 October 2019 (UTC)
"Perished" is not the same sort of word as your other examples. In fact, I don't even see "were slain" as being in the same class as the other two. --Khajidha (talk) 20:50, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
Nobody is saying they're not valid English words, but in modern English both terms would be seen as rather "poetic", which is not really encyclopaedic. -- Necrothesp (talk) 10:10, 2 October 2019 (UTC)
If I were going to use perish at all, which is pretty unlikely, I think it would be only for deaths in accidents like fires, shipwrecks, earthquakes etc, not deaths caused by man, whether in battle or murders etc. And only for multiple deaths. Johnbod (talk) 03:35, 4 October 2019 (UTC)

WT:MOSNUM#Ordinals in non-English phrasesEdit

Your feedback is requested at MOSNUM#What to use instead of the ordinal indicator?, regarding non-English use of ordinals. --Izno (talk) 01:01, 3 October 2019 (UTC)

Third Reich vs III Reich?Edit

I was surprised to find many articles using the form "III Reich". I would have thought "Third Reich" should be used per WP:COMMONNAME. A Google search suggests "III Reich" may be the preferred form in Spanish or Italian, but this is the English-language Wikipedia. Muzilon (talk) 03:14, 6 October 2019 (UTC)

I've never come across "III Reich" in English texts. I would suggest just editing it to "Third Reich" whenever you encounter it. --Khajidha (talk) 13:34, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
It's a somewhat old-fashioned way of indicating ordinals. I had a neighbor, an old man from Eastern Europe, who annotated quarterly payment checks "I Q 2019", "II Q 2019" etc. Not something we should be using in articles. EEng 16:36, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
Agreed. It's not an English style to use Roman numerals for ordinals. It is used in some Romance languages, but not English. oknazevad (talk) 17:24, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
Well, obviously it is for regnal numbers and other things, but always I think after the main term, never before. Johnbod (talk) 18:30, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
The only other example that springs to mind is books of the Bible, e.g. I and II Corinthians. Anyway, while I was sleeping... it looks like an editor has changed all the instances of "III Reich" to "Nazi Germany", which I suppose is acceptable. I too had never seen the form "III Reich" in English texts before. Having said that, I've learned there are a few recent books that use that form in their title, although as the authors have French, Spanish, and Polish(?) names, these may be translations. Muzilon (talk) 22:35, 6 October 2019 (UTC)

"III Reich" never seen it in use anywhere. Third Reich is what we should use.Slatersteven (talk) 17:08, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

RFC regarding the scope of RfC regarding italicization of the names of websites in citations and referencesEdit

Pursuant to a request by the closer:

There is a request for comment to definitively determine how widely the RFC Italics of websites in citations and references – request for comment should be applied. Please contribute.

Trappist the monk (talk) 14:16, 6 October 2019 (UTC)

(Withdrawn) RFC on the use of the term "conspiracy theory"Edit

Withdrawn: there is a clear consensus to not discuss this here. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:41, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

(Re-opened with the comment "May we please leave this open a moment or two longer?" on 13:04, 9 October 2019, which is fine with me. Please delete this comment and reclose when it looks like everyone is finished commenting. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:18, 9 October 2019 (UTC))

Should the phrase "conspiracy theory" be broadly defined or narrowly defined? --Guy Macon (talk) 15:46, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

Closing CommentsEdit

To be filled in by an uninvolved and neutral closer. Do not post here.


This RfC excludes any use of Conspiracy theory (legal term), which has a well-defined and specific meaning that is clearly not the same as common usage.


There are two common opinions regarding what we should call a conspiracy theory. Disagreement about which definition to use is usually limited to describing claims made by politicians about their political opponents.

Broad definition

This view holds that any time someone expresses the opinion that a conspiracy exists, we should call it a "conspiracy theory", and that it does not matter whether there is strong evidence of an actual conspiracy or zero evidence of an actual conspiracy. In other words, all theories that there has been a conspiracy are "conspiracy theories".

Narrow definition

This view holds that there is a distinction in connotation between the highly perjoritve term "conspiracy theory" and less negative phrases such as "alleged conspiracy" and that in common usage "conspiracy theory" has a specific meaning of a theory that is considered untrue or outlandish. In other words, not all theories that there has been a conspiracy are "conspiracy theories".


Merriam-Webster definition of conspiracy theory:

"A theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators"[5]

Oxford English Dictionary definition of conspiracy theory:

"The theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; spec. a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event."[6][7]

Wictionary definition of conspiracy theory:

1. A hypothesis alleging that the members of a coordinated group are, and/or were, secretly working together to commit illegal or wrongful actions including attempting to hide the existence of the group and its activities. In notable cases the hypothesis contradicts the mainstream explanation for historical or current events.
2. (dismissive, derogatory) Hypothetical speculation that is commonly considered untrue or outlandish."

Wictionary Usage notes

"The phrase conspiracy theory is sometimes used in an attempt to imply that hypothetical speculation is not worthy of serious consideration, usually with phrasing indicative of dismissal (e.g., "just a conspiracy theory"). However, any particular instance of use is not necessarily pejorative. Some consider it inappropriate to use the phrase "conspiracy theory" in an attempt to dismissively discredit hypothetical speculation in any form."[8]

Wikipedia Conspiracy theory article:

A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable. Conspiracy theories resist falsification and are reinforced by circular reasoning: both evidence against the conspiracy and an absence of evidence for it, are re-interpreted as evidence of its truth, and the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than proof.
Research suggests, on a psychological level, conspiracist ideation—belief in conspiracy theories—can be harmful or pathological, and is highly correlated with psychological projection, as well as with paranoia, which is predicted by the degree of a person's Machiavellianism. Conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media, emerging as a cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries."

Ground RulesEdit

As always with RfCs, the quality of your argument counts more than the support counts. A compelling policy-based argument is worth more than multiple "I like it" / "I hate it" comments.

If this RfC becomes too large, it will be moved to a sub-page and a link left here. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:46, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

Support narrow definition: not all theories that there has been a conspiracy are "conspiracy theories"Edit

An idea that is not described, explicitly, as a conspiracy theory, by reliable independent sources, should not be identified as such
An idea that is described, explicitly, as a conspiracy theory, by a few reliable independent sources, but in a sense that is, by consensus, inconsistent with our definition, should be identified by attribution
An idea that is described, explicitly, as a conspiracy theory, by reliable independent sources, in a sense that is, by consensus, consistent with our definition, should be identified as such in Wiki-voice.
That would seem to be consistent and conservative. Guy (help!) 17:34, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Agree with the above 100%. I would very much like to see any specific arguments that disagree with any of the points "The Other Guy" made above. In my opinion, we should agree on the above as being the answer to the question asked in this RfC. --Guy Macon (talk)
  • I am concerned that people are arguing based on recent events. Keep in mind that there is history here... the “narrow definition” has been used in the past to argue that (for example) various 9/11 conspiracy theories are not actually conspiracy theories, or that the “birther” claims were not a conspiracy theory. Blueboar (talk) 00:17, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • One question about the above is: what should we say when lots of RS describe something as a conspiracy theory, but it isn't consistent with our definition? Another question: are we to determine by consensus whether our definition applies? That involves determining what a probable explanation is, and that looks to be extremely controversial in many cases, and a little OR-ish. It seems to me that a simpler view is this: if something is explicitly called a CT by lots of (non-opinion) RS, we call it that in wiki-voice irrespective of our definition. If few (non-opinion) RS call it that, but some do, then we describe the theory without using 'CS' but we then note that a few sources call it a CS. If only notable opinion sources call it that, and those opinions are due, then we attribute. And if no RS calls it CT explicitly, then we don't call it that at all, even if it is a baseless allegation of conspiracy, and even if it fits our definition. Shinealittlelight (talk) 00:24, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I agree with Shinealittlelight here. The generous usage of "conspiracy theory" can be potentially libelous for the people involved, so we should be very careful. feminist (talk) 02:33, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • We should define it narrowly because the appropriate sources do. A conspiracy theory does not simply allege that a conspiracy exists; of course conspiracies exist. A conspiracy theory is much more than that. Conspiracy theory used to have a detailed lead, but I see it has been changed. The lack of falsifiability is important. The lead used to say:
    • "A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy without warrant, generally one involving an illegal or harmful act supposedly carried out by government or other powerful actors. Conspiracy theories often produce hypotheses that contradict the prevailing understanding of history or simple facts. The term tends to be a derogatory one.
      "According to the political scientist Michael Barkun, conspiracy theories rely on the view that the universe is governed by design, and embody three principles: nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected.[1] Another common feature is that conspiracy theories evolve to incorporate whatever evidence exists against them, so that they become, as Barkun writes, a closed system that is unfalsifiable and therefore 'a matter of faith rather than proof'."[2][3]
  1. ^ Barkun, Michael (2003). A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 3–4.
  2. ^ Barkun 2003, p. 7.
  3. ^ Barkun, Michael (2011). Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security Since 9/11. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 10.
SarahSV (talk) 18:28, 8 October 2019 (UTC)

Support broad definition: all theories that there has been a conspiracy are "conspiracy theories"Edit

  • I would suggest to follow other tertiary sources. For example, the definitions by Merriam-Webster, Oxford English Dictionary, and Wictionary are actually all good because they define it broadly. But the definition in the current version of our page Conspiracy theory is not good, simply because it tends to interpret it only in one specific meaning, i.e. the explicitly negative connotation. One should simply follow other tertiary sources. My very best wishes (talk) 21:42, 7 October 2019 (UTC)

