The question One word exclamation to mean: “This is driving me crazy.” was recently asked. The gist is that the question is asking for suggestions for a single word.

I think this is off-topic for the site, for reasons that rephrase requests are off-topic: A question like this is of no utility to future visitors, and doesn't create useful answers. But I can see arguments both ways. Perhaps this specific question just needs editing?

3 Answers 3


Single word, phrasing and re-phrasing requests are off-topic in Writers.SE. They have a place where they are on-topic, frequent and welcome and that place is English.SE.

From the English Language and Usage faq:

Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

  • Word choice and usage

Single word requests, like the one in the question, are frequently addressed in English.SE. In fact there have been nearly 2800 questions asked on the topic of [single-word-requests] in EL&U and a mere handful (about 60) on Writers about [word-choice].

By itself this clearly puts most word choice questions in the realm of English.SE and not Writers.SE.

This isn't to say that word choice questions can or should be always off-topic all the time at Writers.SE. But there needs to be ground rules.

Looking at the 60 or so questions on word choice, the ones with the most amount of views, up-votes and constructive answers are about the process of choosing the right word (i.e. how to use the right amount of swear words or avoiding "had had", etc.). The ones with the fewest views and least helpful answers are generally about finding one specific word.

Since that's the case, questions about how to choose the right word are on-topic. Questions about choosing a specific word are off-topic and should be closed or migrated to English.SE as warranted. In other words, word choice on English.SE should be for people looking for a fish and word choice on Writers.SE should be for people learning how to fish.

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  • "Welcome" on EL&U overstates it. We take them, but we do not like word choice and single word request questions there. We get loads of really bad ones, some get closed, some don't. It is a good idea to check with us before migrating these kinds of questions. Thx.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:50
  • @Kit Out of the 24,000 questions on EL&U, fully 25% (over 6,000) are either tagged [word-choice] or [single-word-requests]. If over one-fourth of your questions aren't "welcome" perhaps I should ask EL&U to find me a better word. :)
    – Jed Oliver
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 20:30

I believe this particular question could be profitably edited to address the issue of expressing shock/frustration without resorting to vulgarities or anything conceivably offensive to anybody. This is the problem OP is dealing with, and I think it can be addressed beyond finding him the One True Inoffensive Expletive (tm).

  • An edit like this would be great. But is the question as it stands - asking for word recommendations - on- or off-topic? Commented May 16, 2013 at 18:55
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    If that's the case, then that question has been asked and answered here: How much swearing is TOO much? (And how much is not enough?). If that's the case, then this question should be closed as a duplicate. (Not really making that argument. Yes, the question could be better and be more on topic if it was totally different. But as it stands it's a single word request which is more on topic at English.SE.)
    – Jed Oliver
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 18:58
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    @NeilFein: As it stands, I'm firmly of the opinion that word and phrasing recommendations are off-topic. One of our bigger discussions on this subject was at meta.writers.stackexchange.com/questions/535/… .
    – Standback
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:05
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    @JedOliver: Intriguingly, I think the question you're referencing is "how much profanity is appropriate?," to which the answer is, "depends on the venue. This question is (maybe) different: GIVEN the author's zero-offensiveness preference, how does one express what's usually described with expletives? (Still needs a heroic edit, though.)
    – Standback
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:07
  • @Standbacl - Agreed. But since we haven't had one of these in a while, I'd prefer to get more community buy-in on the closure before we cast the final, binding close votes. Commented May 16, 2013 at 22:04

The OP added later that this is a translation issue:

I don't really have much choice with the phrasing since it's a text I'm translating (from Korean). The writer is going for a rather poignantly funny effect. The word the keeper uses (really short expression in Korean (that means "this drives me nuts") is widely used by people and is not an expletive. The humor lies in that the very first word the chimp happens to speak is this rather pithy but expressive word. )

Is there Translators SE or a Korean SE? "Finding the right translation" is a very different kettle of kimchi than "finding just the right single word."

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