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A tag called "phrase-origin" has recently been created in this question, a kind of question that up till now has been labelled "etymology" according to our tag description. It has been argued that the term "etymology" is used for single words, whereas for the history and origins of a phrase the suitable label should be "phrase-origin". If it's that way, we sould modify the description of the tag "etymology" and retag lots of questions that at this moment are labeled "etymology", for instance, this one.

On the other hand, other language StackExchange sites, such as ELU, have a short descrption of the tag "etymology" very similar to the one we have and use it to label lots of questions asking about the origin of a phrase or expression such as, for instance, this question.

Update:

However, as @Gio has pointed out, the tag "phrase-origin" also exists on ELU, but without any tag description, and some questions are labeled with this tag, which seems a little bit incoherent. And, as @egreg has said, to increase the confusion, «the long description of "etymology" on ELU only refers to single words, and phrases only appears in the short description and in the last paragraph. No explanation on how phrases can be considered is provided.»

What do you think we should do about this?

  • Penso che il termine etimologia sia stato usato finora impropriamente , ma in senso lato, quando riferito a proverbi o modi di dire. ilbuongiorno.it/5908/… - gourmet-gatto.it/guida/gatti-famosi/… - giornaleibleo.it/2014/04/… - L'enciclopedia dei modi di dire e delle loro origini - focus.it/temi/modi-di-dire – Gio Sep 30 '17 at 13:18
  • ELU actually uses the tag “phrase-origin” but it could be “idiom-origin”, “proverb-origin” etc. – Gio Sep 30 '17 at 16:50
  • @Gio: That's true: I've now seen this tag on ELU, which is without any tag description. On the other hand, on ELU, most of the questions asking about the origin of a phrase are tagged with the label "etymology". – Charo Sep 30 '17 at 17:03
  • I think that is inappropriate (you don’t speak of the etymology of a proverb/saying/idiom, but of their origin). The tag is probably used with an extension of its meaning. If that is OK for the community, no problem for me. – Gio Sep 30 '17 at 17:08
  • @Gio: I understand your point, but let's wait and see what other people think. – Charo Sep 30 '17 at 18:23
  • Well, the long description of etymology on ELU only refers to single words, and phrases only appears in the short description and in the last paragraph. No explanation on how phrases can be considered is provided. – egreg Oct 1 '17 at 8:42
  • @egreg: That's true and this long description is coherent with what Gio is claiming. We can always change our site if the community agree with that. – Charo Oct 1 '17 at 9:05
  • @Charo I favor the distinction, although it's somewhat blurred. – egreg Oct 1 '17 at 9:26
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    To me "phrase-origin" sounds a bit weird (I'd prefer "idiom-origin", especially since not all idioms are complete sentences) but I'm in favour of staying compatible with ELU. However I'm not sure whether we have enough questions to warrant a distinction between "phrase-origin" and "etymology". – Denis Nardin Oct 1 '17 at 13:32
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    As a site language I think we should recommend that disctinction, it is not a minor one. As fast as I can say also on ELU questions are often corrected in that respect. Older question may have survived with the old denomination. But I could raise the point there so as to have a wider feedback. – Gio Oct 1 '17 at 14:41
  • @Gio: I'll try to write an answer to see if the community agree with that idea. – Charo Oct 3 '17 at 15:49
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    idiom-origin and phrase-origin are good candidates to be tag synonyms. – Federico Poloni Oct 8 '17 at 10:07
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This new tag is an opportunity to improve our site. However, if we want to use it from now, we sould modify the description of the tag and write the description of the new tag . And we should make the effort to retag some old questions that at this moment are labeled with the new tag . If we agree on that, we can do it.

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I am inclined to keep the single tag for the origin of both words and phrases. After all, even if it is not perfectly correct to use the word “etimology” for the latter, the tag means whatever we decide that its definition means.

My rationale is that the two kinds of question are sufficiently close, and that in some cases it would be difficult decide whether something is a word, a hyphenated word, a phrase, a composite word, un'espressione polirematica or what else.

  • I understand your point but have you ever heard of the “etymology” of a proverb, for instance? Wouldn’t it be inappropriate for a language site to promote such inaccuracy? – Gio Oct 3 '17 at 22:31
  • @Gio: Tags are tags, in my opinion: they could be just numbers or other labels (icons, say), provided each is accurately defined. – DaG Oct 3 '17 at 22:50

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