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Back in the early days of this site we decided to have our tags in Latin. Now that we have years of experience with our tags, it's time to re-evaluate that decision.

At the moment our tags are in Latin when there is a good Latin version for it, but otherwise in English. Essentially all tags have an English version, and they are synonymized with the Latin one. Switching tags to English would therefore mostly mean just reversing the direction of synonymization and would require no editing of questions, so the cost of any change is low.

Should we keep on tagging in Latin as we do now, translate the rest of the tags to Latin too, switch to all English tags, or something else?

The cost of such changes is very low, and both Latin and English versions will remain as synonyms no matter what. All language versions will be available for searching and tagging; the question only concerns the primary display language.


Decision: Based on the answers and comments after this post was featured for a couple of weeks, we had a lengthy discussion between moderators and ended up choosing to switch almost all tags to English. If you think this decision should be reverted, please start a new meta discussion. Like most moderator actions, this one is reversible.

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  • After reading everything, I can't decide...on the one hand, having tags in different languages next to each other doesn't look neat. On the other, it's really to see tags in Latin!
    – Cerberus Mod
    Aug 5, 2021 at 2:56
  • An argument for Latin tags is that some people don't have the best English on this site, but they might be able to tag something in Latin. That's only one argument though, and I'll be honest, I don't have much experience using the tag system or how others use it.
    – NanoEta
    Aug 18, 2021 at 21:16
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    @NanoEta The Latin versions would be there as synonyms anyway, and we can add synonyms in any language if some are more familiar with the, say, Italian term for something. The question is only about the primary language in which tags are displayed under a question; searching and adding will work in at least two languages.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 18, 2021 at 21:34

3 Answers 3

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My preference is: Let's have all main tags in English, apart from names of Roman authors.

Points in favor of this:

  1. As noted in the question, not all tags have a good Latin version available. Forcing all tags into Latin will lead to many being ambiguous or otherwise confusing. When a concept has a well established name in English, using a badly known or newly coined expression in Latin constitutes worse communication.

    When we decided years ago to tag everything in Latin, I think we thought that we could do that nicely. But that has proven wrong: There are a lot of tags without a good Latin version available, which is why they have defaulted to English.

  2. Uniformity would be clear and stylish. Now our tags have a mix of the two languages, with neither of the two languages being clearly in the majority.

  3. Our main operating language is unquestionably English. While there are some questions written in Latin, they are a minority. It is a little weird for all other communication to be in English but the tags partially in Latin.

  4. The names of various Roman authors are different in different languages. I, for example, had only learned the Latin names as they are the ones used in Finland, and I am easily puzzled by English versions such as "Virgil" or "Horace". I think tag discoverability is at its best when the names are in Latin for these authors. Name versions traditional in English or other languages (e.g. Horaz) can be included as synonyms, and those synonyms are in fact mostly in place already.

  5. The names of the Roman authors were originally in Latin. The other tags were created by us to describe our questions. The names would be best taken in their original form, the others do not really have a clear ancient precedent.

  6. The Latin tags would still be available for searching and adding to questions; it's just that the main name of each tag would be in English. And vice versa for the name tags.

  7. Other language sites may have tags in the target language, but Latin is traditionally and still commonly taught differently from more living languages. An immersive approach with all possible content in Latin is not a very good idea, as that would alienate a lot of users. Analogy to other language sites is therefore not a very strong argument in favor of Latin tags in my opinion. And e.g. German SE has English tags.

  8. See cmw's answer to the previous discussion for more arguments in favor of English tagging. The only deviation I suggest is author tagging.

  9. There is a separate discussion on author tag language.

  10. If the most canonical name of a concept is in French or German or any other language, we can make that the principal tag. Synonyms can and should be added as needed.

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    As the de facto official language, I agree that English makes the most sense. We can always add additional synonyms for any other language if we want to make it more inclusive. We can also do this for author names so if someone types in "horace" it will work. Depending on how far along somene is in their Latin studies, they may not know the original Latin names.
    – Adam
    Aug 10, 2021 at 1:01
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    @Adam I agree, all versions of the name can be added as synonyms. The English versions are already there, at least mostly, and we can well add other ones too. A beginning student is likely to know only the one name they were exposed to in their studies. Of course if some term has a canonical name only in German or French, we can go with that one and add synonyms as needed.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 10, 2021 at 7:04
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I would uphold that all main tags should be in Latin, and synonyms should be in English. This also is the main line seen in our previous question about tags in Latin. In particular, take note of that which was pointed out by user @Undo:

I was initially against this (from a not-fluent student point of view), but now I think it might be a good idea. Changing our tags to be Latin would fall in nicely with the full immersion approach that is recommended by SE staff. I think it'd help folks like me learn the language.
[My emphasis.]

