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Wiktionary talk:Votes/pl-2009-08/Common placenames get entries

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About examples: I agree with Corello Street, and River Thames, but certainly not with New York or Stratford-on-Avon. The only link between New York and York is etymological... Lmaltier 13:40, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Can you explain your reasoning for Stratford-on-Avon?​—msh210 21:03, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Statford is a part of the word Stratford-on-Avon. The complete word is Stratford-on-Avon. Lmaltier 05:56, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
In the placename Stratford-on-Avon, yes, Stratford is a part. But Stratford is a word on its own, and (barring inclusion of Stratford-on-Avon on other grounds, that is, assuming we're only talking about inclusion under due to this vote) Stratford-on-Avon is for purposes of etymology and pronunciation and rhymes and cognates and spellings and cetera pretty much the sum of its parts. (And where it's not, that can be explained in a usage note for the appropriate component.) And that's what these "common name of town" entries are good for.​—msh210 12:28, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't understand this at all. How can a proper name be idiomatic or not? It doesn't have meaning; it denotes a specific place. You either know where various Yorks and New Yorks are, or you don't. (You may be able to infer something about the name's etymology, but that's not understanding its meaning.) New York doesn't mean “the newer York!” Michael Z. 2009-08-07 04:44 z

(I guess in a sense proper names are all idiomatic, since each refers to a specific referent. But this doesn't help us.) Michael Z. 2009-08-07 05:14 z


Definitions such as A common name for rivers. ou A common name for villages in England. have already been proposed on fr.wikt, but they don't work:

  • different places = different senses. People living in Paris (Texas) don't feel that they live in France. The senses are different.
  • translations may be different: the Portuguese name for Rome (Italy) is Roma, but it's Rome for Rome (Illinois).
  • other linguistic information such as pronunciation or demonyms may be different (cf. fr:Beaulieu).

Yes, pages could look like Wikipedia disambiguation pages. So what? It's already the case for common nouns, and it's quite normal, because of the Wiktionary principle: all words written the same way are grouped into a common page (which is the principle of Wikipedia disambiguation pages).

