Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2009-05/Names of specific entities

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Names of specific entities[edit]

  • Voting on: Changing Wiktionary:Criteria for inclusion from "a name should be included if it is used attributively, with a widely understood meaning" and the examples that follow, to:
A particularly identified person, place, or thing should be included if the name is widely understood in that sense, as illustrated explicitly through metaphorical use to describe something else. For instance, the following quotations attribute qualities of the boldfaced names by speaking of them in generic terms:
  • "Lake Geneva, once known as the ‘Newport of the West,’ had been repositioned as the ‘Hamptons of the Midwest.’"
  • "Less Benito Mussolini and more Thomas Jefferson would be a mighty good dose for Italy at the present time."
  • "They thus made it unnecessary for a consumer to worry about the energy needed to keep a Sears Tower or a World Trade Center functioning."
  • "One wonders how many other Plutos and Tritons still orbit in the Kuiper Belt and inhabit the Oort Cloud."
  • "Although she predicted that Lift-Off would be the next Sesame Street, the BBC could not allow that to happen."
  • "OWI’s interpretation also tended to contradict its point that World War II was not just a bigger World War I."
  • "It is not Mayflower blood, but Mayflower spirit, that we want in this land."
  • "Fortunate, uniquely fortunate, in many ways as Australia has been, she won even her Magna Carta without a struggle."
When there is clearly widespread knowledge of the name with such a meaning, citation is not required. This may include for instance names of major cities, large bodies of water, national landmarks, and world leaders. However, Wiktionary is not a gazetteer or biographical reference. When there is doubt, a lexical criterion of metaphoric use in durably archived sources is the deciding factor.
  • Vote starts: 00:00, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Vote ends: 24:00, 17 June 2009 (UTC)


  1. Symbol support vote.svg Support DAVilla 17:51, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
  2. Symbol support vote.svg Support I like the switch from "attributive" to "metaphoric". --Bequw¢τ 23:31, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
    • Symbol support vote.svg Weak support. Actually, I'm slightly unhappy about this because the above quotations can be taken out of context. In other words, for example, a book can be discussing Thomas Jefferson for pages and pages and then say "Less Benito Mussolini and more Thomas Jefferson would be a mighty good dose for Italy at the present time". This shouldn't fit the CFI, but, according to one interpretation of the above proposal, would. I am supporting this proposal only because I trust my felow Wiktionarians not to take that interpretation.—msh210 00:55, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
    At least then, although Thomas Jefferson might be described in some detail, the quote would still be attributing those qualities in describing something about Italy, not meaning (due to the disparity in timeframes) that Thomas Jefferson is the fix literally. Honestly I wouldn't expect to see that in a book about world leaders, but this is the case in fact with the quote from Hollywood Goes to War. It discusses films of WWI before getting to WWII. On the other hand, the book is rife with attributive use: World War I propaganda, World War I films, World War I production, World War I agency, World War I U-boat, World War I veterans, World War I hero, World War I ace, World War I doughboys, World War I roles, World War I legacy, post-World War I experience, and possibly others whose content is restricted by Google Books.
    I would worry about making the criteria more strict for two reasons. First, out-of-context is several times more difficult to judge because it requires looking not just at the quotation given but at the surrounding text in the original source. This makes it more difficult to find valid citations and to approve of them, and eliminates sources that have access restrictions in place. Second, outside of exceptions like France where attributive use is sometimes awkward and rare, the current requirement is generally speaking already a fairly weak (per the WWI example above), and I don't wish to deviate much from current practice.
