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But given both of those are so unlikely, and taking account of other howlers I've seen cited from online coursework here and on ELU, I would say the only real meaning to be extracted from OP's citation is that his source material came from a non-native speaker. My recommendation would be to discard it.

...

That's because although it's possible to imagine a native speaker using those words in either of the senses I've given, in practice they would never cite it as an example in an educational context. It looks to me like a daft example from a non-native speaker who shouldn't be teaching English, but I can't 100% rule out the possibility that some "Indian English" speakers may find it "acceptable".

-- What does "sleep early" mean?

When I got to the last sentence I started to feel uncomfortable. (I agree that the usage in question was unusual, but that's not my point).

The reference to India seemed to come out the blue! That comment seems undesirable to me, whether you'd describe it as racist, or simply being patronising towards non-native speakers. I'm not saying I found it offensive, therefore it should be removed. However it sounds like a comment that a good community would react against. So if I feel that way about a comment, is there a good way to react against it?

It seems obvious to me this is going to come up here, from commenters coming in from English-speaking countries.

If this is a heavily-moderated site like MetaFilter, I should flag it for the consideration of a moderator. http://blog.codinghorror.com/please-read-the-comments/ (just a reference, not deliberately a Jeff Atwood one, honest).

If all I can do is raise racism in a comment, that seems like quite a fighty deraily thing to do, by analogy to my experience of forums. Unless comments in StackExchange tend to be more contained or something, so that it wouldn't be a problem?

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My personal thoughts on this:

I think the first comment is fine, and an honest attempt from the commenter to say "The reason this sounds strange to you is because it's not right; it sounds like something a non-native speaker would have said." I don't think any offense was meant; they were trying to be helpful. If a question is "Why was this written like X? Shouldn't it be Y?" I think "You're right, it's just a typo" or "You're right, that sounds like a common mistake non-native speakers make" or "You're right, that looks like a mistake that's commonly made by native speakers" are all valid answers.

For the second comment, I'd like it if you would link to the comment thread. In isolation, you're right that it sounds like it could be problematic. I'd like to see if the surrounding context changes that at all, at which point I will update my answer.

In general, yes, if a comment makes you uncomfortable you should absolutely flag it for moderator attention! That's what we're here for, and we're happy to further investigate anything you find troublesome.

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  • Thanks! The flag tooltip says to flag if I find it offensive. I just don't feel personally offended by it (maybe I should). – sourcejedi May 28 '14 at 22:41
  • @sourcejedi If you're ever concerned about anything at all, go ahead and flag it. We're happy to look at it :) If you just want to link to that second one here, that works too. I'd like to see the context for it. – WendiKidd May 28 '14 at 22:42
  • Added link in question – sourcejedi May 28 '14 at 22:43
  • @sourcejedi Ah, I see the link now, thanks. I don't think the commenter was trying to be offensive; I think the intent was to help (similar to what I said in regard to comment #1, where it's actually valuable information to point out that a sentence is a mistake commonly made my non-native speakers.) I think this is a case of tone being misunderstood over the internet (because it is a fact that speakers of different dialects find different phrasings acceptable). I'm going to remove the "" from the comment; I think that'll make it come across better. Let me know what you think of that. – WendiKidd May 28 '14 at 22:45
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    Agreed completely with @WendiKidd here - the scare quotes made the comment read differently, and without them, it seems like a fair point to make. I've singled out Indian English when it has different constructions to other varieties that I'm aware of, and need to draw attention to (eg I am thinking that X) – jimsug May 28 '14 at 23:03
  • Good idea. I agree with jimsug. Note I never said the commenter was trying to be offensive :). Sometimes our attitudes are wrong without us knowing it. Anyway I've sometimes used quotes because I'm not confident - e.g. whether it even makes sense to talk about "Indian English" - and then realized it's not clear why I did that unless you already magically know what I'm thinking. Now I just need to learn how to explain this in the flag box next time. I don't think the text of my question here would fit :). – sourcejedi May 28 '14 at 23:22

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