In my opinion, the badges (e.g. ‘vox populi’) should also be in Latin. Points in favour:

  1. There is a living Latin community and it is global. Many who learn Latin today have a completely different approach to it from what you would see just ten–fifteen years ago, hoping to learn the language on par with any other language they have learned, in other words: fluency in writing, reading, listening and speaking.
  2. Continuing from this, I for one found it thrilling to meet this community and discover the Latin tags for things when I first came here; in my experience, it was not off-putting at all – instead it made me feel as I had encountered a community which took itself seriously in the right way, and didn’t fuss about. My impression was one of professionalism.
  3. The challenge of creating names for modern ideas is in my opinion a good argument for doing it. Catullus created numerous new words for his epigrams; Cicero did the same in his oratory (I believe). Today we get modern literature translated to Latin, such as Harrius Potter, Ille hobbitus or the two volumes of contemporary comics from Norway, Pondus (that is the Norwegian name too), with life as a bus driver, football forward, pub regular, with a friend who finds the ugliest ladies and ends up in the worst bar fights. The translators wrote that there were numerous challenges in translating it, but that that endeavour in and of itself was half the fun in making it come to life. New words and idioms is one of the things characterising a living language.
  4. Many of the questions we get here, are for translating mottos or sayings to Latin, e.g. tattoos. That in and of itself tells us that Latin is still a living, breathing language, even though there are no native speakers.
  5. Being enveloped in Latin focuses the mind; getting reminders when typing the English tag synonym of what that very thing is called in Latin, is not only good for increasing our consciousness of ideas both old and modern, but also can be an interesting discovery in and of itself for new users (I know it has been for me.
  6. At a minimum, authors, countries and works by these authors should be referenced in Latin; those are international. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what the standard English name for a work is; the same can apply to names for countries, though not to the same extent for modern countries, but we are trying to span two and a half millenium of history here; and of course, as mentioned above, authors.
  7. The Latin community is far more specialised than other language communities, attracting people with a much more, shall we say, unusual interest in languages. Their approach can usually be expected to be a bit more on the nerdy side than someone learning a new modern language, such as German, French or Italian. You do not learn Latin to travel to the Vatican state; you learn Latin for the sake of Latin.
  8. On the other end, we have those who are interested in Latin simply for the sound of it; there does seem to be an inherent attractiveness to it in its mysteriousness. English synonyms and Latin main tags will cater to that interest.
  9. And finally, to reiterate from above: ‘Changing our tags to be Latin would fall in nicely with the full immersion approach that is recommended by SE staff.’

As I have increased my reputation and gotten access to more tools, one of the things I have been meaning to ask (as late as today, in fact), is how one could go about translating the tags that are missing their Latin counterpart. My approach, in other words, is the opposite of what seems to be the line above: I am for Latinising the site more; I would encourage that both tags and badges should be in Latin. If for nothing else, it’s just cool.

And if this is not convincing, I think we should respect the opinion of the previous question quoted in the beginning, where a total of 28 votes have upvoted answers in favour of Latin tags, and 7 have upvoted in favour of the mixed approach.

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    A couple of comments on these points: First, badge names are exactly the same across the whole network, and there is nothing we can do to localize them. Second, we don't do everything according to network-wide suggestions; we do what works best for the folks here. SE also seems to recommend not welcoming new users with comments... (Comments on some points separately below.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 5, 2021 at 6:58
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    1: Not everyone interested in Latin is interested in living Latin. It is not unusual for Latin scholars to be uninterested of or annoyed with living Latin. While living Latin is most certainly welcome in questions and answers, it is not a view that we should force on the whole site. Using living Latin can (and I think will) make the site look less professional to those whose actual profession has to do with Latin.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 5, 2021 at 6:58
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    3: I agree that the challenge of creating Latin tag names can be fun. The problem is that it creates a much unwanted challenge: that of a user trying to figure out what the tag means. The English terms are standard and known to many, and easy to look up online. It seems to be hard enough for new users to find the right tags in English! English tags communicate better.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 5, 2021 at 6:59
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    6: That mostly agrees with the other answer. It is hard to make blanket statements about all names, so it has to be judged case by case. The most known version is usually best, and for example René Descartes is recognized better than Renatus Cartesius even though he did publish in Latin. We can have as many synonyms as we like to make things easier to find.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 5, 2021 at 7:00
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I would suggest leaving things as they are. I only come here for Greek and don't know any Latin, so having a large amount of Latin in the user interface would be a barrier for me. But the Latin tags currently in use are all pretty easy for an English speaker to figure out, e.g., . I scrolled through all tags on the front page, and there were none that I couldn't easily understand. When I'm entering tags, I can type things like "decl" and the software auto-fills the rest of the word for me.

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  • Thanks for chiming in! The perspective of a user interested in Greek but Latin is a good addition. Changing the tag language is really not any work at all, so the trouble is nothing to worry about. Even if both keeping things as they are and switching to fully or mostly English work for you, which approach is preferable? I get the impression that you don't mind Latin tags to the extent we have them now, but you might slightly prefer English or at least not be opposed to a switch, but I am not sure if I misinterpreted some nuances.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Aug 18, 2021 at 18:55

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