    If this proposal isn't perfect then it is at least a better gauge than attributive use and produces much more interesting quotations than "Oscar the Grouch flip-flops". I could imagine placing an out-of-context proviso on similes if the criteria were extended, or on certain types of promotional terms if we find that it needs to be cut back, but all in all it's better to start simple until we have a solid basis for deviation. There's a good thing about metaphor, where the author says one thing is something else that it isn't. It doesn't leave much of a gray area. Different grades of attribution, simile, out-of-context and the like aren't as immediately defined and require precise wording, more discussion, and tested examples to base that on. DAVilla 07:59, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
    Maybe you're right, DAVilla, that my Jefferson example is a poor one, due to the anachronism. But if the Hollywood Goes to War you mention is the source of the quotation "OWI's interpretation...", above, then I say that that should not count as a citation of World War I. (Moreover, a sentence with "World War I doughboy" does not count as attributive within the meaning of the current CFI, either.) A good cite for World War I under the current CFI ("attributive use") would be "World War I ace" if it referred to someone who never flew in the War, but who is like those who did; under this proposal, we'd also allow "a World War I" if it referred to some conflict other than World War I. That's my view on things, at least. You, DAVilla, seem to disagree with me even as to interpretation of the modified CFI if this vote passes. I'm a little concerned that we're already disagreeing over that interpretation before this has even passed. I'd be happier about voting in support if the proposal were reworded without the "OWI's..." quotation and with specifying that the context does not specify what's meant by the term in question. (Yes, inspecting context is hard, and, no, I don't really expect it to be done each time. But at least if this proposal is reworded per me then if someone points out that the context of a cite causes it to be a bad cite according to the way I describe above, then people wouldn't count it. I'm hopeful that even the way the proposal is worded now, people wouldn't count such a cite in the more egregious cases at least. I mean, I can have a book about w:Oswald Veblen and, at its end, say "Less John von Neumann and more Oswald Veblen would have been a mighty good dose for the American Mathematical Society in 1951". (Von Neumann was president of the AMS in 1951, during Veblen's life; Veblen was president in 1924.) Surely that should not count!) I'm rescinding my vote in support therefore. (Sorry: I should have mentioned this before the vote started.)—msh210 20:42, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
    My intention was chiefly to clarify what the vote entailed, and it seems I have succeeded in doing so. I'm not entirely sure what "attributive use" means (and yours is an interesting interpretation of which I'd like to learn more), but I'm happy to share musings on my own verbiage. I would not count the hypothetical Oswald Veblen quotation because it means Oswald Veblen literally, just as "less Benito Mussolini...for Italy" would not count toward Benito Mussolini. Metaphor in contrast means saying one thing is something it's clearly not, as "World War I ace" might in a different source. The comparison you've drawn would seem to suggest then that some deeper inspection than I've admitted is necessary if not at the fully out-of-context level. Perhaps others will find this is too lenient as well, and consideration of your objection would be the next grade. DAVilla 07:11, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
    Just a slight clarification: I do not mean to dispute the meaning of attributive but to dispute its meaning, or intent, as used in the current CFI only, based on the explanation the CFI give when they discuss attributive use: "A name should be included if it is used attributively, with a widely understood meaning. For example: New York is included because 'New York' is used attributively in phrases like 'New York delicatessen', to describe a particular sort of delicatessen." (emphasis removed). Not all attributive use is intended to count, then.—msh210 16:20, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
    I've always wondered, what kind of delicatessen is that, anyway? Isn't any delicatessen in New York a New York delicatessen, or any delicatessen with a New York theme, or whose owner simply wishes the shop to be loosely associated with New York? Does the phrase "Oscar the Grouch flip-flops" not describe a particular sort of flip-flop? I can understand drawing a line somewhere, but it's not clear to me how that line is drawn. DAVilla 03:36, 28 May 2009 (UTC)
    Re what kind of deli: Beats me. You'll have to ask someone not from New York what "New York delicatessen" means to him. I'm not sure the line's been drawn either, but I think that this proposal aims to draw it in the wrong place.—msh210 17:16, 1 June 2009 (UTC)
  3. Symbol support vote.svg Support Equinox 16:15, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
  4. Symbol support vote.svg Support EncycloPetey 17:07, 23 May 2009 (UTC) Note that the proposal only gives a citerion for items that should be included. It does not say that items failing the criterion must be excluded. --EncycloPetey 21:07, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
    I'm confused by this logic. Obviously a term failing this criterion could possibly be included under one of the other criteria, but the CFI delineates a finite set of criteria. If a term isn't included under any of them we delete it. Would you want to also create the Criteria For Exclusion?--Bequw¢τ 23:26, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