Other (be specific)Edit

  • This RFC is way out of scope for MOS. Honestly I'm really sick and tired of people throwing up RfCs out of the blue without bouncing ideas off of at least a few other editors about what it should cover and how to word it, where to post it, etc. EEng 16:22, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Please don't complain that an RfC is misplaced without suggesting where it should be posted. Also, where would you suggest that bouncing ideas off of at least a few other editors should occur? I already know what the consensus is on specific pages where either Team Read or Team Blue accuses the other team of engaging in a conspiracy, but there is little constancy among those local consensuses. Thus my desire to ask for consensus across all pages at a central location. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:51, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Since you are requesting that we alter WP:V, WP:RS and WP:OR to allow (or even require) original research, and to carve out a category under which we would ignore what the sources say, you would need to place it on one of those pages. --Aquillion (talk) 19:26, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • We go with what RS call it. If an RS does not call it a conspiracy theory neither can we, what one man thinks is a lack of decent evidence another man thinks is damning evidence. We are not here to create ideas, but to report them.Slatersteven (talk) 17:02, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    That sounds like the narrow interpretation above. Could you explain how it differs? --Guy Macon (talk) 23:51, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    To be clear, by "narrow interpretation" you mean we should go by what the sources say, with no second-guessing over whether they're using the term correctly or "broadly / narrowly" or whatever? Because that is not what I got from the above, and if that's what you meant (ie. "always go by the terms used in the sources") this RFC needs to be revised. My reading is that this RFC says the precise opposite, ie. it seeks to carve out an exception under which we would ignore the sources by defining them as using it "incorrectly" or "broadly." --Aquillion (talk) 20:03, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • FWIW, this seems to be a rehash of the issues raised in the months-long discussion at Talk:Conspiracy_theory#Lead_(RfC). Why would we define the phrase "conspiracy theory" in various articles differently from how it's defined in the conspiracy theory article? - LuckyLouie (talk) 17:14, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
Thats why, we did not agree on what it meant. Added to which is that this has been discussed at multiple pages with much the same result. Partly because some people see "not a lot of evidence" as "no evidence" or "no evidence has been produced" as "no evidence". The issue is in fact not MOS by wp:v.Slatersteven (talk) 17:21, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
Please don't complain that an RfC is misplaced without suggesting where it should be posted. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:51, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
Never seen that argument before when people have said an RFC is not really appropriate. As I said this is a verifiable issue (based upon once incident), so I guess that is where this should be. The forum about what it is.Slatersteven (talk) 08:33, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I would agree that we should follow RS. However, there is a dispute about what counts as following RS. For example, if a news report says that someone alleges a conspiracy, and that their allegation is baseless, can that news report be used as a source for the claim that the allegation was a conspiracy theory? I'd say no: we should follow RS narrowly for the use of the actual term 'conspiracy theory'. And if relatively few sources describe it that way, we should not cherry pick, but instead assign appropriate weight accordingly. Shinealittlelight (talk) 17:20, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • This isn't a legal dictionary or contract. Huge numbers of words and phrases have legal definitions -- and they vary by jurisdiction. We use what RS use. And, this is an end run around discussions at Spygate_(conspiracy_theory) that keep repeating because some editors don't like the consensus. Further, the RfC is poorly stated. There is a huge middle ground between the broad and narrow options. O3000 (talk) 17:49, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    The spygate discussion only concerns whether it is a conspiracy theory when Team Red does it. I strongly suspect that a discussion on a page where Team Blue does it would be significantly different. Thus I am asking a general question about the use of conspiracy theory on both kinds of pages. The spygate discussion appears to be settling in on a narrow definition -- only call it a conspiracy theory when multiple high quality sources call it that. The problem is that the discussion only settled in on the narrow definition after editors produced multiple high quality sources calling it that. Before the sources were produced, there was a significant number of editors who wanted to call it a conspiracy theory without multiple high quality sources calling it that. --Guy Macon (talk) 23:51, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
The definition of "broad" and "narrow" you are using here (ie. use it when reliable sources do) does not reflect the ones you used at the top of this RFC, nor does it reflect any part of my reading of the discussion that led you to this point - are you conceding that when multiple high-quality sources call something a "conspiracy theory", we should reflect that, and that trying to analyze whether they're correct to do so by arguing over the meaning of the term is WP:OR? Because that seems to go against the RFC's main question. By my reading of that past discussion, many said that it was called such by high-quality sources; others disagreed, and were only convinced when they were produced. This RFC, on the other hand, reads like you are trying to impose a personal opinion about conspiracy theories and how to categorize them on Wikipedia policy, and require that we question and categorize sources based on your opinion in that respect (ie. you want us to ask "is this source using the words 'conspiracy theory' correctly, with the requirement to ignore WP:V / WP:RS and skip that source if an editor feels they're not using it correctly.) If you simply feel that high-quality sources should be needed to use terms like conspiracy theory, then you are surely aware that policy already requires that for WP:EXCEPTIONAL claims - your confused definitions and the obstuse semantics of this RFC aren't helpful in that regard. --Aquillion (talk) 19:42, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • This is a content dispute and not a style dispute. Per EEng, it is misplaced here. Determinations such as the one this RFC seeks to make should not be included in the MOS. —David Eppstein (talk) 18:20, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Please don't complain that an RfC is misplaced without suggesting where it should be posted. What do you suggest should be done if something you think is a content dispute applies to multiple pages? The normal answer is "post an RfC in a central location", but which central location are you suggesting? --Guy Macon (talk) 23:51, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    WP:FRINGEN comes to mind. —David Eppstein (talk) 23:53, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    This discussion has been cross-posted there so I don't see the concern. feminist (talk) 02:29, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    The concern is that Wikipedia (and its MOS) are not dictionaries and that adding definitions of specific terms threatens to creep it into one. The other similar MOS-definitions that Guy lists below should be removed, not augmented by more of this cruft. —David Eppstein (talk) 06:03, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    That policy states that Wikipedia should not have articles that define how words are used off-wiki. It says nothing about having policy that defines how Wikipedia uses words itself. Those sections might better reside outside of MoS, but they need to be somewhere in our PAGs. Consistency in the use of certain key words is actually a Good Thing as a matter of policy – and in my view that includes "conspiracy theory". ―Mandruss  06:32, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    Editors concerned about creep might devote some of their time to getting rid of PAGs that are obsolete because few editors pay any attention to them. ―Mandruss  06:50, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Since when RfCs are used to define what a term means? This is not Wiktionary, this is Wikipedia. Are you proposing a rule? E.g. "the term 'conspiracy theory' is non-neutral and should not be used in such and such situations". If yes, then this discussion should happen on Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view and should be tagged with {{rfc|policy}}. It certainly should not be discussed on this page. — UnladenSwallow (talk) 00:52, 8 October 2019 (UTC) Update: I stand corrected. § Contentious labels clearly discusses loaded language. My apologies to Guy Macon. It would be better, though, if the RfC was titled "Should we add the term 'conspiracy theory' to the 'Contentious labels' section?" or something like that. — UnladenSwallow (talk) 11:21, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Re: "Since when RfCs are used to define what a term means?", the MOS sections telling us what the words cult, racist, sexist, terrorist, freedom fighter, and perversion mean were arrived at through the normal process of consensus, which includes RfCs when editors cannot reach an agreement. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:57, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose and Invalid RFC per the comments above. Whether we call something a conspiracy theory or not must be exclusively based on how it's termed in the sources; this RFC, which would essentially mandate WP:OR, is not valid and cannot produce an implementable result as written. Also note that this RFC follows immediately on the heels of a much longer discussion that clearly failed to reach the consensus that the creator hoped, meaning that this is also WP:FORUMSHOPing. --Aquillion (talk) 19:22, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    @Aquillion: I take it that you oppose WP:CLAIM and say that articles should use the word "claim" when sources do so? If not, what's the difference? ―Mandruss  19:34, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    We should and do use the word "claim" when a source does; the omission from that particular paragraph is an error that doesn't reflect current policy or practice. Most of the Words to Watch sections, however (especially ones for comparable terms to this, which are sometimes controversial but also sometimes required to accurately reflect a source) are properly-worded in that regard, eg. such terms are best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject or views that are properly attributed to a reliable source may use similar expressions, if they accurately represent the opinions of the source. The stridently aggressive wording of this poorly-formed RFC allows for no such leeway (and, based on the discussion it is WP:FORUMSHOPing for, it was plainly intended to allow no such leeway.) In fact, by my reading, it would specifically and unambiguously instruct editors to ignore high-quality sources describing something as a conspiracy theory and would "carve out" an exception under which we cannot call something a conspiracy theory regardless of the level, quality, and preponderance of sources if, based on the research editors put into validating that description, it doesn't meet the personal "narrow" definition of a conspiracy theory expressed here. That puts it in a head-on collision with WP:V and WP:RS (as well as WP:FRINGE, which requires that we describe fringe theories as such.) --Aquillion (talk) 19:38, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Oppose any "definition": this is a content issue, not a style issue, and as such the terms we use should be determined by what published sources support. The basic question here flies in the face of WP:V, WP:NPOV, & WP:NOR; Wikipedia doesn't define any terms or pre-emptively decide how topics should be described. Any specific topic disputes should be handled on a case-by-case basis. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 05:19, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
This should be decided on a case-by-case-basis but due to the unclarity of the term "conspiracy theory" we should almost always provide attribution. Bus stop (talk) 05:44, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
That's debatable, but "should we use attribution with this term?" and "should we define this term thusly?" are not the same question. —Sangdeboeuf (talk) 06:36, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
They are not the same question. That is correct. But why not just use attribution most of the time, in relation to the term "conspiracy theory"? I understand that the question being addressed is "Should the phrase "conspiracy theory" be broadly defined or narrowly defined?" However it is defined—why not err on the side of using attribution? Additionally I disagree "this is a content issue, not a style issue". Compartmentalized thinking can be an impediment to addressing underlying questions. And "style" can have bearing on "content". There is universal agreement in this thread that "conspiracy theory" can have a variety of meanings. The reader is disadvantaged as to the meaning of "conspiracy theory" when the source of the usage of that term is relegated to a citation. Attribution addresses this problem by making the origin of an inherently unclear term more obvious. In general, although of course with some exceptions, we shouldn't use the term "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia's voice. Bus stop (talk) 13:03, 9 October 2019 (UTC)