Conclusion: it's better to stick to principles: two senses = two definition lines. Lmaltier 13:56, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Yes, two senses = two definition lines. And Rome (NY) is a different referent of Rome than Rome (It.) is. And the BP is discussing, and has many times discussed, which places we want as senses. But this vote is about a different kind of meaning altogether.​—msh210 21:03, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Referents are not senses. We don't list every Fido, Rex, and Fifi under dog. If there is a dozen Parises named after the French city, then that is one definition. If some of them are named after the Greek hero, then the etymology can make note of that, or be split into a separate heading. If certain ones have significant lexical differences, then additional senses may be warranted.
Encyclopedias are about things, so it's Wikipedia's job to list every instance of a notable person, place or thing Paris. Dictionaries are about words, so it's arguably our job to define every attested word or name “Paris”. Michael Z. 2009-08-07 04:53 z
I consider that dog names should not be considered as words at all (or only as "invented" words): if a dog is called Fidorexfifi, this name should not be included. The only reason to include Fido is that it's a common name for dogs, it's now a word of the language meaning "common dog name" (single sense). But toponyms are words, with one or several senses. It's like common nouns: if a word can mean a bird or a snake, these senses are different senses, and warrant separate definitions and translations (name given to various animal species is not a sufficient definition). It's the same for towns: they may have different translations, different demonyms, etc. Sharing the same etymology is not sharing the same sense. Lmaltier 05:28, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure I expressed myself clearly.
Fido is a common name for dogs. Laurence is a common name for men. Saint Paul is a common name for settlements. This proposal seeks to add a rule that we add the third on exactly the same pattern as the first two.
But what I meant above is that while we define these words, we don't define the things that they represent (their referents). We don't define Fido, the poodle cross that's walked past my back window, we don't define Laurence Olivier, the famous actor, and we don't (or oughtn't, according to our CFI) define St. Paul, Minnesota. The US city is not a “sense” of St. Paul—it is a US city—any more than Sir Laurence is a “sense” of Laurence. If you think we should add definitions for specific people and places—encyclopedic entries—then go ahead and propose it, but I think that would be a significantly different proposal from this one. Michael Z. 2009-08-08 03:43 z
On purist grounds, I agree with you, but then, consider an entry like [[Jacksonesque]]. Because it's an adjective, it doesn't have "referents" per se, but the inherent "Jackson" does refer to various Messrs. (and perhaps Mmes.) Jackson. The second and third senses are not strictly necessary, but I think they're valid. When a single sense (referent, in this case) dominates, it seems potentially worth mentioning, even if that means we tread on Wikipedia's toes. :-/   —RuakhTALK 04:04, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
No, that's not what I'm objecting to. All three entries in your example are allowed by the attributive-use guideline (assuming they're sufficiently attested). Adjectives like Londonesque or whatever are allowed, even common attributive uses like New York, as used in New York deli, New York bookie, New York beat cop, etc. It can be okay if the etymology or the meaning of a word refers to a specific thing.
I'm objecting to specific entities being considered "senses", as if the word was the thing. Like St Paul defined as “the city in Minnesota.” The current CFI does not allow this definition, nor does it allow Andrew Jackson, Michael Jackson, nor Jackson (3: Andrew Jackson). A specific thing is not a sense of a word, does not qualify to be defined as such, by our current CFI nor would it be if this proposal were accepted. It is not okay if a definition is a specific thing.
A definition defines a word. A thing is a thing. A thing can be mentioned in a definition, but it is not a definition. Michael Z. 2009-08-08 04:51 z
I'm not sure. To be sure, there is a difference between a noun and its referent, but not all nouns designate actual classes. There is a kind of animal called a "dog"; there is not a kind of person called "John", nor a kind of place called "New York". Each individual person named John, and each individual place named New York, is a separate sense of that name, and there's no way to know of that sense without actually knowing of it. (Admittedly, there is also a common noun John, as in "Man, there are a lot of Johns at this school", with one sense: "A person whose name is John". But you become a common-noun John by being one sense of the proper-noun John, not vice versa.)
Obviously we're not going to include a separate sense for every person named John, both because that's impossible, and because it's not useful. But that doesn't mean there isn't a separate sense — only that we don't include it (and don't want to).
(Personally, I don't think we want to include a separate sense for every place with a given place-name, either. It's just that I think they are separate senses, and we can decide whether or not we treat them as such.)
RuakhTALK 14:51, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
You're still mixing up lexical words with encyclopedic things, classes, states, attributes. Dogs, and dogs named Fido, and guys named John, and tired dogs, and frustrating dogs, and towns named Stafford are things, while dog, Fido, John, tiredness, frustrating, and Stafford are words. Words have senses, but things are not senses. Many words are used to describe things, but the way they are applied varies (proper nouns happen to differ substantially this way, and Rockports happen to be more rare than Roberts). Still, every man John, or city Halifax, or pen on my desk, or every single time I get tired, and every sheep in the field are not different words, senses, or definienda; they are different things, instances, referents. Michael Z. 2009-08-08 15:55 z
Since neither of us seems to have evidence for our respective claims — at least, I don't have any, and you haven't presented any — I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. —RuakhTALK 16:08, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Huh? In what I've described, what exactly is a claim without evidence?
