I've been thinking about and , and I've come to the conclusion that they aren't worth having around. I wrote an answer on a meta question about a different proposal arguing such, and that answer got a few upvotes. I'm creating a new meta question to get community feedback.

Should we remove the meaning and symbolism tags?

  • 2
    Note: votes on the question do not indicate agreement or disagreement with the proposal; writing and voting on answers is the way to show your support or disagreement.
    – Mithical Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:09
  • 1
    @Mithrandir I think that that depends on the question; if the question itself is making some kind of proposal, then voting would absolutely indicate agreement or disagreement with the proposal. In this case, the question itself isn't proposing anything, just asking whether we should remove the tags or not. Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:17
  • @EJoshuaS the question was originally worded as a proposal; I then later edited it into a question.
    – user111
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 20:19
  • 2
    I think that these tags are [meaning]less - I say we burninate them. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 22:58
  • @EJoshuaS I agree, but three people disagree.
    – user111
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


Yes, let's remove the two tags. Here is my reasoning:

  1. Tags are supposed to help people find questions that they can answer. These tags don't do that. There isn't such a thing as being an expert in meaning, or being knowledgeable about symbolism. Answering a symbolism question can involve anything from close reading to critical theory to explaining a basic grammatical question. Contrast that to a tag such as , where questions with that tag, more likely than not, will require knowledge of The Canterbury Tales to answer.

  2. These tags are broad, unintuitive, and unspecific. For example, meaning can mean anything from "What does word x in this story mean?" to "what is the meaning of character y's obsession with idea z?" Symbolism: does that only refer to questions about objects in stories (e.g. what does the white dress symbolize)? Or does symbolism refer to, to quote from a meta post on the subject, "Any time there is something that represents more than its literal meaning"? In that case, can I use the symbolism tag for plot-explanation questions, e.g. what does the ending symbolize?

  3. In practice, these tags are used inconsistently, which probably is due to them being broad and unspecific. To use some my questions as an example (simply because they're easy for me to find), I've asked many questions that could be tagged with and . But while people have retagged my questions on many occasions, no one has bothered to add the or tags, perhaps because people don't have a clear definition to use when deciding whether the tags are appropriate.

    For example, the question What is a "Cristopher"? could very easily be a symbolism question--it's about an object--but no one retagged the question, despite the question getting a relative amount of attention. Mathematics or gibberish? Understanding a description of an alien message in His Master's Voice, Why is the future "a safe, sterile laboratory"?, and How much French does Madame Eglentyne know? are all questions about the meaning of a specific passage that received a fair bit of attention, but again, no one felt confident enough to retag the questions. I could go on and compile a whole list; these are just a few of the questions on my profile.

    As a matter of fact, looking through the symbolism tag, I see a lot of questions that could also be tagged with the meaning tag. Just on the first page of the tag, I already found Does the poem 'In Just' (e. e. cummings) allude to innocents being led astray by the devil?, which could also use the meaning tag. And from the meaning tag: In the song "Ja is Playing Jazz" (Джа играет джаз), who is Ja? could very easily be reworded to "what does ja symbolize". It's a mess!


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