Threaded DiscussionEdit

  • Should the RFC specify "excluding the case of Conspiracy theory (legal term)? Schazjmd (talk) 16:00, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Good catch. Done. --Guy Macon (talk) 16:49, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • As I say this is a verification issue, not an MOS one. All that will occur is the same arguments we be hashed out here as in (I think) at least two other forums. I move this is closed.Slatersteven (talk) 17:22, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Please don't complain that an RfC is misplaced without suggesting where it should be posted. When the same issue is being hashed out on multiple article talk pages with wildly different results depending on whether it is Team Blue or Team Red being accused of spreading conspiracy theories, an RfC at a central location is appropriate. If you don't think this is the correct central location for such an RfC, please specify where you think the correct central location is. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
The clue might be in my use of the word verification, we have both a policy and policy noticeboard about that.Slatersteven (talk) 08:35, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
WP:FT/N or the talk page for WP:FRINGE would also be appropriate, since this RFC seeks to carve out an exception under which fringe theories cannot be called such if editors disagree with the way the sources are using the term. That seems far more alarming as a WP:FRINGE issue than as a WP:MOS issue, which makes the discussion's placement here a bit baffling. --Aquillion (talk) 20:10, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Some examples that might be helpful to think about. First, here is an AP report talking about Trump's "Spygate" allegations which says No evidence has emerged to show that Obama-era authorities placed an informant inside the Trump campaign.. Meanwhile, here is an NPR report on the Mueller report which says Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. On my view, neither of these would be an appropriate source for supporting use of the expression 'conspiracy theory', because although they both say that a charge of conspiracy is not supported by evidence, neither piece actually uses the expression 'conspiracy theory'. Shinealittlelight (talk) 17:32, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • One issue I've seen in this area is making sure we are distinguishing op-eds from actual reporting stories. In the context of an op-ed, using the term "conspiracy theory" could be seen as a label, and if the idea is only framed by op-eds calling it a conspiracy theory, we should not be saying that in Wikivoice. On the other hand, if actual news reporting is calling something a conspiracy theory, and that idea is well-backed by multiple news sources (reliable, and not op-eds), then we can state it factually. --Masem (t) 17:40, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I hesitate at the suggestion that anything "well-backed by multiple news sources" can be stated as "fact" in WikiVoice, particularly when RECENTISM is involved. When referencing "news sources", we are dealing with AP wire services, and/or conglomerates that own multiple media outlets, and is often a false equivalency of "multiple". Then we have clickbait news, and pundits which are often opinion whether it states it as such or not; all of which are issues effecting "fact-factor". I support in-text attribution, but oppose saying it in WikiVoice. If there's a theory circulating about what some perceive to be a conspiracy, we call it what it is - a conspiracy theory. The legal definition may provide a basis from which to work. The source does not have to state the words specifically - they can say an alleged conspiracy between so and so - an allegation of a conspiracy that leads to an investigation fits right in with conspiracy theory, especially when "conspired with" is used. Common sense tells us when a conspiracy is postulated, be it in the form of an allegation, claim, accusation, premise for an investigation, etc. it's a theory until proven otherwise. Semantics. We should be able to figure that out, and if not, I recommend a refresher read of WP:CIR. Atsme Talk 📧 21:02, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    Your common sense may tell you that "The source does not have to state the words specifically", but my common sense tells me that it is an extremely negative pejorative to be avoided and that the editors who wrote the lead paragraph of our conspiracy theory article got it right. And no, I am not violating WP:CIR. I am saying that I find the large amount of thought and discussion behind the lead of conspiracy theory is more compelling than I find either Atsme's or Guy Macon's "common sense". --Guy Macon (talk) 05:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    • Yes, RECENTISM is a good point, but like, taking something like Pizzagate conspiracy theory which was rather quickly proven false but there remains many that continue to assert it was true; that's a case where I'd think that as long as the bulk of RSes routinely call it a conspiracy theory, and there's strong presented evidence that nothing as claimed in the theory happened the way the theory suggested, it should be fine for us to call it factually as such. There are definitely other things that get labeled "conspiracy theory" too quickly, not that the claims being made turn out untrue. There's more to a conspiracy theory than just a untrue picture of events but that there are people that believe it is true and the mass media/gov't are covering it up, and showing the latter exist can often be the missing picture that RECENTISM cautions against. --Masem (t) 23:49, 7 October 2019 (UTC)
    • Yeah well, it's a content dispute. Why are we wasting time here? O3000 (talk) 01:37, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
      Please don't complain that an RfC is misplaced without suggesting where it should be posted. When the same content dispute occurs on multiple article talk pages with wildly different results depending on whether it is Team Blue or Team Red being accused of spreading conspiracy theories, an RfC at a central location is appropriate. If you don't think this is the correct central location for such an RfC, please specify where you think the correct central location is.--Guy Macon (talk) 05:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
      • I've noticed that you've gone off a lot about the Team Red / Team Blue stuff recently. I don't think that that's helpful to this sort of discussion. Obviously, any outcome will have to be applied evenly. If anything it seems like this RFC introduces more confusion and room for partisan squabbling - the current policy is "go by what the majority of high-quality sources say" (as for any other exceptional or contentious term); what you are pushing to replace that with here is "go by what the sources say, unless you feel they're using the term 'conspiracy theory' the wrong way." Surprise, surprise, everyone with a strong opinion in a contested topic area is going to think the term is being used correctly / "narrowly" (to use your confusing terminology) when applied to people they dislike and incorrectly / "broadly" when applied to people they dislike. This adds nothing beyond weakening WP:RS / WP:V / WP:FRINGE in a particularly baffling manner - right now we can resolve these disputes by digging up and disputing sources (as the dispute that led to this was eventually resolved.) Sources are clear-cut and decisive; your muddled definition of "narrow" vs. "broad" is not and practically instructs editors to second-guess sources themselves. With this change, properly describing conspiracy theories would come down to editors making opinion-based feely-judgements on whether the usage in a particular source is correct (or, again, "narrow", though I find your terminology baffling.) This would add nothing useful and wouldn't be implementable (because, when the sources say it, they would still take priority on account of WP:RS / WP:V trumping the WP:MOS - even if an editor argues until they're blue in the face that they think that usage is Guy's-definition-of-broad, even if you managed to get the MOS to specifically instruct them to not use the words "conspiracy theory", we'd still always have to go with the sources using it, and an editor thinking a source is using the term wrong or 'broadly' will never have any significant weight, fullstop.) --Aquillion (talk) 19:57, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Per EEng, this appears to be a matter of content. It is certainly not a matter of style. Why are comments being sought? What is the context for asking the question and why has this forum been chosen for asking the question, Guy Macon? Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 01:05, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    If you don't think this is the correct central location for this RfC, please specify where you think the correct central location is. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    After thinking about it a bit more while writing my comments above, I think that the core thrust of this RFC would be to carve out an exception where we cannot call something a conspiracy theory even if the preponderance of high-quality reliable sources do; in that regard, clearly the most appropriate forum for it is WP:FT/N. Part of my objection to the RFC (and the reason I think it's invalid) is that it's worded in a way that doesn't make it obvious at first glance that that's what a "narrow" result would do (ie. introduce a requirement that readers assess whether a source is using the term "broadly" or "narrowly", and require that we ignore sources that use it "broadly.") That's utterly outside the scope of the WP:MOS and, furthermore, wouldn't be meaningful policy even if it were added here (since WP:RS / WP:V / WP:FRINGE would continue to take priority in any case where the sources used the term, even if some editors felt the sources were using it when they shouldn't.) Putting it at WP:FRINGE would at least somewhat make the actual issue here more clear with regards to "how should we assess sources when labeling something as fringe", and would address at least one of the three policies that, as written, this proposal slams headlong into. Putting it here is nonsense - the reason we have to describe even things you feel are "broad" as conspiracy theories when the sources do is because of the policies I listed, not the WP:MOS, so introducing it here would only create a confusing contradiction between policies. --Aquillion (talk) 20:21, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    And I tell you once again, what you think "the core thrust of this RFC" is is not found anywhere in the questions asked or in any of my comments. It is a classic straw man argument; substituting a person’s actual position or argument with a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of the position to make it easier to refute. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:21, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
    Guy Macon, I asked two questions of you and you have responded to neither - instead, responding with the "set piece": you tell me where. Perhaps if you answered the questions, I might be able to give you an informed response. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 22:32, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
    It appears that you [A] are of the opinion that this RfC should not have been posted here, and [B] refuse to reveal any place where you think it should be posted. Then you asked me why it is posted here. First, let me once again state why this is being asked in a central location instead of on an article talk page about Team Red or Team Blue: I don't know you well enough to be able to say that the following does or does not apply to you personally, but I have seen a lot of editors who are [A] Fully committed to rooting for Team Blue or Team Red and tearing down Team Red or Team Blue, [B] perfectly happy with having things labeled conspiracy theories when the other team does them but not when their team does them, and [C] strongly opposed to having the same rules applied to their team, which is full of enlihghtened policies and selfless leadership and applied to the opposing team, which is full of evil and is only sup[ported by fools. This situation is the reason RfCs posted in a central location were invented. As to why this particular central location, it is posted here because there appears to be no better place to post it. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:02, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
    • I'm not sure why it was proposed here but I am aware the term is occasionally applied incorrectly or incorrectly omitted. Perhaps some see it as a pejorative when it shouldn't be? Atsme Talk 📧 04:36, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
      I believe that most people consider "conspiracy theory" to be a pejorative. Outside of people rooting for Team Red or Team Blue, it is universally used to describe a baseless allegation that there is a conspiracy that the reader should dismiss out of hand, and pretty much never used to describe an accusation that there is a conspiracy when we don't know whether the conspiracy is real. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
To be clear (since you've waffled on this above), your intent with this RFC is that when a reliable source uses the term "conspiracy theory", we, as readers, should perform our own research to determine if they are using it in what you personally consider a "broad" manner (ie. a theory of a conspiracy) or the "narrow" manner (ie. a pejorative use); and, if our research determines they're using it in what you would categorize as the 'broad' usage, we should disregard those sources, regardless of their number and regardless of their categorization - effectively carving out a loophole where the sources can widely describe something as a conspiracy theory, but its defenders can argue that we cannot call it such in the wiki-voice because they personally feel that that usage is incorrect or, in your terms, "broad." Do I understand correctly? Because it's a bit confusing what you want outside of a second airing for the discussion that led up to this, but what I've outlined is my understanding of what you're requesting based on how you're outlining it here. --Aquillion (talk) 19:46, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
To be clear, your intent is to stuff words in my mouth because previous efforts to twist my position into a caricature of itself that violates WP:V and WP:RS have been unsuccessful. (See? I can do it too!) And I categorically reject your claim that one particular discussion about one particular claim by one particular team is "the discussion that led up to this". I say again, I am trying to ask a general question that applies to all articles, not one specific case.
My actual position, as opposed to the straw man you just set up and knocked down, is that we should stop deciding that "the sources widely describe something as a conspiracy theory" based on a couple of obscure editorials when the accusation of promoting conspiracy theories is made against the other team, but requiring near-unanimity among the very highest-quality sources when the accusation of promoting conspiracy theories is made against our team. I would also once again point out that we are not talking about attributed statements. Nobody here has even hinted that they have a problem with "source X calls this a conspiracy theory". The question is when we should state that something as a conspiracy theory in Wikipedia's voice as if it was an established fact, and whether the rules should be consistent. I have very little patience whith editors who ague forcefully against attribution of disputed claims. If multiple high quality sources say something, why not list some of them? Saying something like "The New York Times, the BBC, and The Atlantic call X a conspiracy theory" is stronger than saying "X" is a conspiracy theory. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:02, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
Why not err on the side of using attribution? We don't have to use "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia's voice. So in most instances we should say that something is a conspiracy theory with attribution. Bus stop (talk) 00:02, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I don't understand what this RfC is getting at or why it is located here rather than at, say, WP:WTA. jps (talk) 01:32, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Invalid RFC, but noting here to make it clear that this cannot reach a valid consensus as written. We are required, per WP:RS, to go with what the sources say. Guy Macon's personal theories and opinions on how sources ought to divide their coverage between his categories of "board" and "narrow" might make interesting WP:FORUM discussions elsewhere, but are completely worthless as a method of determining how we evaluate the sources ourselves. --Aquillion (talk) 19:30, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Invalid RFC, per User:Aquillion. And to save time before Guy Macon pastes in his rhetorical question (If you don't think this is the correct central location for such an RfC, please specify where you think the correct central location is.): the correct location is the garbage bin. "Invalid" is not the same as "misplaced", so don't assume your conclusion. --Calton | Talk 05:23, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

