Not long ago, I posted this question:

How many of Shakespeare's words in his plays were new?

... which has now been closed, reopened, and closed again. One of the close-voters said:

I'm vtcing as off topic because this is asking about Shakespeare's words not his works

Later I posted a similar question which has not been closed:

How big an impact did Lewis Carroll have on the English language?

What's our stance on questions like this? Should we allow questions about the impact of a literary work or collection on a language?

3 Answers 3


Frame challenge: the question about Shakespeare's words is not a good example of the general principle the meta's asking about.

That question is not, in fact, "about the wider impact of a literary work." It's about counting the new words an author coined. Answers will not talk about, for example, which of those words are now commonly used and which have been discarded. There's no question of impact or influence. Let's wait to talk about this until we have a question that's actually about influence, eh?

  • If we want to challenge that particular question's closure, make a meta about the closure without attaching it to a larger issue. The larger issue, if there is one, will emerge from discussion of the specific instance.
    – BESW
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 1:05
  • Hmm. OK. It was certainly trying to be about the wider impact of a literary work.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 2:05
  • What about if the question had focused more on which of those words are now commonly used and which have been discarded? Would that have been enough about "wider impact" to be on-topic (IYO)? Because I have such a question already written up and ready to post :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 2:06
  • @Randal'Thor That sounds more plausible, yes.
    – BESW
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 5:12
  • How's this?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 0:00
  • @Randal'Thor Not bad. It'd be much better if you offered some guidelines for determining "widely used." As is, answerers will have to define it for themselves--and that might make the answers useless to you. (Dictionaries have a lot of words which are definitely not widely used.)
    – BESW
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 0:07
  • I've edited the original question to put more emphasis on the words used in the literary works rather than their wider impact on the language.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 13:37
  • Also now edited the meta post to mention both questions and narrow the issue a bit.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 14:06
  • I don't think that specific question should be on Literature.SE, not so much because it's offtopic here on general principles, but because it's FAR more ontopic on English.SE (whichever one of the two is non-ESL one).

    It's less of a question of scope fit, and more a question of where are there people who are more likely to be experts capable of answering.

  • Having said that, generic questions about literary works' impact should be ontopic, as others said.



Whoops, caps lock. Let's try that again.

Yes. Please don't reopen these types of questions.

Literature is about the elements of the books.

Of course, there are some others about its influence.

Why was The Call of the Wild banned?

George Orwell's 1984 banned for contradictory reasons?

But those questions directly deal with the plots, and why they wouldn't be acceptable.

The English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.

That is talking more of the author's stuff, not really the book.

Roughly how many English words were really coined by Shakespeare?

It is not at all a symbol. Or anything related to a books elements.

His works are made of nothing but words.

But literature is not only about words.

Gel death verifies controlled too maximum superlative rendezvous adaptation quadrillion telophase

Sure, they're words. But hardly literature.

  • "That is talking more of the author's stuff, not really the book." - I don't understand what this means? For one thing, Shakespeare didn't write books ... but even leaving that aside, what's the difference between his 'stuff' and his plays?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 13:06

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