    I point this out because some oppose votes seem to think this criterion excludes items that fail it. It doesn't. As you say, there are other criteria under which a term may be supported, including "widespread use". However, we have very few explicit reasons to actively oppose inclusion of an entry. This is a good thing. My point is that this criterior is a positive one for inclusion, and that the contrapositive is not necessarily true if we accept this proposed revision. --EncycloPetey 23:31, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
    I don't think contrapositive can possibly be the word you want. Perhaps you meant to say converse or inverse? —RuakhTALK 02:33, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
    Oops, you're right. I meant inverse. --EncycloPetey
  5. Symbol support vote.svg Support. I'm not happy about making WT:CFI even longer, but some sort of change is really necessary (the ambiguity in "attributive" has caused no end of frustration), and this proposal seems decently thought-out. —RuakhTALK 14:36, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
  6. Symbol support vote.svg Support Clear benefit per Bequw: a switch from "attributive" to "metaphoric". Clarifies, adjusts, and details the replaced rule. The examples are helpful to get a feel for how this applies to specific cases. I understand the change to broaden the inclusion, as not all metaphoric uses are attributive ones. --Dan Polansky 18:37, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
    I'm not sure if it broadens, restricts, or just shifts. There has been debate about what "attributive use" entails since CFI was approved. I do believe however that metaphor will bring us closer to current practice, with the exception of full names currently excluded. DAVilla 07:23, 27 May 2009 (UTC)


  1. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose SemperBlotto 21:14, 20 May 2009 (UTC) (include ALL words in ALL languages)
    Well, this is step in the right direction, then, including more words than the CFI allowed hitherto, no?—msh210 23:47, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
    It would be a big step in the right direction. The only red terms above are those explicitly excluded in the current CFI. Several of the blue terms could be listed as illustration of what current CFI does not allow, and in fact Empire State Building once was until we decided to keep it after all. All in all this is much less restrictive than the current wording. Just think, many times attributive use can be metaphorical itself. Certainly the best kind always is.
    But I won't pretend that the vote is perfect. I would include, as Lmaltier has noted, nicknames including single names like Stalin along a rationale separate from this. I'm not worried about the majority of these shorter names because they can probably be cited under this metaphor rule, but I would like to count citations with simile and/or out of context, such as Columella in Jane Austen. No such rule is listed above because I'm not certain how strict to make it, but when that becomes clear I fully intend to bring it up as an amendment.
    There could also be an automatic exemption when there is another meaning, as with Cinderella and Pearl Harbor. That's kind of implicit since such a meaning would itself be metaphoric use. On the other hand, wouldn't it be better in practice to find different examples of metaphor, as in different objects thereof?
    From book hits it appears that the results for this test will be much closer aligned with current practice, though the wording might be more specific to real-world objects and not entries like (edit:) Oscar the Grouch. But I'd just as well keep it simple at first, and not try to fine-tune until there are some solid cases to base that on. DAVilla 09:18, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
    An eponymous person place or thing, real or fictional, can happily live in an etymology and never need to be defined as an English term. For instance, what is an Uncle Tom, an Uncle Scrooge or a little Hitler bears definition. If we embrace onomastics, we can also say a few things about the names Thomas, Scrooge, and Hitler. But although the eponymous Scrooge McDuck, Adolf Hitler, and Uncle Tom's Cabin may be mentioned in etymologies, they are properly the subjects of encyclopedia articles “w:Scrooge McDuck”, “w:Adolf Hitler”, and “w:Uncle Tom's Cabin”. Michael Z. 2009-05-29 00:31 z
    If you can propose consistent criteria that selectively exclude these then I'm all ears. I've never been and am still not able to find a good argument for Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, by the way. It seems people have very different ideas of what should obviously be in a dictionary. Eponymous, what a cool word! DAVilla 05:57, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
    This must be a misunderstanding. Could you please give an example of a word you think this excludes? DAVilla 16:47, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
  2. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose I'm going to agree with SB on this one. 50 Xylophone Players talk 15:54, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
  3. Symbol oppose vote.svg I was going to abstain (or, equivalently, not vote at all), for reasons I've expressed above. I didn't want to oppose, since, although this has a large enough flaw that I can't vote for it, it's better than the current state of affairs. After not thinking it over for a while, though, just letting it sit in the back of my head, I realized that I was actually hoping it would fail and be reintroduced revised. So I've decided to vote in opposition for that reason.—msh210 17:16, 1 June 2009 (UTC)
  4. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Doesn't apply to geographic entities. DCDuring TALK 15:24, 11 June 2009 (UTC)


  1. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain Ƿidsiþ 21:12, 20 May 2009 (UTC) Meh. Either way, really.