Cisgender, yea or nay?Edit

Is it appropriate to use the term cisgender in the article of someone who objects to that term, e.g. to say that they advocate for the rights of cisgender women? Should we avoid it because they don't like it? Should we use it because it's the accepted terminology? Vashti (talk) 15:10, 8 October 2019 (UTC)

Why not just say that they advocate for the rights of women? Is the issue that the person in question does not include trans women in their conception of women? If so, then simply say so. --Khajidha (talk) 17:11, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
PS - you could (in addition to the ideas above) also state that she objects to the usage of the term "cisgender". --Khajidha (talk) 17:25, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I've never understood this whole sis gender thing. Brothers are male and sisters are female. What's the problem? EEng 17:46, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I absolutely support that the transgender women should be talked about as contrasting with cisgender women, not with real women or biological women. Georgia guy (talk) 17:55, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Is there a Venn diagram or something explaining all this? EEng 17:57, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
@EEng: try gender identity or cisgender. Let me know if you want the short "twitter version" of it. EvergreenFir (talk) 18:08, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
EEng, I've just spent the last 20 minutes trying to put this into a set theory expression and now I'm confused. SITH (talk) 10:50, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
@StraussInTheHouse and EEng: Programming language would likely be easier.
#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

int main() {
string SexAssignment = "";
string GenderIdentity = "";
string SexAssignment = "";
bool Cisgender = ;

cout << "What genital structure did the person as a newborn appear to have?";
cin >> Genitals;
SexAssignment = (Genitals=="PENIS") ? "MALE" : "FEMALE";

cout << "What is the gender identity of the person?"
cin >> GenderIdentity;
if (GenderIdentity == "Man" && SexAssignment == "MALE") {
Cisgender = true;
else if (GenderIdentity == "Woman" && SexAssignment == "FEMALE") {
Cisgender = true;
else {
Cisgender = false;

if (Cisgender == true) { cout << "This person is cisgender"; }
else { cout << "This person is transgender" }

return 0;
EvergreenFir (talk) 16:38, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I think we need a language supporting multivalued/fuzzy logic. EEng 20:18, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
Not disagreeing with you there, but the point is that the person in question did not "advocate for cisgender women", but explicitly opposed the rights of transgender women. --Khajidha (talk) 17:59, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
So say that. --Ahecht (TALK
) 19:51, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Exactly. This discussion boils down to "should we blow a hole in WP:NOR just to make far-left transgender activists happy?" If reliable and independent sources say someone is a women's rights activist who is hostile to tranwomen being included (i.e., is an outspoken TERF), then we say that. If those sources (not unreliable ones like random blogs) describe the person as a "cisgender rights advocate" (has any reliable source ever used that phrase?), then we'd say that. We'd say both, with sufficient attribution for clarity, if the RS are in disagreement. We follow the sources. We also have a principle that we don't label people (especially BLPs) with terms they would disagree with on principle, without sourcing, attribution, and qualification. If the subject is sourceably known to object to the neologism cisgender, then we'd say that, too. PS: Stuff like this has to stop. WP is not a playground for gender studies students nor a platform for language reform advocacy. WP is written in contemporary, mainstream, formal English, no matter how much someone doesn't like contemporary, mainstream, formal English.
Short version: WP:Use common sense and WP:Don't be a fanatic.
2601:643:867F:5370:CDB0:4476:46F5:1603 (talk) 17:29, 12 October 2019 (UTC)
  • How do reliable sources describe this person’s activism? We should follow the sources, an neither insert nor omit based on our own opinions. Blueboar (talk) 18:00, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Agree. Use what sources use. Additionally, there is nothing wrong with the term "cisgender" and its use should not really be a problem. If, in this case, it is inaccurate, then that is an issue. If the person in question just says something akin to "I support women, and transgender women aren't women, so I don't think cisgender is necessary", well that's their personal opinion and not reflective of the nomenclature. EvergreenFir (talk) 18:10, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I think this would be easier to answer if we knew the exact sentence being argued over and what the source for that sentence says. --Khajidha (talk) 18:24, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
The article is Magdalen Berns and the question in context is the lede sentence that now reads "women's rights on the basis of sex" - which is anti-trans in-language in itself. It's a curious case where, because she has just died, there are a lot of glowing obituaries, a few past casual mentions, and no other sources at all. The sentence was changed to "cisgender women's rights" in this diff; it was changed back in this diff. This is the source; it says "she repeatedly clashed with LGBT and women’s groups over her determined defence of women’s sex-based rights and the rights of lesbians to assert their sexuality in the face of relentless demands to redefine sex as gender." Vashti (talk) 19:42, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I would suggest something like: "Magdalen Berns (6 May 1983 – 13 September 2019)[2][3] was a British software developer and YouTuber. Berns, a lesbian radical feminist, came to prominence as a result of a series of YouTube vlogs focusing on lesbian politics and free speech. Her views were criticised by many due to her positions on the basis of sex and the gender identity debate, with some describing them as anti-trans." --Khajidha (talk) 19:49, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
"Women's rights on the basis of sex" is standard legal language. See On the Basis of Sex. -Pine457 (talk) 19:53, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
However, naked in the lede like that, it's obscure - it has in-group meaning to y'all that it does not have to the rest of us. Vashti (talk) 20:02, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
It has the same meaning to anyone who is aware of sex and gender distinction in modern English usage. -Pine457 (talk) 20:32, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
No. "Sex not gender" is a key tenet of the anti-trans community, "women's sex-based rights" is a key phrase, and so "on the basis of sex" is acting as a dogwhistle here. Vashti (talk) 20:38, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
It's a bullhorn, not a dogwhistle. These are attempts to communicate very clearly exactly what we're talking about: the idea that certain laws were written to protect females. Whether law in the future will hold that a sex-based or gender-identity-based definition shall prevail, or even sometimes one and sometimes the other, is an unsettled question. If you think the article would benefit from a link to sex and gender distinction, go ahead and include it. -Pine457 (talk) 20:51, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
What makes it a dogwhistle in particular is that it's used to make your prejudice against trans people tacitly understood, and to appeal to that prejudice in others. It's as entirely unsuitable in Wikipedia's voice as something like "race realism" would be. Vashti (talk) 20:57, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Excuse me, I have no prejudice against trans people. The question of whether women's rights shall refer to a sex-based definition or a gender-identity-based definition is not settled law, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise. As The Guardian put it, Women’s oppression by men has a physical basis, and to deny the relevance of biology when considering sexual inequality is a mistake and This is a complex issue that society needs to consider thoughtfully. It's not a reason to hurl insults at each other.
If you believe that the article would benefit from a link to sex and gender distinction, go ahead and include it, but this isn't secret prejudicial language. It is relatively simple academic language, with a standard usage since the 1960s. -Pine457 (talk) 21:16, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
It's not an insult, but a statement of fact; take "your" as a plural if you like. It remains the case that this language is a dogwhistle for your community, as I'm not the first to have noticed. That said, I'll defer to the judgement of others on this. Vashti (talk) 21:25, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
It is not a "statement of fact" that people who believe in sex-based rights are prejudiced against trans people. Many trans people, for example, believe that transwomen should not be competing in women's sports. These are complex issues not easily reduced to "you're either for us or against us" reasoning. Once again, the phrasing is intended a bullhorn. There's nothing secret about its meaning, it's very simple, the idea is that some rights and protections are based on sex. Ask a bystander what "sex-based rights" would mean and I'll bet they can explain it. -Pine457 (talk) 21:55, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I have absolutely zero interest in debating trans rights with you. We're here to build an encyclopaedia, and don't need to get outside the issue of language - which the mention of prejudice was there to explain. Vashti (talk) 22:04, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm not debating what the rights should be. I'm pointing out that your claim, that believing in sex-based rights equates to prejudice against trans people, is a non sequitur. -Pine457 (talk) 01:54, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
It's not the belief in sex-based rights that equates to prejudice, but membership in the anti-trans community to which Magdalen belonged, and to which that dogwhistle belongs, and from which canvassed IP accounts and new editors have flocked. Vashti (talk) 07:42, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
"and from which canvassed IP accounts and new editors have flocked." And your evidence of this conspiracy is ....? Please spare us the unsubstantiated harebrained suspicions. Pyxis Solitary (yak) 15:27, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
That's circular reasoning: they're prejudiced because they're prejudiced. For comparison, some US liberals express prejudice against people in rural areas (and some vice versa), but being a liberal is not itself evidence of such prejudice. While I would agree that certain individuals express prejudicial viewpoints, involvement in gender-critical feminism is not sufficient to ascribe prejudice to someone who does not express prejudice. Most of us believe that adults should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies, and that people should not be required to conform to sex stereotypes to be afforded the same legal protections as those who do conform. I think this article in the New Yorker is a fair treatment of the issues: What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism. -Pine457 (talk) 17:53, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  • It should be used based on the sources. I don't think "cisgender" is inherently offensive or insulting or anything, but in a specific context it can have implications that would need to be properly cited (by having a source that uses the word) - saying that eg. someone advocates for the rights of cisgender women implies that they don't advocate for the rights of other women, which we'd obviously need a source for. --Aquillion (talk) 20:26, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
I don't think we'll have trouble finding sources to the effect that Magdalen didn't advocate for the rights of trans women. A source that says she advocated for cis women's rights will be harder, since the sources are one-sided. Vashti (talk) 20:42, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
If sources are “one sided”, then so be it... we can not go beyond what sources say. Doing so would violate our WP:No original research policy. Blueboar (talk) 21:37, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
Indeed. It's unfortunate in this case. Vashti (talk) 21:39, 8 October 2019 (UTC)
P1) We're building an encyclopedia.
P2) An encyclopedia describes subjects using the terminology used by reliable sources.
C1) If a critical mass of reliable sources describe something as "cisgender women's activism" then we describe it as that.
C2) If a critical mass of reliable sources describe something as "women's activism" then we describe it as that.
Avoid instruction creep. This debate doesn't need to happen. SITH (talk) 10:50, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
And if there's no critical mass of reliable sources? Vashti (talk) 11:15, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
Then look for more sources. Given that this person died recently, you may need to WAIT until more sources are written. Blueboar (talk) 11:49, 9 October 2019 (UTC)

Again this does not seem an MOS question as much as a verification one. If someone did not use a word we cannot say they did.Slatersteven (talk) 13:39, 9 October 2019 (UTC)

