Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2011-02/Deprecating less-than symbol in etymologies

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Deprecating less-than symbol in etymologies[edit]

  • Voting on: Setting the use of "from" in etymologies as Wiktionary standard, and deprecating the use of less-than symbol. In particular: (a) adjusting Wiktionary:Etymology, a guideline for formatting of etymology, to state that "from" is the standard, by replacing less-than symbol with ", from" in examples and by other adjustments as needed; (b) declaring that anyone is welcome to replace less-than symbol with "from" in etymologies, no matter whether manually or robotically. (c) There should be a comma and a space before "from", with the exception of "from" that is at the beginning of the etymology, and possibly some other exceptions; as in "From A, from B, from C" rather than "From A from B from C".
  • Rationale: The use of "from" is preferred over the use of less-than symbol by a large majority in the poll Wiktionary:Beer parlour/2011/February#Poll: Etymology and the use of less-than symbol. In the poll, 37 people have stated their preference up to now. We cannot satisfy everyone, and one of the formatting options should be chosen as Wiktionary standard. The use of comma before "from" is the prevalent common practice in Wiktionary whenever "from" is used; it is also the practice used by Merriam-Webster online and other online dictionaries that use "from".
  • Vote starts: 00:01, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Vote ends: 23.59, 8 March 2011 (UTC) -- 14 days later
    Extending by one week to 23.59, 15 March 2011 (UTC), as people are coming to vote shortly before the end of the vote, and as this vote has turned out to be not a mere formality. --Dan Polansky 08:13, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
    Extending by one more week to 23.59, 22 March 2011 (UTC), for the same reason as before. Thus, the vote will last a full month, a period that has been used for many votes in Wiktionary. --Dan Polansky 14:26, 14 March 2011 (UTC)
  • Vote created: Dan Polansky 08:58, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Discussion:
    Wikt rei-artur3.svg Wiktionary:Beer parlour/2011/February#Poll: Etymology and the use of less-than symbol, February 2011
    Wikt rei-artur3.svg Wiktionary talk:Votes/pl-2011-02/Deprecating less-than symbol in etymologies


  1. Symbol support vote.svg Support Dan Polansky 10:19, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  2. Symbol support vote.svg Support Daniel. 10:35, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  3. Symbol support vote.svg Support Caladon 11:01, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  4. Symbol support vote.svg SupportRuakhTALK 14:16, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  5. Symbol support vote.svg Support Leo Laursen – (talk · contribs) 17:18, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  6. Symbol support vote.svg Support Ƿidsiþ 18:18, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  7. Symbol support vote.svg Support DAVilla 10:57, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
  8. Symbol support vote.svg Support Bequw τ 21:25, 24 February 2011 (UTC)
  9. Symbol support vote.svg SupportAugPi (t) 07:48, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
  10. Symbol support vote.svg Support - -sche 20:03, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
  11. Symbol support vote.svg Support Neskayagawonisgv? 21:16, 9 March 2011 (UTC) for accessibility. less than is not readable for users of screen readers, braille displays, or other assistive technologies. --Neskayagawonisgv? 21:16, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
  12. Symbol support vote.svg SupportCodeCat 09:38, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    Symbol support vote.svg Support DCDuring TALK 09:41, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  13. Symbol support vote.svg Support as per reasons given in poll, usability by novices foremost among them. —Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 09:43, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  14. Symbol support vote.svg Support — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 15:35, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  15. Symbol support vote.svg Support . When I was new, I had a really hard time figuring out what those less-than signs meant in etymologies. I only found it out incidentally one day. -- Prince Kassad 16:32, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  16. Symbol support vote.svg Support Prosfilaes 17:42, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  17. Symbol support vote.svg Support Jcwf 19:45, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  18. Symbol support vote.svg Support Kinamand 05:28, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
