I recently saw this question, asking for an alternate word or phrase to the English phrase 'human rights'. One couldn't use that phrase for non-human alien species, so the question was asking for alternatives. I have a similar question I would like to ask (based on the word 'humane'), but it seems to me that the place to ask it is on EL&U SE, not Worldbuilding.

EL&U deals with questions about alternate words. The very first bullet point under 'what to ask' is "Word choice and usage". It seems obvious to me that such a question belongs there. However, the fact that no one even mentioned such an idea on the above linked question makes me wonder. Is such a question actually on topic on Worldbuilding SE?


3 Answers 3


This is far from the first time we've seen that type of question.

I would argue that "what to name X?" questions are off topic on Worldbuilding. There's a potentially very large set of possible answers ("too broad"), and it's usually very hard to judge how well any given answer answers the question ("primarily opinion-based"), and there is no actual world-building involved ("not about worldbuilding"). The specific name given to something has, as far as I'm concerned, no bearing on any of its properties within the world. If I call a chair a chair or an ijgrjdb't doesn't make one iota of difference; it's still something you generally use to sit on.

One could make an argument that "how do I decide what to name X?" questions might be on topic. We do, after all, have some precedent for questions being on topic (even though that's probably one of the more mis-used tags on the site), and such a question could be an example of such. There shouldn't be too many of those, and answers can draw readily from e.g. linguistics to describe the process of figuring out what something might be named, without necessarily becoming too focused on the OP's specific wor(l)d.

So my opinion would be: what to name X? - off topic. how to name X? - possibly on topic.

  • $\begingroup$ It is currently proposed as off-topic. Further, when I asked about a technobabble badge I received enough downvotes that I even considered deleting the question. The community has consistently closed these kinds of questions - unless it tickled their fancy. Darn artists & authors. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 6, 2018 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I don't think I'd seen that question at all, much less looked at every single answer to it. Sometimes trying to group things together can detract from visibility of each proposal, and I suspect that that question might have been a case of that. As for the technobabble tag proposal being downvoted: downvotes are par for the course on Meta, and (especially in discussion questions) simply means that whoever voted disagrees with whatever the proposal was. This is a very different discussion, but just because people disagree with a proposal doesn't make the proposal itself not worth keeping. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 6, 2018 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ My point with the comment and links is that this site supports the idea that "what to name X?" questions are off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 6, 2018 at 14:08

I'd say these "what to name X" questions are a bit of a gamble on the part of the querent. JBH & a CVn (I think, in this case rightly) says they're off-topic. Way too much room for divergent opinion. Even for my taste, and I am generally one who votes to keep "opinion based" queries open, simply because they're good worldbuilding questions.

As for the above specific example, I personally don't follow E.SE, so would never have seen the query. Given the nature of the query as being fundamentally fantasy or sci-fi related, I think WB.SE is as good a place to ask the question as any. Furthermore, if someone flagged the query for closure, I'd vote to keep it open.

In rereading the query, I come across very many perfectly fine and acceptable answers. But --- and I am not saying this because I wrote the response! --- the one answer that truly ties together the OP's fantasy/sci-fi perspective with the broader genre of literature was "sophont rights".

Would that have been given as an in-genre answer in E.SE? Possibly. But the fact that the OP chose a Stack that corresponded more closely with Sci-Fi and Fantasy as a genre I think lead to a much more appropriate array of answers. After all, on E.SE, I would expect either some kind of legal term or some kind of synonym picked out of the thesaurus. Whereas on WB.SE, I would expect an answer that takes into account creative worldbuilding and its associated genres of literature.

As for your question about "humane"; I think your best bet would be to kick it around in the Sandbox (sorry I don't have a link!) and see what people think before deciding whether to post or not.

As I look through the etymology of the word I can clearly see why you would want to ask that question. And given the success of "human rights" in a (truly) polyracial society, I can see why you might want to ask it here rather than on English.SE.

If you choose to ask it, I can say that I'll have an answer!


Clearly, if you are describing a real world situation, alternate words belong on English Language & Usage. However, if you are describing a speculatively fictional situation (i.e. science fiction or fantasy) and want to know what words would be used internal to that world, I would argue that's on-topic here.

Just because a question might be on-topic on another stack does not make it off-topic here. Some questions can be asked on multiple stacks.

If you are making up your own language, you would probably be better off asking on Construct Languages. Not because it's off-topic here but because they have a better set of experts for that kind of question.


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