  • Don't put words in people's mouths, even dead ones. If a biographical subject never used the term "cisgender" to describe her/himself -- neither can Wikipedia. If a biographical subject objected to the word "cisgender" being applied to her/him -- Wikipedia cannot rewrite history and create the idea that she/he did. Whatever terminology may be employed by sources, the subject's personal truth should be noted in the article.
    (On a personal note ... the use of "cisgender" to describe biological males and females is politically correct dogma. Not everyone "in the life" bows to the PC jackboot.) Pyxis Solitary (yak) 14:51, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
    • I disagree. We certainly can't claim that they said something they didn't, but if reliable sources describe someone as anti-trans then we should say so, even if they insist that they are "real woman positive" or some such twaddle. A subject doesn't have to agree with a negative characterization for it to be included; it merely has to be adequately sourced. —David Eppstein (talk) 17:17, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
David is correct. Wikipedia primarily follows what reliable secondary sources (sources that are independent of the subject) say about our subjects... not what the subjects say about themselves (although that can be mentioned in passing), and we definitely do not insert our own opinions. Blueboar (talk) 17:35, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
If reliable sources say someone's anti-trans we can include that, but that's a different matter than using the controversial neologism of cisgender to describe an individual who rejects the term. The former may be relevant, even if disputed, to understand someone's views. The latter is not. -Pine457 (talk) 17:53, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I concur with David Eppstein here. And Merriam-Webster attests cisgender in its current meaning as dating back to at least 1994, so it is not a neologism. XOR'easter (talk) 18:04, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
Oh you children... for some of us, anything coined after 1960 is a neologism. Blueboar (talk) 18:22, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I agree with Blueboar. Everything after the 1960s is PC rubbish and newfangled shenanigans. We should capitalize Internet and use two spaces after full stops. EvergreenFir (talk) 18:57, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
We're unlikely to find anything about her that uses the term. She presented herself as a women's rights advocate but defined women to exclude trans women (at least as regards certain rights and protections). Her critics focused on this exclusion. So, she could not really be described as "pro-cisgender" in any meaningful sense. --Khajidha (talk) 18:26, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
That wording, "She presented herself as a women's rights advocate but defined women to exclude trans women", looks clear and jargon-free to me. Can we find sufficient sources to support it? —David Eppstein (talk) 20:01, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
  Works for me EvergreenFir (talk) 20:06, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
"Presented herself" sounds like a POV synthesis unless sources support it. Vashti (talk) 20:17, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I thought my previous attempt was better?: "Magdalen Berns (6 May 1983 – 13 September 2019)[2][3] was a British software developer and YouTuber. Berns, a lesbian radical feminist, came to prominence as a result of a series of YouTube vlogs focusing on lesbian politics and free speech. Her views were criticised by many due to her positions on the basis of sex and the gender identity debate, with some describing them as anti-trans." --Khajidha (talk) 20:32, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
"Her positions...with some describing them as anti-trans" is both vague (what were those positions) and opinion-based (it is centered around whether other people thought about her positions as positive or negative rather than what those positions actually were). "...defined women to exclude trans women", in contrast, both explicitly and specifically states her positions and avoids expressing an opinion over the validity or political correctness of those positions. —David Eppstein (talk) 22:48, 9 October 2019 (UTC)
I think either way the article would need to mention that she was seen as anti-trans. I don't see much indication that she was deeply involved in feminist advocacy beyond anti-trans and anti-sex worker advocacy. The only mention I've been able to find of her in a high-quality source is this Snopes article, which describes her as a youtuber who is characterized as holding anti-trans views. I don't see much indication that she was known for her advocacy for women in general. Nblund talk 20:39, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
I would go with "She presented herself as a women's rights advocate but defined women to exclude trans women".Slatersteven (talk) 08:02, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
How her activism is described should have nothing to do with her personal preferences on terminology. Just describe it neutrally in accordance with the sources. If "cisgender" is the most accurate word to use, use it. Kaldari (talk) 23:31, 11 October 2019 (UTC)

General discussion of the term cisgenderEdit

This discussion has nothing to do with describing a subject as anti-trans. This discussion is about applying the term "cisgender" in the description of a subject when that subject rejected the label "cisgender" and refused to apply it to her/himself, or anyone else.
"twaddle" in Wikipedia is when editors go off-track discussing something else instead of the topic. Pyxis Solitary (yak) 08:29, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
What exactly is the sentence under debate? Much will depend on that. And opposition to the label "cisgender" is often correlated with anti-trans positions, so the situation is not as clear cut as you are trying to make it.--Khajidha (talk) 09:47, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
I refer you to the reason for this discussion:
"Is it appropriate to use the term cisgender in the article of someone who objects to that term, e.g. to say that they advocate for the rights of cisgender women? Should we avoid it because they don't like it? Should we use it because it's the accepted terminology?"
What is complicated about this? Pyxis Solitary (yak) 09:57, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
The question you cite is not about describing Magdalen as cis, but her activism as being in favour of cis women. That's why editors are presenting alternatives that don't use the word "cisgender", such as "she advocated for women's rights but defined women to exclude trans women". It's not "twaddle". I agree that opposition to the word "cisgender" goes hand-in-hand with anti-trans positions. Vashti (talk) 10:06, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
"the word "cisgender" goes hand-in-hand with anti-trans positions". This is a myopic generalization. Someone who repudiates the label "cisgender" is not automatically anti-transgender.
Let me put it this way: I, the real life person behind the name Pyxis Solitary, reject the term cisgender. I have refused to use it since the day, over 20 years ago, that I found out what it meant. I don't endorse it in conversations and I will correct anyone who refers to me as a cisgender woman. I have a close friend who is a trans man. I participate in a group that includes transsexual women. Now ... am I anti-trans? Pyxis Solitary (yak) 10:34, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
On this, it's probably instructive to cite Feminist Wiki. Feminist Wiki is actually an anti-trans wiki; it was created by anti-trans activist Penny White and advertised at reddit on anti-trans sub /r/GenderCritical. Here's an organising article for it which describes its intent in detail and states "Let me tell you that [trans rights activists]s and advocates of the sex industry (aka rape industry) have already shown themselves to be very afraid of the FeministWiki. Why? Because it offers cold hard truth in a no fucks given tone (without getting ranty) with citations to back it up, and does so boldly under the highly generic name FeministWiki.".
In the lede of their cisgender page, they state "Since feminists oppose the gender essentialist notion of an inborn, inherent and essential feminine identity, and define gender as a patriarchal tool of sex-based oppression rather than a personally felt identity, they consequently disagree with the concept of a "cisgender person" as defined on the basis of gender identity." That seems pretty coherent: anti-trans feminists oppose gender identity, therefore they oppose the idea of cisgender people and the term. Vashti (talk) 11:00, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
You haven't shown that there's anything anti-trans about that wiki. But even for the sake of argument, your logic is fallacious: "anti-trans people reject this term, therefore rejecting this term is an anti-trans action" is affirming the consequent. -Pine457 (talk) 12:07, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
Here's Feminist Wiki's page on "transgender ideology". It's an anti-trans wiki. Are you really trying to use formal logic to argue that there isn't an overwhelming correlation between these two positions? Vashti (talk) 12:26, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
I don't see any bigotry against trans people on that page, can you point out what you're referring to? And I am following up on this: Pyxis said 'Someone who repudiates the label "cisgender" is not automatically anti-transgender.' You responded and appeared to be disputing Pyxis' claim. You appear to be disputing it by affirming the consequent. If not, what is your argument? The vast majority of people in the world do not accept this label for themselves, regardless of how they think about trans people. -Pine457 (talk) 12:38, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

This is not a forum to discuss user conduct, and any argument based upon it is (as far as I am concerned) invalid and without merit. So let me make this clear, if the argument is "if you oppose the use if Cisgender you are A HOMOPHOBE!" I oppose its use, period.Slatersteven (talk) 13:40, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

That's absolutely not what I'm arguing. But it seems like there are WP:UNDUE issues with allowing the viewpoint of a small group of activists to veto the use of words, when they aren't applied to a subject. For reference, the supposedly mainstream arguments above are not even mentioned at Cisgender. Vashti (talk) 14:01, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
It is only a small minority of people who use the word "cisgender" in the first place. Most people have no use for it. It is an obscure neologism, which the usage history at the cisgender page attests to. While you can point to it first appearing in academic literature in the 90s, most people still haven't heard of it, most of those who have only heard of it this decade, and fewer still actually use the word. (And many who learned of it this decade learned it in the context of a slur, from the "Die Cis Scum" phrase.)
I think the most common objection, among the few who have cause to think about the word at all, is summarized by John Boyne writing in The Irish Times here: And while I wholeheartedly support the rights of trans men and women and consider them courageous pioneers, it will probably make some unhappy to know that I reject the word “cis”, the term given by transgender people to their nontransgender brethren. I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man. For while I will happily employ any term that a person feels best defines them, whether that be transgender, non-binary or gender fluid to name but a few, I reject the notion that someone can force an unwanted term onto another.
Shall I try to get that noted in the cisgender article, or will you remove it? A critique in The New Statesman was removed earlier this year. -Pine457 (talk) 17:54, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
Since I don't edit at cisgender, it isn't my business what you do there. If you can substantiate your critique, then it should be in the article. Vashti (talk) 19:19, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

Cisgender is a term that exists and is used widely enough by professional sources to be "legitimate". Whether or not a user personally likes it or not is not at issue. I don't like the word "moist", but I would never suggest Wikipedia not use it. There appears to be a lot of misrepresentation of arguments and intent. If folks want to sincerely discuss the term itself, then do so. But honestly that does not appear to be happening here. EvergreenFir (talk) 17:37, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