  19. Symbol support vote.svg Support H. (talk) 18:18, 13 March 2011 (UTC) Finally!
  20. Symbol support vote.svg Support bd2412 T 16:00, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
  21. Symbol support vote.svg Support Lmaltier 10:50, 19 March 2011 (UTC)


Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose. This vote is unnecessary. WT:Etymology is not a {{policy}}, and doesn't require a vote to be modified. The poll has already shown that there is a consensus to make "from" the standard, so the page should just be changed to reflect that. And I really hope that this vote doesn't result in WT:Etymology becoming semi-{{policy}}-ified... --Yair rand (talk) 11:08, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
The poll only asked about preferences that people have; it did not ask about whether people want these preferences imposed as Wiktionary standard. "I prefer A to B" and "I want A to become a project standard and B getting deprecated" are two distinct statements. This vote does not turn WT:ETY into a policy, but I admit that it treats it in part as if it were a policy. In any case, a change to WT:ETY made through a 14-day vote has more authority than a change that merely refers to a poll. After this vote ends (8 March 2011), around 30 days will have passed from the day on which I have started the poll (7 February 2011), which is a nice time for such a significant change that could have been executed years ago if it were not for the polls-are-evil and votes-are-evil ranting. --Dan Polansky 11:45, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
On another note, the choice of "From A, from B, from C" over "From A from B from C" (comma or not) was not discussed in the poll. Can you at least informally indicate that you agree with the former, if that is the case? --Dan Polansky 11:53, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
Using commas makes sense, IMO. If this vote passes, does it prohibit using anything other than the word "from" in etymologies? If at some point someone puts together some fancy etymology template/format stuffed with arrows and whatnot, would that be prohibited entirely, requiring a vote to be usable? --Yair rand (talk) 12:33, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
The vote does not prohibit the use of templates for the markup that results into the reader-visible "from", although such a use is yet to be pioneered. It also does not prohibit the use of other phrases where meaningful, such as ", past participle of", or ", possibly from". It merely says that "<" should no longer be used and that "from" should be used instead; and that comma should be placed before "from". --Dan Polansky 12:45, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
  1. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Mglovesfun (talk) 12:35, 23 February 2011 (UTC), < is easier on the eye than 'from', not least because in reading I 'internally' pronounce the 'from' but for < I pronounce nothing. < avoid over-the-top duplication. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:35, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
    less than is not readable for users of screen readers, braille displays, or other assistive technologies. we can't just think of a few people here. --Neskayagawonisgv? 21:18, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
    I also prefer "<", but I support that Wiktionary is formatted uniformly according to the preference of a large majority of the sample of users that we got in the referred poll. --Dan Polansky 17:48, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
    Well if there's large majority this vote will pass and I'll abide by it. I don't see that as a reason for me personally not to oppose it. Mglovesfun (talk) 17:53, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
    That is in principle correct. However, the method of a poll followed by a vote works well also for plain majorities in the poll. This requires that the vote is a confirmation of the result of the poll, a confirmation supported by all those who think that the majority as shown in the poll should prevail. This does not make a difference in this case, I admit, as the majority shown in the poll is a large one. However, it means that the pollers have to vote again in this vote in order to recreate the large majority. By contrast, if this vote is seen merely as a formal step that approves the result of the poll, it suffices that a fraction of the pollers votes support. --Dan Polansky 18:03, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
    In UK elections, I vote for my preferred candidate, not the one I think is most likely to win. I'm exercising the same principle here. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:30, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
    In UK elections, there is no split between a poll and a follow-up vote, and the UK vote is plain-majoritarian rather than supermajoritarian. What we have here is in effect a two-round vote, such that the second round formally confirms the winner of the first less formal round. While there may be some polls running before the UK election, the Beer parlour poll before this Wiktionary vote has many more voters than this vote is going to have. There is very little analogy between a poll run by a market research agency in the UK before the elections and the Beer parlour poll that has preceded this vote. Vote as you see fit; it will make almost no difference anyway. I am merely trying to highlight the principles behind this vote and the poll that preceded the vote, the principles that have been successfully applied to renaming the categories for headword lines. --Dan Polansky 14:53, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
    Well, actually in the 'poll' the split was more even than this; many of the people who opposed deprecation there haven't opposed it here. It makes me think if anything more people should oppose to 'even up' the numbers a bit. This is all hypothetical right now; this vote is winning in a landslide unless there are more oppose votes. Mglovesfun (talk) 14:58, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
    Here we clearly disagree: what I am saying is that everyone who agrees that the large majority shown in the poll should prevail and that this is in no way an unfair dictate of a majority should either support this vote or at least abstain. --Dan Polansky 15:05, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
    But this vote and the poll are not worded identically, and (although AFAICT the only necessary outcome of this vote was covered by the poll) there may be implications people will take (or will think others will take) from the wording of the vote that they do not think were covered by the poll. Such people will then not assume that the majority clear in the poll applies here.​—msh210 (talk) 16:40, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
    That is a good point. The vote is about imposing a standard binding for everyone whereas the poll was merely about people's individual preference. If a person thinks that no standard should be imposed, the person should oppose this vote. In addition, the vote proposes the use of commas before "from", on which the poll was silent. But I think my basic point remains: the two rounds make it possible for people to support the second round if they agree that the voted issue is such that a plain majority should decide based on mere preference. --Dan Polansky 17:01, 28 February 2011 (UTC)
  2. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose The less-than symbol is useful in longer derivation chains. The uſer hight Bogorm converſation 07:17, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
    Symbol oppose vote.svg OpposeInternoob (DiscCont) 03:24, 8 March 2011 (UTC) I prefer < for long strings, meaning that we leave the status quo, with no standardization.
