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After a lot of different questions about the issue of tags based on languages and/or countries, we eventually came to the conclusion that tags such as are useful even on questions about specific works; furthermore, we also clarified that such tags should refer to languages and not countries or cultures, since the latter can sometimes be much harder to define.

However, there's an important special case still unresolved. In all of these discussions, we've made an exception, implicitly or explicitly, for works of literature written in English. The question Should we have language-specific tags (excluding one for English)? (which I've now voted to close as a dupe, by the way) has the caveat right there in the title, and my answer here also deliberately skirts around the issue of English-language literature.

However, we now have an tag with 16 questions, so perhaps it's time to actually have this debate and work out what we want. As I see it, there are three options:

  1. use a tag for all questions about literature in the English language;
  2. use tags like and for different English-speaking subcultures;
  3. don't tag English-language questions at all, with the implicit assumption that if a question about a book doesn't have a language tag, then it was written in English.

Which of these routes should we take, and why?

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Option #2 is right out.

  • Inconsistency is the devil. If we're using language-based instead of country-based tags for non-English languages, we shouldn't turn around and use country-based tags for English. That's just inconsistent and confusing.
  • Most of these areas also produce non-English literature. Shouldn't a question about Aborigine literature be tagged with ? Or a question about Scots Gaelic literature tagged with ? This relates to the previous bullet point, but it shows why inconsistency is dangerous - because there's overlap.
  • The same reasons as before. Many of the issues I described here would still be issues if we used country-based tags for English literature. Take a book like Neil Gaiman's American Gods - it was written by an English author living in America, set in America but (I believe) more popular in Britain. In many cases, you can't even look at the book to decide whether it's written in (e.g.) British or American English, as you can with language tags, because there are editions in both.

Option #1 feels unnecessary.

I could go either way on this, honestly, but a single overarching tag would probably be used on the majority of all our questions, which feels a bit over-the-top. Especially when instead of having a specific tag to mark these questions, they could just be marked by the absence of any other language tag.

Besides, are we likely to have any users who are experts in English literature as a whole and will want to search that tag? Far more likely, surely, that they'll be experts in some specific subcategory.

  • Yep, this makes sense. I'll wait a few days to a week to see if there aren't any objections, and then I'll edit out the american-literature tag. – user111 Jul 10 '17 at 14:33
  • There's also a victorian-literature tag, a childrens-literature tag, and a irish-literature tag (which isn't used for texts written in Irish). The third tag makes sense to remove per this consensus; what about the first two? – user111 Jul 10 '17 at 14:36
  • @Hamlet I think victorian-literature is too ill-defined to work well as a tag (is it for books written in English during Victoria's reign? only those published in the empire she ruled? ...) But I hate the whole concept of naming periods of history after monarchs, so I may be biased there. As for childrens-literature, might be different enough to warrant a new meta post. Also worth noting that currently the only question with that tag is about the concept of children's lit, not just one specific book. Maybe the tag could be useful for that purpose, if it has a clear wiki guidance? – Rand al'Thor Jul 10 '17 at 14:49
  • So the answer is option 3? – Catija Jul 11 '17 at 18:36
  • @Catija That's my proposal, yes. (Option 1 would also be OK, but I prefer 3.) – Rand al'Thor Jul 11 '17 at 18:54
  • I agree with option 3 but I feel like your answer doesn't actually say that anywhere? I think english-literature would be a meta tag because it'd end up on probably 80% of the questions here... if the site is in English, I think that it's fair to assume any question that doesn't have a n-language tag is about an English book or a version of a non-English book that is in English... so if you read The Odyssey in English and weren't interested in original text, that would also default to English. – Catija Jul 11 '17 at 18:58
  • @Catija english-literature isn't a meta tag, any more than french-literature or spanish-literature. The site is in English, but English literature is no more on-topic than literature in any other language; it just happens to be what most users have read most of. And yes, I haven't explicitly concluded that option 3 is the one to go for ... but if people can't "read between the lines" on Literature, where can they? :-P – Rand al'Thor Jul 11 '17 at 19:07
  • Any tag that appears on a significant portion of a site's question has the potential to be a meta tag. Explaining why a couple of options are bad or less useful does not mean that you actually support the remaining one... you could simply have nothing to say about it and are hoping that someone comes up with a fourth option. – Catija Jul 11 '17 at 19:11
  • I'm accepting this answer now that Hamlet has removed the american-literature and irish-literature questions from the site. – Rand al'Thor Jul 15 '17 at 18:40

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