I don't disagree that it can be used, but it is sufficiently WP:TECHNICAL that, when clearer ways of expressing the same idea are available, it might be preferable to use them instead. —David Eppstein (talk) 17:50, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
Certainly. IMO, articles broadly related to gender studies (including feminist BLPs) would generally be an appropriate place to use them. I would not, however, suggest we use it on Bill Gates' BLP. EvergreenFir (talk) 17:57, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
You want to use a controversial term which many people have only been exposed to as a slur, on BLPs, specifically only on the BLPs of people who are most likely to object to it? You can't think of a better option? -Pine457 (talk) 18:08, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
@Pine457: the word cisgender is not a slur and not recognized as such by any dictionary I am aware of. The term is not controversial beyond WP:FRINGE viewpoints in any academic or professional circles. I'll also point out that feminist BLPs would also be the most likely be of people who use the term. EvergreenFir (talk) 19:16, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
I didn't say it was always a slur, but it is sometimes, and that's how a lot of people learned about it. Paula Blank in The Atlantic writes 'It's clear that some gay men and lesbians see "cisgender" as a slur, a way of labeling them as elitists or conformists after all (i.e., as not "queer" enough).' This is not an uncontroversial term to apply to people who don't apply it to themselves.
Merriam-Webster was mentioned above. Their definition is 'of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth'. That means we need to know that an individual conceptualizes him- or herself as having a gender identity, and we need to know what that self-defined identity is, before we could synthesize that information and declare them to be cisgender, even if the term was not controversial. The only option that I see as being in accordance with Wikipedia policy would be to reserve the term only for people who self-identify as such. -Pine457 (talk) 19:43, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
But we're not talking about labeling Berns as cisgender. We're talking about using the term in her BLP (well, recently living which is covered by WP:BLP). EvergreenFir (talk) 19:51, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
The plain meaning of the proposal applies the label to her, though. If we say she's "a woman who advocated for the rights of cisgender women" then we're saying she's a cisgender woman. No reasonable person would interpret that phrase any other way. -Pine457 (talk) 20:10, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
Perhaps I'm unreasonable, but I definitely don't follow the logic there. Does someone have to be a member of a group to advocate for it? Nblund talk 20:29, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
If you think the above phrase has another reasonable interpretation, please explain what it is. If she were "a trans women who advocated for the rights of cisgender women" then it would be clear she's not being included in that group. But she's not trans. -Pine457 (talk) 20:33, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
She could be a woman, whose sex assigned-at-birth is not documented in reliable sources, who advocated for the rights of cisgender women. That is, in fact, exactly what she is. I'm not quite sure what the objection is here. Nblund talk 20:42, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
So you're proposing that until we see her birth certificate, she might in fact be a transwoman and we should write the article to reflect this likelihood, despite having no evidence of it. That seems like a reasonable guideline to follow for biographies. Should we add "this person's sex assigned at birth is not documented in reliable sources" to each article's lead, or should it go in the first paragraph after the table of contents? -Pine457 (talk) 20:55, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
What? I believe you yourself argued that it would require WP:OR to call her cisgender. I agree. We can't do that. What we can do is call her a woman - which doesn't imply anything about her assigned sex. We don't need to state that this is unknown, because that's true of virtually every BLP. Nblund talk 21:05, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
We can call her a woman. My point is that 'if we say she's "a woman who advocated for the rights of cisgender women" then we're saying she's a cisgender woman. No reasonable person would interpret that phrase any other way.' I asked you to provide another reasonable interpretation, and you came up with "she could be a woman, whose sex assigned-at-birth is not documented in reliable sources". My point in linking to reasonable person is that we're writing for an audience who are not gender studies or queer studies academics or students, not activists, and not ideologues. An average person does not read "a woman" and mentally note that it should be interpreted as "a woman whose sex assigned-at-birth is not documented in reliable sources." An average person will read "a woman" and interpret it as meaning she is not unusual in that respect. Therefore, if she is not unusual in that respect, and she "advocated for the rights of cisgender women," then we're saying she's a member of that same class, that she is a cisgender woman. Only someone who is immersed in gender studies jargon (no disrespect intended, I am likewise immersed) would be likely to analyze it differently. -Pine457 (talk) 21:32, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

─────────────────────────────────I too must be one of these unreasonable people. It seems, at best, disingenuous to suggest that advocacy for women (cis and/or trans) can be used to infer the gender identity of the advocate. We are in no way saying "she's a cisgender woman" and it's a bit ridiculous to insist we are. Frankly I'd just as soon argue that, as a radical feminist, she may be genderless as many radical feminists espouse gender abolitionist views. EvergreenFir (talk) 21:36, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

Yes, as someone likewise jargon-immersed, you are not the audience we are writing for. The reasonable person also will not consider the possibility that she might have self-identified as genderless, which is even less salient than the possibility that she's trans. These suggestions all fail to consider what the phrase would most likely mean to an ordinary reader. The reason why saying she's "a woman who advocated for the rights of cisgender women" means she's a cisgender woman is because there's no other interpretation that's salient for the average reader. -Pine457 (talk) 21:55, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
The average person likely assumes that is the case for anyone who is not specifically designated as trans. Why does that matter? Your objection was that we can't call her "cisgender", but we aren't doing that, and it isn't any more implicit here than it is in every other blp. I think you're really just sort of objecting to the term in general here. Nblund talk 22:01, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
The average person doesn't assume anyone is cisgender, because the average person doesn't use that word or concept. It becomes implicit when you use the word, that's priming. We are calling her cisgender if we use a phrase which has no other likely interpretation to the average reader. I have no objection to using the word on biographies of people who use it to describe themselves. -Pine457 (talk) 22:11, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
Yep. And "priming" the reader is not allowed under WP:NOR; it's just another variant of WP:SYNTH – trying to lead the reader around by the nose, manipulating article language to imply things not actually found in the sources. 2601:643:867F:5370:CDB0:4476:46F5:1603 (talk) 17:29, 12 October 2019 (UTC)

Not a forumEdit

It is time to stop... this is a content dispute and not a matter of style. the original question was “can we say she is X”... the answer is: If sources call her X, yes... if sources do not call her X, then no. It really is that simple. Blueboar (talk) 22:07, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

Actually my original question was "can we call her activism X"; I've never considered that it would be appropriate to describe Magdalen as X without an overwhelming weight of reliable sources. Vashti (talk) 22:13, 10 October 2019 (UTC)
What you actually asked is:
"Is it appropriate to use the term cisgender in the article of someone who objects to that term," (1)
"e.g. to say that they advocate for the rights of cisgender women?" (2)
"Should we avoid it because they don't like it?" (3)
"Should we use it because it's the accepted terminology?" (4)
Which raises the question: where are the reliable sources that, in their narrative about the biography subject, describe her activism as "for the rights of cisgender women"? Pyxis Solitary (yak) 03:58, 11 October 2019 (UTC)

Can we drop this now its getting tendentious (from both sides).Slatersteven (talk) 08:52, 11 October 2019 (UTC)

Agreed, and I just got here. I agree with the sentiments above that we need no new (or changed) rules. 2601:643:867F:5370:CDB0:4476:46F5:1603 (talk) 17:29, 12 October 2019 (UTC)

"==Title==" listed at Redirects for discussionEdit

An editor has asked for a discussion to address the redirect ==Title==. Please participate in the redirect discussion if you wish to do so. InvalidOS (talk) 23:04, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

Opinions required at Template talk:Infobox isotope#Infobox title typograpy.Edit

There's a dispute concerning the display of the name of elements/isotopes in {{Infobox isotope}}/{{Infobox element}}. Specifically, it concerns if commas should be followed by spaces or double spaces. Please comment at Template talk:Infobox isotope#Infobox title typograpy. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 12:38, 12 October 2019 (UTC)

"Committed suicide" or "died by suicide"?Edit

(non-admin closure) This has already been discussed recently, and the current thread is just leading to rehashing of the same arguments, with no new productive results remotely likely to come about. There's no consensus to proscribe "commit suicide" – rather, there's at least as much sentiment that it tends to be the clearest, plainest option in many cases. –Deacon Vorbis (carbon • videos) 17:42, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

So I was doing some cleanup on "commited" this morning, and ran across a ton of mentions of "committed suicide", categories that use it, etc. Alongside a number of related terms like "successful suicide", "committed suicide" is an increasingly deprecated phrase; Suicide#Definitions discusses this.

The Samaritans describe it as "inappropriate language"[9], and research has suggested that "attempted suicide", "died by suicide" etc. are most acceptable. Is there a consensus on what language Wikipedia should use? Vashti (talk) 10:52, 13 October 2019 (UTC)

