We have had questions about naming a company, a product, or some other commercially relevant thing in Latin. To be on topic, this questions have to satisfy our quality standards (whatever they are), but is that enough? While they produce interesting content related to Latin and are what the site is about, they are also a form of free consultancy for anyone who wants to use Latin.

Should we somehow react to this commercial aspect? Are questions like this okay, or should we frown upon them? Should we let them be or react somehow?

In some cases it might be possible to hide the commercial incentive, but I assume (perhaps wrongly) that most will be honest with it. It can be hard to veil a question as something it is not while still keeping it intelligible.

The solution is not to require monetary awards for answers given on our site. It is fine if someone finds an expert on this site and contacts them privately for consultancy, but Stack Exchange sites are not a place for paid effort. I know some things that the solution is not, but I do not know what the solution is. Do yo?

This question was inspired by fdb's comment to the answer to this question: "Is this really what this site is for? I mean: doing free consultancy work for a commercial enterprise?"

1 Answer 1


I was the one who did “free consultancy work” on the question which prompted this one, so I feel obliged to answer, and my answer is that in principle we should reject excesses, but maintain a rather tolerant attitude, within certain limits. For me, aurea mediocritas is still a virtue.

On other stacks, say stackoverflow.com, the situation is clearer: most people there are programmers being paid for the stuff they ask about, and one motivation for answering is, among others, the hope to be helped in turn, when the program doesn’t run and the customer wanted it for yesterday. I don’t think that this holds here, especially not for those among us who teach or do research on Latin for a living. I think we are here mostly for the pleasure of learning and the fun of discussing a beloved topic. So what limits should be imposed to those who have the ulterior motive of exploiting our pleasure?

I was aware of the problem when I set out to answer the original question. I visited the site whose name was asked about. I tried to guess the probability for a professional consultant to be hired to provide the ideas I was going to provide. It was very, very close to zero, so I was depriving nobody of their job. This matters. Secondly, it was not a request from somebody who hadn’t done their homework, it was a request to correct a failed attempt, just as the best questions on SO, and this also matters. Thirdly, my nerd-o-meter was ticking like mad at the challenge of minimizing the Levenshtein distance of a possible solution: it was a language game worth playing, and this also probably matters.

These are my three criteria for acceptance.

On the other hand, asking similar questions every other day would be an excess and should be rejected.

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    I agree with this, and I'm glad to hear you actively considered these points before answering. As long as the amount is moderate and the implications are on a sufficiently small scale (not naming a huge corporation in Latin), it should be fine. Moreover, I would much enjoy the commercial use of Latin to get the Latin right more often... (I also feel partly responsible for the particular question.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 1:26

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