I recently answered my first question on Literature, Yaay! Why does Meursault kill "the Arab" in The Stranger?

The question is about a book by Albert Camus. The book was originally written in French, with the title "L'Etranger."

Now the French title translates to different things. Many books offer the title "The Stranger," whereas others may carry the title "The Outsider" which is the title of the physical copy I hold.

Now the issue is that with our framework of placing "book-title" tags on questions, there are a few implications. First, is which title do we honour? Both are equally correct, translated to different interpretations of the book, and are widely used titles. There's an inconsistency here.

Next, is the fact that the original language of the book is French. Does that mean that we should use the original French title for the tag? That would solve the problem, but add new ones, in the sense that the tag may be drastically less accessible to the English-speaking audience.

What do we do?

  • Both The Outsider and The Stranger sound like fairly generic titles, and there will probably be more than one book with each of those names. But that's a separate issue worth a meta post of its own. – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '17 at 0:20
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    Great. 3 answers, ALL with negative votes. – DVK Jan 31 '17 at 5:10
  • @DVK Ugh... This will be difficult :/ – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 22:50
  • lol, 4 answers, none positive, and very little comments as to why – DForck42 Feb 1 '17 at 22:57
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    @DForck42 I feel like this may be one of those things where no one can agree -_- – Zizouz212 Feb 1 '17 at 23:01

I think we should go by whatever translation is most commonly used. Wikipedia is a good proxy for this. For example, the main page for the book on Wikipedia is about The Stranger. Searching for The Outsider redirects me to The Stranger.

Of course, we could (and should) make a synonym of .

I disagree with fi12's proposal. What if it's a Japanese book, with non-ascii characters? Would the policy of using foreign names apply to books with a clear English translation, such as Crime and Punishment. It's just too inconsistent and too confusing.

  • Could I get an explanation of the downvotes here? Practically every possible solution to this problem has been downvoted. It would be helpful to get a sense of why people disagree so that we can build a consensus. – user111 Feb 1 '17 at 22:41
  • I've upvoted this answer, and downvoted Gilles's for the reasons laid out in my answer to the meta post on book titles as tags. Haven't voted on either of the other two yet. – Rand al'Thor Feb 1 '17 at 23:09
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    @Hamlet At this rate, everything has so many downvotes and all, I don't even know what to do :/ – Zizouz212 Feb 1 '17 at 23:22

My course of action would be to create a tag of the original French title of the book, then create both of the English titles as tags, and ask a CM to mark them as tag synonyms to the original French title.

In this case, is the main tag, and and are the synonyms. I don't know how we would deal with the apostrophe in the tag name though.

  • What about questions about Crime and Punishment? Would this only apply to tags where the English translation is consistent? – user111 Jan 31 '17 at 0:06
  • I actually really like this idea. I had never thought of using synonyms as a way to get everything to a single tag. Only question now, is how french tags will be received. – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 0:06
  • @Zizouz212 In this case, that's irrelevant. Even if the question asker enters the English name, they'll be pointed to the main, French tag. – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 0:07
  • @fi12 I think what I meant is whether the community would be receptive to the french tag. As well as SE, because it would involve multi-language things, and there may be some quirks around that. Can't remember completely though. – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 0:08
  • @Zizouz212 I could see things getting complicated/impossible with Japanese book names, for example. – amaranth Jan 31 '17 at 0:09
  • @amaranth Yeah, that's exactly what I was wondering as well. Hamlet brings up a good point, for what we do with books that don't have contested translations. Yaar, this is so difficult :P – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 0:09
  • @amaranth That's true, but I think we'll deal with those problems as they arise. – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 0:09
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    My brain is going to melt once somebody asks a question about a text written in Middle Mongolian that has never been translated into English. – amaranth Jan 31 '17 at 0:12
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    @amaranth The sheer idea of that sends shivers down my spine. – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 0:15
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    English is the operating language of Literature.SE; Thus, the tags should be English. – Helmar Feb 5 '17 at 11:33
  • @Helmar If the original title of the book was in French, then there's a good chance the title of the book is far more widely known in French then in English. – fi12 Feb 5 '17 at 13:15
  • @fi12 that can at best be decided case-by-case. – Helmar Feb 5 '17 at 13:24
  • @Helmar I agree, and in this case the most viable option is to use the French title. – fi12 Feb 5 '17 at 13:32

The question is moot, because you generally shouldn't use book titles as tags.

For the rare case of titles that are useful, and the less rare case of author names that need to be transliterated, use the most common English translation/transliteration.

  • There is hardly a consensus on the question you linked. -1 – Helmar Feb 5 '17 at 11:35
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    @Helmar I didn't link to a question, I linked to an answer. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '17 at 18:53

Synonyms on case-by-case basis

Literature.SE has the operating language English. Therefore the tags should be English wherever possible. I'd also discourage from establishing a catch-all method to handle the problem you describe. First off, do we have an actual problem? No. We have one question with one fitting tag. Sounds good.

When this comes up. I.e. another questions with the tag the-outsider pops up and there is no reasonable way to discern which is the more fitting/appropriate tag the system provides the ability to establish synonyms. We'd decide on meta by consensus if we want to have The-Stranger -> The Outsider or the other way round. Then we implement that synonym.

On cross-language synonyms

I completely oppose cross-language synonyms as suggested in another answer. Certainly as synonym master since the taxonomy of this site should be English and also as synonym because there is very little to be gained. Questions have to be posted in English anyways. Why would I post a question about War and Peace in English into the question box and then start writing Cyrillic characters into the tag box?

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    Do we have an actual problem? Yes, we do. What tag do we use when a book has multiple titles. It's an existing problem - do we use [the-outsider], [the-stranger], or [l'etranger]. I'm not disagreeing with you that we should decide how to work tag synonyms on a case by case basis, but we need to have some objective criteria and goals on how to move forward. – Zizouz212 Feb 5 '17 at 17:03

I think the correct answer is to let the asker tag the question with whatever title they think is important. If it's ambiguous as to which translation they are using, ask for clarification via a comment.

I think having a separate tag for each translation of a work is going to get needlessly complicated and unhelpful. I think a significant portion of askers won't even be aware that what they're reading is a translation, let alone one of several available.

I'm also hesitant to wholesale make a bunch of title tags as synonyms because there could be significant differences between the translations. An answer on one translation might not answer the same question on a different translation.

So, in summary, if a work's translations end up with different titles, let askers tag with whatever title they think is appropriate (within reason, of course)

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    Differences in translation is an issue we deal with whenever we talk about translated works, not just when the difference in translation is in the title. For example, questions about different translations of the Iliad are still tagged the-iliad. I just don't see why we should fragment title tags just because of differences in translation. – user111 Feb 1 '17 at 23:01

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