there's also Suicide terminology. Vashti (talk) 10:54, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
The first time I saw it about a year ago, I was going to revert the change. However, quick research found what you noted above, and it seems to be used on The Guardian and The New York Times. I'd support not using "committed" per NPOV policy WP:IMPARTIAL. The revert reason I generally see used is "not common".—Bagumba (talk) 11:06, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Committed is overwhelmingly the usual collocation. Died by suggests an artificial attempt to engineer language change. Doremo (talk) 11:43, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
(edit conflict) See Talk:Suicide#Use_of_the_word_"committed" and the archives to which it points. Historically there has been no consensus to deviate from normal English usage. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 11:46, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • This again? We just had an extensive community discussion on this (See archive 197). Consensus was that “committed suicide” was fine... on par with “committed a good deed”. Blueboar (talk) 11:51, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Sorry, I did a search for it and I didn't see anything. It's fine with me if there's a consensus on it. Vashti (talk) 12:12, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I had a look at the past discussions, and I appreciate that there's a longtime historical consensus on this. I also had a look at current media style guides and guidelines to see what opinions they gave, when they gave an opinion. Perhaps it might be time to look at this again? Is it really "engineering language change" if it's *this* widespread, and consensus among relevant professional groups is that it should not be done?
  • Associated Press: "Avoid using committed suicide except in direct quotations from authorities." [10]
  • Reuters: "Avoid the phrase “committed suicide” unless you are quoting authorities, as the phrase implies criminality. Instead say died by suicide, killed herself or took his own life. [11]
  • IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (UK): IPSO does not seek to limit the language that journalists can use to describe suicide. However, journalists should be aware that the Suicide Act 1961 decriminalised the act of suicide. Many organisations working in the area of suicide prevention are concerned about the use of the phrase ‘commit suicide’ and argue that the phrasing stigmatises suicide and is insensitive to those affected by suicide. They prefer to refer to a person’s decision to take their own life, or that they died by suicide." [12]
  • The Guardian and The Observer: "Say that someone killed him or herself rather than “committed suicide”" [13]
  • BBC News: "Some people are offended by the use of the term "commits suicide", as they say it implies a criminal action. The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines say that "kills oneself" or "takes one's life" are preferable options." [14]
  • BBC Editorial Guidelines: "We should be sensitive about the use of language. Suicide was decriminalised in 1961 and the use of the term ‘commit’ is considered offensive by some people. ‘Take one’s life’ or ‘kill oneself’ are preferable alternatives." [15]
  • ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Avoid the phrase committed suicide. Other terms are readily available: killed himself, took their own life, etc." [16]
  • Buzzfeed: When reporting on suicide, use language such as "killed oneself" or "died by suicide"" [17]
  • World Health Organization, "Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals": "The phrase ‘committed suicide’ should not be used because it implies criminality..." [18]
  • NICE, the NHS National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: Lists "people who commit suicide" as "don't use". [19]
  • The Samaritans media guidelines: "Avoid labelling a death as someone having ‘committed suicide’" [20]
  • Papyrus, "Prevention of Young Suicide" media guidelines: "When reporting suicide we urge you not to use the term ‘committed suicide’. Changes made in the Suicide Act of 1961 decriminalised the act of suicide in the UK." [21]
Vashti (talk) 13:35, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Style guides are not actual usage. Actual people, talking about actual suicides, actually say "committed suicide". We write in the English language as it is, not as style guides wish it to be. --Khajidha (talk) 14:22, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I also find it strange that we would be told not to use "took [someone else's] life", as it is overly flowery language, but "took his own life" is okay. --Khajidha (talk) 14:24, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
But we also seek to be neutral in our descriptions and turning to the professional standards of reliable sources is appropriate here. EvergreenFir (talk) 14:36, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • "Killed him or herself" is the most neutral and most clear phrase available, and should be favoured. "Committed suicide" borders on a euphemism, which we are meant to avoid. RGloucester 14:38, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • How is "committed suicide" anywhere close to a euphemism? It literally means "performed the act of killing oneself". "Took his own life" might be characterized as close to a euphemism, but not "committed suicide". --Khajidha (talk) 15:06, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
"Committed suicide" is much more common (and thus more neutral and clearer) than "killed himself". Doremo (talk) 15:08, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
It uses a Latinism to obscure meaning, a common pattern with euphemisms. Without training in Latin, the word "suicide" does not obviously mean anything. Are you suggesting the average person knows what sui and cide mean? "Killed him/herself", on the other hand, is natural English, with no obstruction. If someone does know what suicide means, it is usually only in terms of knowing that "suicide" is equivalent to the plain English "killing oneself", not in terms of a visceral understanding of the word's actual meaning. "Suicide" is beautification, no different than "toilet" is beautification. If "committed suicide" has been more common, it has been because there has been a tendency in English formal writing for centuries to favour beautified Latinate terminology...something Wikipedia does not do, and which is discouraged by our style guide. RGloucester 15:14, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
You don't have to have training in Latin or know what sui and cide mean to know what the perfectly normal English word suicide means. It may have started as "beautification", but it is now normal usage. I also fail to see your point about "toilet", as that is the normal English word for the "porcelain throne" in my dialect. --Khajidha (talk) 15:23, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
The point is that "suicide" is not the starting point for meaning in English. It has an added layer of beautification. Again, if "suicide" is understood, it is only understood through the basic referent of "killing oneself". One would never need to explain the meaning of "killing oneself" as "suicide", but the reverse is in fact true. We have an obligation to use simple English, and avoid euphemisms where possible. These goals are written in our Manual of Style. Therefore, the basic words should be used, and the layers of beautification stripped away. RGloucester 15:29, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
You could raise the same objection to many other Latin or Greek derived words. What makes suicide any different from, for instance, acceleration? --Khajidha (talk) 15:35, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Moreover, kill is also originally a euphemism, meaning 'beat, strike'. How about "He slew himself"? But slay is also originally a euphemism ... Doremo (talk) 15:42, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
That difference is determined by how reliable sources on style treat the matter, and also by limitations on available terminology. In this case, we have many style guides discouraging the use of "committing suicide", and favouring "killing oneself". "Killing oneself" is a readily available terminology that has not been uniquely created or promoted by some people. First of all, in scientific areas that deal with concepts of "acceleration", that word is the normal word used, is not actively discouraged by anyone, and has no readily available alternative. However, there may well be cases where "acceleration" can be replaced by simpler terms when it is used in a metaphorical context, and this is probably preferable. RGloucester 15:47, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Some Speculation The question is not whether 'committed suicide' is used in English. It is. But why is it called 'commit suicide'? It's because suicide has been considered sinful in Christianity, leading to the laws quoted above. 'Commit' means you are doing something that's bad. "perpetrate or carry out (a mistake, crime, or immoral act)." ([22]) I would say follow the style guides quoted above BUT allow for 'commit suicide' in quotations or in religious or legal contexts where a value judgement on suicide is specifically being discussed (as a sin or as illegal activity). For instance, I would keep the 'committing suicide' on the Ahitophel page, where suicide is being discussed as a sinful behavior. My thinking is: this is an encyclopaedia, and encyclopaedias aren't supposed to drive the reader toward a value judgement: they are supposed to report events in a neutral manner. But also, when suicide is being discussed as a sin or crime, it has to be left as it is. Personal opinion. Geographyinitiative (talk) 15:36, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
No... commit means “to intentionally act“, but NOT necessarily sinfully. After all... “committing an act of kindness“ is not a sin. Blueboar (talk) 15:57, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I don't know if perhaps this Google Ngram chart may be instructive here. The phrases "acts of kindness" and "acts of violence" are clearly long established. But if you pair them with the verb "commit", "commit acts of kindness" is so rare that it does not even appear - whereas "commit acts of violence" is a much more common phrase, and has been for centuries.
I believe the phrase "commit acts of kindness" only caught on after Anne Herbert's 1982 epigram. As that page says, "[i]t was based on the phrase 'random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty'", and so is that seemingly positive use of the verb "commit". Vashti (talk) 19:41, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
"Killing himself" is what happens to Darwin award winners; it implied they were not set out to die but ended up in an action that killed them. "Suicide" implies intentional death. --Masem (t) 15:37, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
That is a good point; one does not accidentally commit suicide. Doremo (talk) 15:49, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
It's been known to happen. [23] EEng 16:18, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I am sure there are stories of people that were thinking of committing suicide, got onto that proverbial ledge or whatever, changed their minds, but in trying to get off the ledge, slipped and fell and dies. That would still be, to distinguish "killed themselves", not "commit suicide", since the intent was not to die. But still, in the broader case, this is a reason not to try to replace "commit suicide" with "kill themselves" due to different connotations. --Masem (t) 16:53, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Normally we would specify that a person died by accident on those cases. Jimi Heselden is not described as "killing himself", he accidentally fell off a cliff. Prince is described as dying from an "accidental overdose". Jon-Erik Hexum is described as dying from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. I browsed through the list of Firearm accident victim in the U.S., and I couldn't find a single instance where we said someone "killed themselves" without specifying that it was accidental. Nblund talk 20:57, 13 October 2019 (UTC)

The research linked above states that "Those who had been affected by suicide solely through their own experiences more commonly found it acceptable compared with those whose experience of suicide was exclusively through work or volunteering.", so I wonder what the point of this is. --Khajidha (talk) 16:38, 13 October 2019 (UTC)

The research also breaks the findings down by country (US, UK, and Australia). In the by country results, "commit suicide" shows overall acceptance in the US but ranges from unacceptable to acceptable in the UK and Australia. --Khajidha (talk) 16:42, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Died by suicide is neutral, precise, and as Vashti notes above, universally supported by the style guides that govern the sources we're likely to be citing in our articles. As multiple sources note, the term "commit" generally has moral implications. You don't "commit retirement", and "committing random acts of kindness" is a play-on the more common phrase "random acts of violence". "Commit" also implies a person has full control of their faculties (you don't "commit an accident") which is not necessarily the case for people who die by suicide. Wikipedia is written in "plain English" but that isn't the same thing as "conversational English". When's the last time you heard someone reference a "perineum", or discuss "defecation"? Commonly used terms can be confusing and non-neutral, and there's nothing unclear or jargon-y about the phrase "died by suicide". Nblund talk 17:01, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • It's just made up gobbledygook that I can't recall ever coming across except when someone says that we should use that phrase instead of commit suicide. --Khajidha (talk) 17:17, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Gobbledygook? Do you really think it could be difficult to understand or are you just not used to hearing it? Articles that avoid the term "commit" (1, 2) read as perfectly natural to me. MOS:WORDS lists lots of terms that are common in everyday speech that Wikipedians should generally avoid because they're imprecise or non-neutral Nblund talk 17:46, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I find it hard to understand as "died by" generally refers to something that happens to or is done to someone, while "suicide" is not some external event. --Khajidha (talk) 19:52, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
"Found dead from an apparent suicide", "died by intentional overdose". Would you say either of these are ambiguous? The term "suicide" already indicates self-infliction. Nblund talk 20:34, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
The first says "dead from", not "dead by". For the second, I find it just as confusing/wrong as the standard phrasing would be "died from an intentional overdose". Whether it could be described better as confusing or as poor grammar, "died by" just reads wrong when attached to a self-inflicted act. --Khajidha (talk) 21:00, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
"Died from suicide" seems fine as well if that's the sticking point. Nblund talk 21:15, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • In prose, we should not standardize on either term, but use what the RSes of the major media for that nation with the most relevance (most likely, the person's nationality). In broader articles (articles about suicide, mental depression, etc.) stick to what the appropriate MEDRS sources give. If the situation is vague enough - that is, no clear case for either by sources, then defaulting to "death by suicide" sseems to be a good approach. --Masem (t) 17:11, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
  • "Commit suicide" relates to "commitment". It does not relate to illegality or sinfulness, at least not in present use. The finality of death represents a "commitment" to that nonliving state of being, this being because there is no turning back. It is actually a powerful phrase. The impetus to eliminate it is misguided. We don't use language for namby-pamby purposes. Bus stop (talk) 17:32, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
So are all of the dozen or more reliable sources above just mistaken about what the phrase means? Nblund talk 17:46, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Nblund—I perceive a relation between two words: "commit" and "commitment". Would you agree they are related terms? Would you agree that "commit" and "commitment" are related terms? Bus stop (talk) 17:59, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
But we can't edit Wikipedia based on your perceptions. Commitment means one thing; it's related to the verb commit, but does not define its meaning. We can say that one commits oneself to a decision, which can be good or bad: "she committed herself". But when we say that someone commits a particular act - murder, rape, adultery, suicide - it's because these things are, or were, crimes. Here are some recent historical stories from The Times back archive to support the many sources above:
  • a man attempts suicide in 1957 and is convicted. "X, aged 31, of Noll Road, Islington, pleaded Guilty to charges of attempting to commit suicide..." ["Van Suicide Attempt Charge." Times, 30 Jan. 1959, p. 6. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
  • a man attempts suicide in 1959 and is convicted. "He was convicted of arson and attempted suicide and was put on probation..." ["Love-Sick Felon." Times, 24 Mar. 1959, p. 17. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
  • a woman attempts suicide in 1959 and is convicted. "X, of no fixed address ... was charged with attempting to commit suicide on March 15 and pleaded Guilty." ["Model 'Incited To Suicide Attempt'." Times, 26 Mar. 1959, p. 7. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
  • in 1959, a man attempts to shoot his wife, and his attempted suicide is added to the charge. "X, aged 38, accountant ... was charged with shooting at his wife ... and with attempting to commit suicide on August 13." ["Wished To Appear As Hero To Wife." Times, 10 Nov. 1959, p. 8. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
  • a woman is tried for suicide in 1959. "X, aged 20, of no fixed abode, was charged on remand... yesterday with attempting to commit suicide." ["Langley Says Girl Was Hysterical." Times, 15 Dec. 1959, p. 7. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
  • a man threatens suicide in 1960. "A police officer said it was not expected that charges would be laid; it was considered that X was a sick man." [OWN, OUR. "Man's Threat To Take 80ft. Leap." Times, 5 July 1960, p. 6. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 13 Oct. 2019.]
The style guides and professional organisations have it right. Vashti (talk) 18:10, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
^Right. Bus Stop: the word has two definitions. The second definition of "commit" (to pledge) is generally paired with the preposition "to": you can "commit to marriage", but you don't "commit marriage". Your argument, in essence, is that all of the sources are just wrong about which definition is actually intended. But if everyone consistently misinterprets a term, then it is ambiguous and we should avoid it in favor of something more precise.Nblund talk 18:15, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
"But if everyone consistently misinterprets a term, then it is ambiguous and we should avoid it in favor of something more precise." No, we are not here to right great wrongs. And as I am explaining—there is nothing "wrong" with the phrase "commit suicide". Language reform for the sake of language reform should be rejected. Bus stop (talk) 18:35, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
Who said anything about "righting great wrongs"? The goal of Wikipedia is to inform readers, ambiguous or non-neutral language stands in the way of that. MOS:CONFUSE cautions against using terms in ways that might mislead readers, and WP:MOS recommends clear language wherever possible. Nblund talk 18:54, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I think there's a major dollop of EngVar involved here, as the vast majority of the sources quoted above are UK or Commonwealth in origin. As are the most vocal of the opponents of using "commit suicide". While suicide was a crime in various jurisdictions in the US at various times (even within my own lifetime), I don't recall the phrase being perceived in quite the same way as said opponents seem to perceive it. "Committed suicide" has always seemed to this 45 year old American as the simplest, clearest, most straightforward phrasing. "Killed himself" seems to be trying to soften the blow, as it does not necessarily imply a purposeful act (as explained above) and all the other options given are either euphemisms or neologisms that jar the reader. Or both. --Khajidha (talk) 18:58, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
You could be on to something there; I think someone has already said it's worse in the Commonwealth. Then again, it could just be that I'm British and most of the sources I have access to are as well. But there are plenty of sources in the media list above from the US and even Canada - and from across the political spectrum, too. Here's Fox News, Fox again, and I'm not allowed to link Breitbart but a quick Google search will show plenty of hits. Vashti (talk) 19:22, 13 October 2019 (UTC)
I have no problem with "killed him(her)self"; it doesn't strike me as a euphemism at all. It's true I can imagine saying that someone accidentally killed himself, and not (in any ordinary case) that he accidentally committed suicide, but I think "killed himself" carries a very strong presumption of intentionality in the absence of some word such as "accidentally". On the other hand, "died by suicide" sounds like something that just mysteriously happened to the person, not something the person did, and in that sense does sound like a euphemism. If it genuinely becomes the standard, of course we will adopt it, but I don't think Wikipedia should be leading the charge on this sort of thing. --Trovatore (talk) 00:06, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