  2. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain. We're too encyclopaedic for my taste already. --Duncan 18:52, 23 May 2009 (UTC)
  3. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstaining, at least for now. The guideline in question definitely needs a bit of tweaking, at least. But it seems that such usage as in the examples can be applied in overly specific cases (e.g. "we need another mayor Nobody Jones" in three letters to the editors of small-town newspapers could meet CFI). I think the key to adding more proper names without opening it up to everything and anything may be in adding an onomastics criterion rather than in loosening the usage criteria. Michael Z. 2009-05-29 00:17 z
    Per the discussion with msh210, it may be good to start formulating additional restrictions about the context. Because of the topic of the example source you give, it shouldn't be too difficult to exclude these. But what it means to be out of context can vary widely, and we will benefit by having specific examples. I'm starting to think this approach is deficient without it. DAVilla 06:41, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
  4. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain Is one effect of this to supercede the unvoted-on purported prevailing practice of including certain gazetteer-type entries? See Rostov-na-Donu. I have read in discussion that we have some principle for including certain types of these, but have not found it mentioned in any policy or guidelines. I am concerned that numerous sports and other celebrities may find their way in under this proposal. For example, a "Janet Jackson". DCDuring TALK 18:42, 10 June 2009 (UTC)
    Although there were only two Google Book hits for "the Janet Jackson of", it's hard to argue against inclusion when you see quotes like "Two singers, Asian Janet Jacksons, come out and croon snappy Mandarin love ballads." If someone ran across that, wouldn't they want to know what it means? I agree that it could bring in numerous celebrities, but I would feel satisfied that their inclusion is justified.
    This isn't intended to supercede existing precedent, only to bring CFI more in line with it. It's possible to exclude full names of people as we do now, which would be a closer match. In my view though, the main reason we exclude people is that there aren't any criteria to judge them on. Other dictionaries do include some names, and the choices seem somewhat arbitrary to me, almost prescriptive in their selection. A literary basis for inclusion makes a lot more sense, especially when it results from the same rationale that would support any other types of names.
    I do like the idea that a name should be of some global importance, and that would be enough for me to withdraw this vote. The same problem with Rostov-na-Donu applies to Rostov-on-Don, namely that it is a foreign location not well known to your everyday English speaker. Yet a city of that size we would definitely want to include.
    It might make sense to require metaphoric use in some language, and then prove that either entry is a translation of Ростов-на-Дону. I couldn't be wrong to presume that metaphor could be found in Russian, and three translations from Russian into English shouldn't be hard to track down either. Does that sound like a reasonable approach? We could always ask a Russian speaker to complete this just as an example, but as long as that principle is approved, it would easily fall under the widespread knowledge clause.
    On the other hand, this doesn't really prove global importance. For that we would need metaphoric use in several languages, plus proof of translation into the target language. But that would make citation of specific entities very tricky indeed. DAVilla 15:11, 11 June 2009 (UTC)
    DCDuring, I would interpret this vote to supersede existing precedent on geographic terms, but in a way that is harmonious with our less-arguable, existing entries. The well-known geographic entities (e.g. countries, oceans), that 'most' people would want included, I think would be found to have metaphoric uses and therefore be included under the official CFI (and not just RFV/D precedent). I don't think there's precedent on poorly-known geographic entries (discussions at Rostov-on-Don formed no consensus). I would expect many geo entries would be reexamined after this vote. DAVilla does bring up a good point, though, that is related to this vote, but touches on many other areas. Does being a transliteration of an accepted term grant acceptance? --Bequw¢τ 01:24, 12 June 2009 (UTC)


  • Fails 6-4-3. DAVilla 03:22, 18 June 2009 (UTC)