Let me simplify it for you: w:Robert Borden is a proper name, so our CFI don't warrant its inclusion. Robert is not a proper name, but a common name applied to many people, and one CFI explicitly welcomes it. Just like Cher which we define as a name, rather than identifying it with (“defining” it as) a famous person. (I don't think I'm making any spurious claims here.)
This proposal is suggesting that we should treat place names exactly the same way. That's all. Michael Z. 2009-08-08 16:28 z
First of all, "Robert" is a proper name. Second of all, the CFI do not determine what a "sense" is; they determine which senses we include. One sense of Ran is in reference to me. As the CFI (and common sense) make quite clear, we don't want that sense. But that doesn't mean it isn't one. You are making the claim that it isn't a sense, but you've provided no evidence for it, and I reject it. (I'm not providing evidence, either: I'm stating my opinion, you're stating yours. Hence my statement that this argument isn't going to go anywhere useful.) You point out (rightly) that there's not a separate sense of "dog" for each dog; and likewise, there's not a separate sense of the common noun "Ran" for each person named Ran; rather, there's a single common noun sense "Ran" meaning "A person named Ran", and a myriad proper noun senses "Ran", one for each person with that name. —RuakhTALK 16:47, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Well I think that's exactly what I'm saying, that this proposal is to include the common-noun sense of any placename, just as we already include the common-noun sense of a personal name.
As far as I can tell, you and I just don't agree on the meaning of sense as it relates to proper names. Whether it refers to me or to the actor Mr. Caine, whether addressing a person or referring to them, I see the use of Michael in a proper name to be one sense of the word, just as the same sense of pen refers to both the blue and red ones on my desk. You might disagree on the definition of sense, but I think once we start talking about specific referents, then we have left the lexicographical realm and entered the encyclopedic.
I wonder if the distinctions “proper noun” and “proper name” are of any real use in lexicography. Why do we use it, when OED, COD, NOAD, RH, AHD, and M–W don't? Do any important dictionaries use it?
—This unsigned comment was added by Mzajac (talkcontribs) at 20:23, 8 August 2009 (UTC).
First of all, no, we include only a generic sort of proper-noun sense of a personal name, because once you know that, the common-noun sense is just obvious (assuming you speak English).
Re: "As far as I can tell, you and I just don't agree on the meaning of sense as it relates to proper names": Exactly. That's what I've been saying. :-)
Our disagreement is not entirely academic; you dismiss out-of-hand the notion that we should define place-names in terms of the places they name, whereas I am open to that possibility, if a decent proposal is made. (We both reject the notion of including a "Michael Caine" sense for Michael, but for different reasons: you reject it because you don't think that's a distinct sense, I reject it because it's not useful or possible. Your reason applies equally to place-names; my reason may or may not apply to place-names, depending on the proposal.)
The distinction between "common noun" and "proper noun" is absolutely useful. If no other dictionaries use it, then all the better for us. :-D
RuakhTALK 20:36, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't reject specific (encyclopedic) type entries for place names, but I am very hesitant to open a door too widely which we'll never be able to shut. But that's a separate proposal from this one.
I like this one because it is purely lexicographical, is very similar to the personal-name rule we already have, and looks perfectly compatible with future proposals for specific places. In fact, this proposal is a good step towards the other.
Re: “proper noun”, why have all the important dictionaries forsaken it if it's so useful? Michael Z. 2009-08-08 21:12 z
I can't say for sure — my tenure on their boards was so brief that it literally ended before it began — but they tend to include almost no proper nouns at all, so I suppose it's not a useful category for them. The major exception would be dictionaries that are dedicated exclusively to some type of proper noun (e.g., place names), so dispense with POS labels entirely. That said, bilingual dictionaries in my experience do include a fair number of proper nouns, but tend not to distinguish them from common nouns. I don't know why not. —RuakhTALK 23:14, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Some of them have many proper nouns. (And how would having few make it less useful to the reader to note them?—it would just make it easier.) Some of them don't label these at all, and others mark them noun.
Professional lexicographers creating all of the best dictionaries are avoiding the use of the label “proper noun.” I don't think it's useful for us to write that off as incidental, and then congratulate ourselves for doing the opposite, without actually understanding why. Michael Z. 2009-08-09 00:35 z
More specifically, why do you say that the distinction between "common noun" and "proper noun" is absolutely useful? What use is it, and to which readers? Michael Z. 2009-08-09 00:38 z
It's useful to readers who want to know how the word is used — same as {{countable}} and {{uncountable}}, {{transitive}} and {{intransitive}}. —RuakhTALK 00:57, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
I what way are proper nouns used differently? If their difference is in usage, then why not add a usage label (like we do in [un]countable, [in]transitive)? Michael Z. 2009-08-09 01:15 z
In many ways; see Appendix:English proper nouns. And yes, I think a sense label would be an improvement, since so many words have both common-noun and proper-noun uses. —RuakhTALK 03:35, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't care about philosophy, or whether place names ar accepted or not, but the definition "A common place name" does not suit the category system. "Category:Place names" is a topic category (It should really be Category:Places). If we recommend this definition, then for the sake of logic all the category names should be changed: "English/French names of cities" instead of "Cities/fr:Cities" etc.