Ten of the fourteen style guides listed above are journalistic house-styles and two of the remaining four are specialist guides for journalists. News outlets are in the business of selling their stories. If writing "committed suicide" causes more people to get their news elsewhere than "died by suicide" then the latter gets enshrined in their style-guides. We should not be among the vanguard in promoting unusual phrasings. Primergrey (talk) 05:18, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

  • Not this again. I propose a moratorium on the suicide RFCs. Committed suicide is fine, the only people offended by this are those looking to be offended. Here are other non-criminal things that people commit. Code is committed, people commit to being vegetarian. They commit to their spouse. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 05:30, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
I would support a moratorium proposal. The discussion is going nowhere. Doremo (talk) 07:51, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • I prefer "Committed suicide" as "Death by suicide" to my ears seems redundant as suicide is the action of killing oneself. However unlike the media links above we do have recent small studies by neutral experts on this with a recommendation Language use and suicide: An online cross-sectional survey PLoS One. 2019; 14(6): e0217473. Published online 2019 Jun 13. doi: "10.1371/journal.pone.0217473 Variation in opinion exists amongst people affected by suicide regarding most phrases, often depending on contextual factors. “Attempted suicide”, “took their own life”, “died by suicide” and “ended their life” were however considered most acceptable. We argue that academic and media guidelines should promote use of these phrases,....I don't mind "took their own life" for prose text but as an older timer prefer simply suicide for infoboxes.--Moxy 🍁 06:51, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • The long list of mainstream style guides advising against "committed suicide" is pretty convincing to me. WanderingWanda (talk) 07:16, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Either "died by suicide" or "killed him/herself" works, with the second being blunter than the first. In some contexts (such as "cause of death") just the word "suicide" would probably suffice. "Committed suicide" is an old usage dating back to the days when suicide was a crime, and is deprecated by mainstream style guides. -- The Anome (talk) 07:40, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
I don't think it matters if something dates back to days when suicide was a crime. Is anyone implying there is a crime when they say that someone committed suicide? No one is implying anything of the sort. That is a completely bogus argument. Ditto for the sinfulness argument. The phrase simply means death by one's own hand. There are no implications regarding "legality" or "sinfulness". The phrase happens to be a part of the English language. You can't tell someone not to speak English. The language belongs to everyone. The problem with all this is it is an attempt to tell others what they can't say. Bullshit. There has to be a solidly-grounded reason for someone to be required to shut up. By default we should be allowed to use the English language. Bus stop (talk) 16:05, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • "Committed suicide" is fine, as is "killed him/herself". "Died by suicide" is unnecessarily confused language. Our job is to use language that is commonly used, not to be an instrument to change language. Whatever organisations may say in their ever more convoluted attempts to be PC, "committed suicide" is still the common term in common use of the English language and is not in any way insensitive or insulting. -- Necrothesp (talk) 09:13, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Thinking of John: whatever style guides say, I try to avoid "committed suicide" because - for me - it sounds (too) similar to "committed a crime". We have other options, "died by suicide", "took her own ife", "killed herself" - be inventive. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 09:24, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • There is no problem with "committed suicide", or the term would not be the dominant phrase in contemporary reliable sources written in English. This thread should just be hatted as [probably unintentional] forum shopping and rehash. We've really been over this again and again and again (here, at WT:MOSWTW, and in many other venues). Very recently, too, in an RfC that closed in favor of retaining "committed suicide" [24]. 2601:643:867F:5370:E44A:534:D1D4:338C (talk) 09:41, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • Retain "committed suicide", and declare a moratorium on discussing this unless something significantly changes in the real world. Given the RFC mentioned by the IP above, which closed just a month and a half ago, there is no need to keep on repeating the same debates over and over.  — Amakuru (talk) 09:46, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • This is clearly going nowhere, but since people will certainly keep asking about this, I'd like to sum up before I go and do literally anything else. I get the impression that we are not all having the same conversation. The original MOS discussion on "commit suicide" was in 2004. At that time, it certainly would have been an inappropriate change. But 15 years have passed, and usage has moved on, while every new raising of this has ultimately harked back to that 2004 consensus, and what people like and don't like, and what they have and haven't heard of.
Absolutely nobody on this thread has suggested that the MOS should deprecate "commit suicide" because it is offensive. Nobody has been arguing from some great personal political position. What has been argued is:
  • that there is strong WP:MEDRS deprecating "committed suicide" as harmful ("guidelines or position statements from national or international expert bodies") and associated with the crime of suicide - former in the USA and UK, but still current in many places;
  • that there is overwhelming evidence that, since 2004, the media have adopted these guidelines, across national and political boundaries - imperfectly, but overwhelmingly; [25] [26] [27]
  • that Wikipedia should do the same, because at this point we are not "following usage", we are one of the last holdouts insisting on a usage that WP:MEDRS deem not offensive, but harmful.
I've also spent the afternoon researching what relevant professional groups say, when they express an opinion. Out of 34 relevant organisations, all but one (PAHO, who operate primarily in Spanish IIRC) have a position on this. Of those, five use the Reporting on Suicide guidelines (including ROS themselves), which don't deprecate "commit suicide" - but do recommend "died by suicide". The rest - 27 organisations in all - either state outright that they deprecate "commit suicide", or recommend guidelines which do. 27 of 34. Even PAHO state that we should "avoid the use of stigmatizing language". And these sources are in addition to the many, many sources provided above!
Meanwhile, these are the arguments for the current consensus:
I've cited countless RS in this thread. I've put in hours of work. Where are your sources? What is your argument, besides "someone said in 2004 that it was fine and we've been nodding along ever since"? Vashti (talk) 16:13, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • What I find interesting in that graph is the clear trend of "die by suicide" not being used. Every variant of that phrase on that graph is so close to 0% as to be indistinguishable from 0%. --Khajidha (talk) 17:15, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
Zoom in further and you'll see it going up. I would like to see figures past 2008, myself. Vashti (talk) 17:19, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
  • ^seconded. As long as the argument amounts to "it sounds funny" or "every stylebook and dictionary is wrong about the meaning of the word", then this is likely to be a recurring dispute. Commit can imply criminal or immoral actions. It's silly to keep arguing otherwise, and the revisionist etymologists here need to cite some sources if they want to sustain this argument. As it stands, reliable sources consistently note that the term is ambiguous, and recommend against using it because it can potentially mislead readers. We have perfectly viable alternatives that are clearer, and we have plenty of precedent for eschewing common-but-misleading terms. Nblund talk 16:28, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
You are dissecting the language, Nblund. You are saying "Commit can imply criminal or immoral actions." It is almost funny. Just because it can imply criminal or immoral actions does not mean that it does imply criminal or immoral actions. Bus stop (talk) 16:36, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
[citation needed] Vashti (talk) 16:38, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
No, we do not need to cite that the word "can" does not mean the same as the word "does". --Khajidha (talk) 17:21, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
Then cite something in a reliable source that counters the ten or so organisations who state that it does, or recommend statements that it does. Vashti (talk) 17:29, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
MOS:ALLEGED states: Words such as supposed, apparent, alleged and purported can imply that a given point is inaccurate. It recommends that we avoid them because of that potential implication. Why would we take the risk of needlessly misleading readers? Nblund talk 16:43, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
"misleading readers" how? Bus stop (talk) 16:47, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm sorry, this is an obtuse question. Nblund talk 16:49, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
It is my contention that the phrase "committed suicide" is not inherently misleading. I asked you how that phrase could possibly mislead readers. I'm sorry if that is an "obtuse question". I am trying my best not to be obtuse. Bus stop (talk) 16:53, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
What is your basis for that view? David Minthorn, one of the AP editors explains Committed in that context suggests possibly an illegal act, but in fact, laws against suicide have been repealed in the US, at least in certain states, and many other places. MOS:CONFUSE (and WP:BLPCRIME) both would caution us to avoid language that could give leaders an impression that a crime has been committed. Ample evidence has been provided for this, and your contention seems unfounded. Nblund talk 17:00, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
But that's just it, in American English I don't feel any implication that the phrase "commit suicide" implies wrongdoing. It is simply the way it is said.--Khajidha (talk) 17:09, 14 October 2019 (UTC)
Yet The American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Department of Veterans Affairs still deprecate it. AAS state outright that it is criminalising, while NAASP say that it reinforces stigma. Vashti (talk) 17:16, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

───────────────────────── @Khajidha:, in British English it doesn't imply wrongdoing either. @Vashti:, 15 years is no particularly long. I'm still essentially using the language I learnt at my Mother's knee in the 1950s. I'd agree that this is going nowhere, that's why there was an attempt to head it off when the thread started yet again. Threads like this are akin to EU voting; if the people don't vote the right way, keep making them vote until they get it correct (=my way). There is no clear consensus, let's put this one to bed at let it slumber for at least a year, preferably five. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 17:38, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

Putting it bluntly, "the sources don't matter because I like it" is not an argument I care to encounter on Wikipedia. Vashti (talk) 17:41, 14 October 2019 (UTC)

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