Someone added a tag for that states it to be "the reason". The linked page invented the term to refer to the substance being sought after, with the reason implied as coveting or requiring that stuff somehow.

So Interstellar is not an example, as other kinds of reasons are not covered. I really don't like the application of the term to this larger idea (the reason) because it does not fit the grammar or etymology at all. McGuffinite would be a natural resource substance, like unobtainium. It's not a social urge or drive or a trope, like "the Earth is dying".

  • $\begingroup$ I created the tag so we can identify questions that discuss reasons that might compel humanity to go to space. I may have been a little too eager to apply it in some cases. I won't take offense if you remove it (Jim2B, on chat). $\endgroup$ May 11, 2016 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think the idea for such a tag is sound, but needs a better name for this overall general trope. As for a material to be sought, it's just a variation on McGuffin. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 11, 2016 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ For whatever it’s worth, phlebotinum may be a better name. $\endgroup$
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 16, 2016 at 10:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yea, but you can't order that for breakfast at McDonalds. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 16, 2016 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


I think the tag as is does not prove of much use.

The help center states, that:

As a general rule, you should avoid creating new tags if possible, and new users are not allowed to create new tags. Even if you have sufficient reputation, you should only create new tags when you feel you can make a strong case that your question covers a new topic that nobody else has asked about before on this site.

I think that this is the biggest problem of this tag. AFAICS Nobody really profits from a tag, as opposed to tagging with and or even .

A tag tells (those who actually know the term) that the question is about people going to space for some unenclosed reason. The question now wants to know the reasons for that.

This seems (at least to me) like a narrow set of questions that tend to be very broad and closely related.

As the community seems to agree, I went ahead and edited all four questions that were using the tag. But if there is a native speaker out there that wants to review my edits I would appreciate it. These are the questions I edited:

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It's also practically non-discoverable, which IMO further reduces its value as a tag. Most people can have some idea what "space-colonization" or "spaceflight" questions are about; I for one certainly don't know what questions about "mcguffinite" are about. If I start typing "space" into the tags field, I get suggestions like "spaceflight", "spaceships", "space-elevators" and so on; no "mcguffinite" in sight! $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 11, 2016 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling my thoughts exactly. I had a quick google search to see, how popular the term is, but didn't get many results (The WB tag page was hit 4 and most of the rest was random twitter links!) $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    May 11, 2016 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ If a term is a reasonably widely established name for something in a specific subculture, that term might make a reasonable tag synonym, however. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 11, 2016 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling This is true. So what would be the most reasonable action? Making mcguffinite a synonym for space-colonization? The only thing that bothers me about that, is that the first one is a little more specific as it only applies to the reasoning. $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    May 11, 2016 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Synonyms should only be used if the two have very similar if not necessarily identical meaning and substring matching isn't likely to yield helpful suggestions (this latter also means that often, alternative spellings are not good tag synonyms). If there is a significant difference in meaning, generally speaking, they should not be synonyms. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 11, 2016 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I see we have similar opinions. But what would be the way to go from here? The consensus seems to be that a mcguffinite tag as is is not good, so what should we do? Simple delete it? Retag as space-colonization? I am not sure about that. Probably retagging would be the most sensible action. $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    May 11, 2016 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't looked at that question in detail, but removing the mcguffinite tag sounds good to me. (It will wither away if it's not used on any questions.) If, regardless of any other tags on the question or not, the space-colonization tag applies, then adding that sounds good. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 11, 2016 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling currently four questions are using this tag. After a quick glance I would say it can be replaced on all of them. I would go ahead and do this later today if I can get around to it - as long as I have green light from the community (which seems to be the case) $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    May 11, 2016 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ There are currently no downvotes anywhere on this meta question. Unless someone posts an alternative answer arguing against this and that gets a lot of attention from the community, I think you can consider this to be as much community consensus as we're going to reach for now. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 11, 2016 at 15:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – T3 H40
    May 11, 2016 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ Would any of you prefer renaming the tag McGuffin? The reason I created the tag is a way of organizing questions about reasons for going into space. With colonization as one possible reason. Materials unique to space or alien artifacts might also be McGuffins or perhaps stopping that extinction level event asteroid could be another. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    May 11, 2016 at 21:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Jim2B to me a McGuffin is a plot element, not a world element. Nor is it limited to space colonization. So the tag confuses me. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2016 at 22:39

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