    I am switching to abstain. However, I do not want any people, particularly newcomers, to be harangued for not following this standard because WT:Etymology is still not a policy! If my vote turns out to be the swing vote on this issue that causes it to pass, I'm going to trust that people won't. —Internoob (DiscCont) 19:09, 21 March 2011 (UTC)
    Just a short note that I have already made to MG above: I also prefer "<" personally, but I support that Wiktionary is formatted uniformly according to the preference of a large majority of the sample of users that we got in the referred poll. --Dan Polansky 06:36, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
    I would vote in support if I cared more that something be standardized no matter what it is, but I want that extra bit of legibility more than I want standardization. —Internoob (DiscCont) 23:15, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
    But you will not get that extra bit of legibility in most entries (people with accessibility issues find "from" more legible). No one will be able to convert "from" to "<", so all the etymologies that already use "from" will continue doing that. The etymologies that I will newly add will use "from" (as I will go by the majority preference in spite of my personal preference) and no one will be able to convert them to "<". The principle underlying this vote and the preceding poll is that things should be standardized unless the winning option is truly unacceptable to the opposer, which I do not see is the case with "from", used by several online dictionaries. There are cases where a minority should steadfastly resist an unfair thing pushed by a majority, but I do not see how "from" is such a case. The formatting using "<" or "from" is mostly a matter of mere personal preference, complemented by such less personal considerations as accessibility. If people steadfastly hold on to their personal preferences in this way, the principle of consensus cannot really work. The principle of consensus as implemented using 2/3 or 70%-supermajority requires that people sometimes give in to the preferences of majority, or else Wiktionary becomes a hodgepodge of unstandardized arbitrary practices. Satisfying a further constraint, the poll is fairly representative one with its fairly large number of participants (close to 40); a plain majority achieved with, say, ten voters in total would be far from as convincing. --Dan Polansky 07:17, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
    I don't really want things standardized either way. With a wiki of this nature, there needs to be a compromise between individual editors' styles and an ideal of project-wide consistency. You can't get everyone to structure their creations in exactly the same way, and with every new thing that gets standardized, we have to explain to newbies that make a mistake what their mistake was and ask that they remember it in the future. For users with accessibility issues, I imagine that this is the least of their troubles with this site. —Internoob (DiscCont) 23:38, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
  3. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose --Vahag 07:49, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
  4. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose —Stephen (Talk) 12:32, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
  5. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose --Anatoli 03:44, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
    What makes you oppose? In the poll, you have written: "Support. Whatever becomes the standard, I'll accept, no preference. --Anatoli 22:20, 14 February 2011 (UTC)" The option that can become the standard is the option supported by a large majority. Why do you oppose that option's becoming a standard? I don't understand. --Dan Polansky 06:56, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
  6. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose (only because I was asked to vote, really I don't give a toss) SemperBlotto 09:50, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    If you don't give a toss, why do you oppose rather than abstaining? (I have asked all people who have taken part on the poll and have not voted yet to vote.) --Dan Polansky 10:19, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    Because I object to your questioning of people's votes (if they oppose you). SemperBlotto 10:21, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    LOL. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:29, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    But that questioning has convinced at least one person not to oppose, right? It can be a bit unpleasant for people when I question their opposition, but if people seem to oppose for bad reasons or for no reason at all, then it seems fairly reasonable for me to try to understand other people's reasoning, right? You could have dropped me a note on my talk page that you dislike me doing that. No one has complained about my trying to discuss things so far. I do not deny that it can be unpleasant; discussion of disagreements is often unpleasant; it is often much more pleasant to avoid any confrontation resulting from a disagreement. If you prefer I leave your votes without any remark, I can so do. I can also no longer notify you on your talk page of polls and votes if you find that disagreeable. --Dan Polansky 10:34, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    Especially since your oppose vote is now going to make the entire vote fail, rather than pass, which is really bad. -- Prince Kassad 16:08, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