Instead, I have always used definitions like "The capital city of France", "Any of a number of places in England, Canada and United States", etc. It's easy make a separate definition for important places, or places that have different translations in some language. But a separate definition for every place named San José is madness. Just make a link to the Wikipedia disambiguation page.--Makaokalani 12:37, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree with your practical advice, but place names and surnames are categories of words (or of names, if you split hairs). Places and people are neither categories of words, nor subject fields in which specialized words are used—they are categories of things.
But we don't have entries for things, only for words. If we don't stop using encyclopedic categories, we will forever be trying to reduplicate Wikipedia's categories, badly. We have enough work trying to manage our own lexicographical categories. Michael Z. 2009-08-19 03:43 z


The use of “attested” doesn't seem quite right. The citation of a use of a word attests to its existence. But the existence of three cars doesn't attest the word car. I'm sure this can be made better by some mild copy-editing (but I'm too tired to try right now). Perhaps its the naming of three places that attests the name, rather than the existence of the places.... Michael Z. 2009-08-07 05:04 z


This shouldn't just be “Place names”, since they may also be included through the Specific entities criterion or some other. “Common place names,” I think.

(And would it be disruptive to move this proposal from “placenames” to place names?Michael Z. 2009-08-07 05:07 z

I've changed the proposed WT:CFI heading. Imho the cost of moving the vote exceeds its benefit.​—msh210 18:39, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

"Common name"Edit

Is the implication that a place-name can be considered "common" if there are three instances of it? —RuakhTALK 20:37, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

