I answered a question about a specific book, Why are place names obscured in Charlotte Brontë's The Professor?, with a very general answer which covers the reasons why place names (or for that matter personal names or dates) are obscured in many other works of literature as well. So far, so good: I might have somewhat overperformed, but my answer does address the original question.

But what happens when people post questions in the future about why place names (or personal names, or dates) are obscured in some other book?

  • Technically I could copy-paste the same answer to such questions and it would solve them just as well, but that seems like a waste of having different threads.
  • We could close such questions as duplicates since they already have an answer here, but it would seem weird to have a question about Treasure Island or Jude the Obscure closed as a duplicate of one about Bronte's The Professor.

Perhaps the best solution would be to edit the Bronte question to be much more general, about the redaction of names in fictional literature in general, so that my answer still stands but it would make sense to close new questions about this as duplicates. (I'm reluctant to do such a major edit myself, but I've informed Yannis, the OP, about this meta post).

Another possibility would be to post a new question about the general issue of redaction of names in fictional literature, delete my original answer and repost it there, and then close the Bronte question itself (and all later questions on this issue) as duplicates.


This is not a duplicate of Is it fair to change a question after an answer has been provided?, since that was about changing a question to invalidate existing answer(s).

  • This is not the first time it's happened; see Why don't the modern printings of Campion novels use the original artwork?
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:41
  • @BESW Judging by the votes on the two answers, your line "Generic can be done well. Unsupported speculation that's also generic--not so much." may mark a difference between that Campion answer and my redaction answer :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 11:48
  • [shrug] I downvoted your answer, because its support is not of the same kind. The Campion answer says "this one thing is always the answer," while the Professor answer says "one of these many things is probably the answer." You supported that those many things are good reasons, but you also need to do something toward singling one out in order to answer the question as asked.
    – BESW
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


Best course: Edit the answer to include supported speculation about which of those reasons applies to The Professor.

Easier course: Leave the question as is and move the broad, unspecific answer to its own broad, unspecific self-answered question, which answers to The Professor can reference before offering support for precisely which of the potential reasons applied to the work being asked about.

The answer does not answer the question.

It gives all possible answers without any support for which one might be applicable to the book in question. That's useful information, but not a good answer for the question being asked. It is, as you've noted, an answer to a broader question about the various reasons different books have for obscuring names.

But as an answer to why The Professor obscured names? Well, it just offers broad, well-supported information about possible trends and motives. Without any commentary on how those trends and motives might have interacted with the specific work, it's an incomplete answer.

Editing the question to be broader would be disingenuous.

A question about a particular work shouldn't be artificially broadened. What good would it do? It's not a bad question, or off topic. If it's unanswerable, that's fine. The Stack handles "unanswerable" quite nicely: the question sits without an answer. (A question can't be closed or edited because it's unanswerable: proof of unanswerability is itself a great answer!)

The question about The Professor would not be a duplicate of a broader question.

Again, saying "It could be any of these" is not a good answer to a question about a particular instance. A good answer to the specific question will offer support for a particular reason. A list of possible reasons leaves the actual answer as an exercise for the user, and the Stack is about connecting all the dots in our answers.

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