  7. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose This proposal amends a page whose banner already shows "This is a draft proposal. It is unofficial, and it is unknown whether it is widely accepted by Wiktionary editors." What purpose is served by this snippet of micromanagement to a page full of verbal diarrhea? Trying to read through that page gave me a headache. I still would prefer to use "from" instead of "<", but I am not prepared to impose that preference. Polls may very well point to best practices; if those practices really are best editors will gravitate toward them without a formal vote. Eclecticology 23:44, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
    Why have not editors already gravitated to "from" or "<" in the course of past four years during which I was editing Wiktionary and during which both practices were in use? I see no evidence that supports your thesis that editors always automatically gravitate toward something without the need of a poll or a vote. I do not see that there is always some person-independent "best practice"; people have different preferences and different needs (accessibility). I do not think that driving on the left is better than driving on the right or vice versa. If you question the effectiveness of polls and votes (both of which you have said in the past are "evil"), compare the preceding poll and this vote with Wiktionary:Beer_parlour_archive/2008/November#Etymology sections are very concise. --Dan Polansky 07:49, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
    If editors haven't gravitated to one form or the other, perhaps it's because both forms are acceptable, and no real consensus has developed. I didn't participate in the 2008 discussion, but it does show that the topic was no less controversial then than now. There is a virtue to being concise, but in some circumstances a longer explanation may be the best. Eclecticology 18:28, 14 March 2011 (UTC)
    Strawberry ice cream
    Sure, both formats are basically acceptable. But you do not seem to have responded to what I was saying. You have still left this sentence unretracted: "if those practices really are best editors will gravitate toward them without a formal vote." I was pointing out that the notion that one practice is objectively better than another one is dubious. If people hold on to their dear preferences in spite of their being in a minority and in spite of these being mere preferences (strawberry ice cream vs chocolate ice cream), and if, in addition, some people oppose mainly because they hate polls, votes or notifications, then it is hard to arrive at anything like consensus. The unwillingness to start and participate in standard political processes has in the past all too often lead to people in Wiktionary asserting that one thing or another was a policy or a binding standard, often quoting CFI or ELE, two documents that have been largely unvoted-on and whose consensual support is unknown. Going by polls and votes is a way to replace the intrasparency of decision making that has plagued Wiktionary with traceable collective decision making. But it can only be achieved if people cooperate a bit. --Dan Polansky 20:43, 14 March 2011 (UTC)
    There's nothing to retract; I still stand by it. The syllogism only works if the premise is true. It says nothing about what happens if the premise is not true, nor does it allow us to argue in reverse that the consequence implies the premise. Sure these varying preferences make it hard to arrive at a consensus, but that's OK too. The underlying fallacy in your comments is that a consensus must always be reached, that it somehow damages the Wiki when we don't have uniformity or standards. I agree too about most people's unwillingness to participate in political processes, but that only tells you to choose your battles carefully. People do, in fact, quote these long "policy" documents, whch have often become a patchwork of incoherence. The longer and more detailed they are, the less they mean to anyone and the more likely they are to be ignored except by those who want to use them to prove a point. That group also finds it convenient to ignore it when the top of the page calls it a guideline. Polls may be fine for helping people to guide their own practices, but not when they are used to tell others what to do. Eclecticology 04:51, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
    My mistake: you are right that the sentence is actually true, as the premise simply does not hold. I am posting the rest of the post to your talk page. --Dan Polansky 08:01, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
  8. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose I prefer "<"s, but let's give users to use what they want to use. I can see thousand of useless edits changing only the format of an etymology after this vote. Maro 23:33, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
  9. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose — Stevey7788 08:20, 14 March 2011 (UTC) The "<" sign is easier to read, as wordiness and lack of conciseness tend to cause confusion. This symbol is also widely used in academic publications on historical linguistics. Readers would all quickly learn what "<" means, since it should be very intuitive.