I didn't intend that in writing the proposal. I also intended others to edit it before it was un{{premature}}d, but that didn't happen. I have my own reservations about this proposal. One is due to ambiguity. The question Ruakh asks in this section of the talkpage and the ones Mzajac asked in the preceding two point to an ambiguity in the text of the proposed addition to the CFI. Another ambiguous issue is about Elm. There are loads of streets named Elm, which therefore will be included under this proposal, at least the way I read it. Same for lots and lots and lots of other capitalized versions of common nouns. Is that really what we want? The proposal should have been modified before it was made live to explicitly include or exclude these (though, as I said, it seems pretty clearly to include them). I may vote against my own proposal for that reason alone: because it includes all those street names, which I'm really not all that sure we want. I'm blathering a bit here, I think, but my point is that I regret being away for several days while this vote went live.​—msh210 20:05, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Given how little turnout there's been so far, I don't think anyone would object if you re-{{premature}}-ed it (de-matured?) and postpone the vote while you figure stuff out. (BTW, it hadn't occurred to me to think of a street as a "place", but now that you mention it, I suppose it is one.) —RuakhTALK 21:45, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I thought it might be rude to edit someone's proposal without their consent. I don't mind if you reboot the vote, or even make one or more variations to choose from.
Yeah, even defining what is a place is nebulous, but for the most part we know one when we see one. If a town is a place, then why not a neighbourhood (Soho), a square (St. Mark's Place), a park (Central Park), a market (the Forum), a street (the Mall [why the heck is the headword The Mall?]), a bridge (the Rialto), a stair (the Spanish Steps), a palace grounds (Versailles), a fort (the Alamo), a walled castle (the Louvre), a palace (Piazza Navona), a government house (Parliament Hill), a monument (the Arc de Triomphe), a tower (the Peace Tower), etc? (I realize only a few of these will fall under the three places clause, but I'm thinking about what is a place.) Michael Z. 2009-08-10 22:50 z
Re "to edit someone's proposal without their consent": Feel free!​—msh210 00:46, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Fine, I'll strike the votes and reinstate {{premature}}. Thanks to all who commented on this page for input so far. What do y'all think of Elm et al.?​—msh210 18:31, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Why adding "common"? Uncommon placenames are of interest to fewer readers, but we want all words, not only common words. Lmaltier 19:57, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
To help Mzajac, I feel the criterion should look more or less like : When a kind of placename is, by nature, composed of several words, it's not included (e.g. street names, castles, towers, hotels, monuments, bridges...), except when it's a single word (e.g. Canebière, Rialto) or when there is a special linguistic reason to include it (cf. current CFI). All placenames considered as words are includable (e.g. town or village names). I also think that seas should be included, but they are in the grey area. Lmaltier 20:06, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't get it. What does that help, and why accept names based on how many words they are composed of? I think all of the places I mentioned should be candidates, and I'm sure I could come up with comparable one-word examples. Why accept Broadway but not Park Avenue, Soho but not Hell's Kitchen, Rialto but not Ponte Vecchio, Pentominium but not Taipei 101, Schwarzwald but not Black Forest, etc? This would also favour place names in some languages which run words together to form names. Michael Z. 2009-08-12 05:17 z
To clarify: I use word with its linguistic sense, not with its typographic sense. New York is a word composed of two "typographic words". But I think that Park Avenue is not a word, because, in English, street names are traditionally considered as composed of several words put together (the same applies to full names such as Winston Churchill). Yes, this could favour placenames in some languages : if odonyms (e.g. Seeplatz) are considered as words in German, they could be accepted (and it's an issue to be discussed further, because it would be very strange, I agree). Lmaltier 06:03, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
I see, but why? (Orthographic words might be a better name; it's about written form, but not typesetting.) There are many exceptions, which don't automatically merit inclusion any more or less than than "traditionally" multipart names. Michael Z. 2009-08-12 13:27 z
Typographic is the right term, I think. Typographs consider New York are being two words. Linguists consider New York or chemin de fer as single words, but I think that they do not consider Winston Churchill as a word, but rather as a name composed of two words. w:Word helps and I think the article does not disagree with me, but it doesn't address all cases, unfortunately. Lmaltier 21:11, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
It has nothing specifically to do with typography or typesetting (or typographers). Your point is that it is written as two words, whether in pencil, with a quill, set in type, spray painted on a wall, or in 5-metre high steel letters. The written form is orthography, so this is an orthographic quality. w:Word totally agrees with me on this, not with you. But this is neither here nor there.
You still haven't mentioned why you think we should only include 1-word names. Michael Z. 2009-08-17 03:40 z
(Unindent) My understanding has always been that a string of characters that contains a space such as "black hole" is a two-word term and a lexical item but not a word. I do not have any citation for this, though. To make things unambiguous, we can use the term "space-free word" or something of the sort, but it seems redundant to me if most people read "word" as "space-free word" anyway.
The space between the two words in "black hole" is not only in print and writing but can also be heard in speech AFAICT, so it is of broad linguistic interest, not only of interest to typographers. --Dan Polansky 07:58, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
But in Wiktionary we explicitly say term to avoid the question of what is a “word.” Each entry is for a term whose identity is defined by attestation, irreducibility, idiomaticity, etc. Introducing a requirement for one-word terminess is unprecedented here, and I don't see any justification for it. Michael Z. 2009-08-19 09:03 z
I agree with the first two sentences. I don't understand the third sentence; I don't get what you mean by "one-word terminess", what requirement do you mean and who proposed that requirement, but maybe I just did not follow the discussion close enough. My point was only that in the terminology I am used to, "black hole" is not a word. --Dan Polansky 09:23, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm talking about Lmaltier's When a kind of placename is, by nature, composed of several words, it's not included. He's proposing or explaining that we should only include 1-word place names. But we don't restrict inclusion in this way. No one has suggested why we should treat place names so completely differently than everything else in the dictionary.
Of course black hole is a word. If you want to get picky, then I'll call it a term or a w:lexical unit, but that's what we deal with around here. Michael Z. 2009-08-19 18:07 z
I am above all trying to understand what you mean by "word". It does not come as a matter of course to me that "black hole" is a word; hence my felt need for clarification. So by your definition and usage, words may include spaces. Good to know. Do you count proverbs as words? And do you consider "Thank you" to be a word? --Dan Polansky 06:45, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, I also don't consider "black hole" to be a word. It's an idiom. Not only do we write it with a space in the middle, but we also pronounce it spondaically. Grammatically, it does have some word-ness, in that you would say "a big black hole" (not *"a big, black hole", nor *"a big and black hole"), but it also has some phrase-ness, in that you can describe North Korea as "a very black hole" (with "very" modifying "black"). —RuakhTALK 12:11, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
What's the point? That we should remove multi-word terms from our CFI? Or that we should continue to handle the 100 other types of terms the same way but place names completely differently? Black hole is a word as far as Wiktionary is concerned, and no one has provided a reason that the Forum should be but The Mall should not. Michael Z. 2009-08-20 14:09 z
My point is that you need to be clear with your terminology — something that you and Lmaltier are both failing signally at. My point is that neither one of you has made your actual points in a way that I can be sure I understand — or that anyone can be sure they understand, aside from yourself and himself — because you keep using the word "word" as though it meant something specific, objective, and universally acknowledged — which it doesn't, even if you explicitly state that it doesn't mean "orthographic word". Finally, my point is that the CFI explicitly include multi-word terms without pretending that they're "words", and a placename proposal can't suddenly start using the word "word" in a way that contradicts that — whether or not the proposal the proposal restricts us to single-word placenames. —RuakhTALK 15:09, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Allow me to try to explain, though על רגל אחת as we say in Hebrew, why this proposal aims to include Forum but not The Mall. Better yet, in order to avoid extraneous issues (relating to Elm, noted above, which also apply here), I'll discuss instead York and New York, which are analogous, I think, for these purposes. York is the name of a specific place (more than one, actually). New York is, too. But this proposal is not about including names of specific places. That's already covered in the CFI (although people wish to change that criterion. But that's not what this proposal is about). This proposal is aimed at the person who looks up a word, either not knowing it's a place name (in which case he wouldn't know that New York is one word, or term, or name, or whatever), or just to find out the pronunciation or etymology or what-have-you (in which case he's as likely, usually, to look up York as New York). That's the reason I (as original author of the proposal) wish to include York but not New York (and certainly not Stratford-on-Avon or River Thames or Foo Street).​—msh210 16:39, 20 August 2009 (UTC)


There is something amiss in the timing of the vote - on the one hand there is the template designating it as not yet started, but on the other hand the end of the vote is stated to be 16 September. How is this discrepancy to be redressed? The uſer hight Bogorm converſation 13:21, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Whoever starts it can reset the start and end times.​—msh210 18:48, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

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Vote on placenamesEdit

You would make me quite happy if you would formally withdraw the vote Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2009-08/Common placenames get entries, by placing a note to the vote that says that you withdraw the vote. As you know, the vote has been superseded by a recent vote on placenames (geographic names). I would then remove the vote from the list of pending votes at WT:Votes. --Dan Polansky 06:10, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

It hasn't really been superseded. The vote which has passed is about names of particular places, whereas the vote you're asking me to withdraw is about words found in placenames generally. (That's not worded clearly at all, but see my comments on the vote's talkpage, which are more explicit.) They can both pass, and will affect different entries (though some of the same ones, too, natch.) However, this is a wiki, and if you want to declare the vote canceled and remove it from WT:V, go right ahead.​—msh210 15:16, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
There we are; I thought the vote was superseded, but you don't think so. Good that I have asked. If you do not plan to withdraw the vote, it can sit in WT:Votes as you see fit. I thought the vote was no longer on agenda. --Dan Polansky 15:44, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

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