  10. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Not worth it. DCDuring TALK 17:37, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
    Do you think you could explain what is not worth what? (There is no relation of this switch to oppose to my attempt to get rid of {{derv}}, right?) --Dan Polansky 19:07, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
    Of course not. I was just reviewing all of my votes on pending matters. I realized that my initial support was thoughtless and that no harm occurs from the presence or absence of "<" or even ">". A softer approach seems wiser. In any event, editors can make whatever mass changes that they would like to bring about standardization. They merely need to accept whatever consequences there might be. It's a wiki. DCDuring TALK 19:24, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
    Can you explain what you mean by softer approach? Are people supposed to spontaneously replace "<" with ", from" without a formal support? Or is the use of "<" supposed to be frozen where it is already used, per lacking formal supermajority? I do not really understand. --Dan Polansky 19:40, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
    What, is everything not mandatory to be forbidden? It's not worth any suppression of a large minority. Either good example, facts, logic, and argument win by getting a very large consensus (which I don't see for this) or the time and/or proposal aren't right. If someone adding many etymologies puts in the offending notation, I'm not going to interfere. If I subsequently do some work on it, maybe I'll change it to my favorite notation. Editors change each other's contributions all the time, sometimes even on a mass scale. Folks seem to prefer less structure rather than more. Wikis are substantially laissez-faire. Why not go with it? DCDuring TALK 22:13, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
    I am not sure I understood you well, so can you answer my question either in the affirmative or in the negative?: "Are people supposed to spontaneously replace "<" with ", from" without a formal support?" It seems that your answer is yes, is that right? Do I understand you correctly? --Dan Polansky 10:05, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
    Yes. I don't know. No. No. DCDuring TALK 10:31, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
    Very funny indeed. So to "Are people supposed to spontaneously replace "<" with ", from" without a formal support?" you say that you don't know. It have no idea what further procedure you propose, if any. At least, you block proposals that actually can work, only if enough people choose to cooperate.
    Re: "Either good example, facts, logic, and argument win by getting a very large consensus ...": Facts alone cannot win any argument in a real-world non-descriptive decision, as it needs at least one non-descriptive (and thus non-factual) assumption or input. Given that the choice of "from" vs "<" is largely matter of arbitary preference or taste, we are lucky that there is such a large support of one option over the other; it is perfectly usual for preferences to be more evenly divided. Most of current Wiktionary formatting practices, where they are unified, are not a result of people freely converting to something but of assertive people falsely claiming that "the community has decided that..." or "there is a consensus that...". But that is apparently okay with you. Sigh. --Dan Polansky 12:58, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
    I'm going with my gut on this one. DCDuring TALK 13:44, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
    (unindent) If you at least agree that, given the preferences stated in the poll, I should feel free to manually (not robotically) replace "<" with "from" in etymologies, please say so. If you do not know whether I should feel free, consider that I did not feel free to do the replacement until I have something like a formal approval, which is why I have started the vote. Some people have less scruples, which is obviously okay with all the opposers here: when they are not asked for approval, they neither oppose nor protest. --Dan Polansky 16:42, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
    This last point is an interesting rephrasing of the problem. If it's about what you will do in the course of your own editing the original poll will likely be enough to guide you. When you have in fact made these changes how much have people objected? So go ahead manually and see what happens. If there is any significant backlash pause to reconsider, Note too that you are more likely to get backlash if you appear to be on some kind of crusade. If this is about what you expect others to do you can almost be certain of an adverse reaction. Eclecticology 05:32, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
    I have responded at User_talk:Eclecticology#Voting. --Dan Polansky 07:28, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
  11. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Venere 15:00, 21 March 2011 (UTC)


  1. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain.​—msh210 (talk) 17:06, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
  2. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain. I personally prefer the form "From X < Y < Z..." but wouldn't object to either of the two proposals being set as a standard. --Ivan Štambuk 14:09, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
  3. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 23:59, 12 March 2011 (UTC) I have to agree with Yair on this, a vote is not really the way to go. While I appreciate where Dan is coming from in his desire to achieve standardization, I don't think that opinion polls and votes are the best approach here. Both formats have their deficiencies, and until we come up with something which neatly resolves all of them, I almost wonder if we have to live with a little mess. I am also a bit hesitant to impose yet more rules. Finally, I simply haven't been active enough lately to feel comfortable taking a strong stance.
  4. Symbol abstain vote.svg AbstainInternoob (DiscCont) 19:09, 21 March 2011 (UTC) See my oppose vote above.