Should we add a flag or other symbol to the user box to indicate the questioner / answerer's dialect.

This would avoid the need for the person posting to say "I'm from New Zealand and we say X", the reader would just see an NZ flag next to the post.

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    Sometimes it's nice to know where someone is from – quite often, when I read an answer that seems surprisingly "off", the first thing I'll do is check the user's profile, to see if I might learn where they are from. Maybe it's a regional thing. That said, we can volunteer such geographic information in our profiles, but I don't think we ought to make it something that follows us around. Matt has given a few reasons why this might not be feasible or practical.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 13:07
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    The author needs to include whatever information is relevant to the question. If the origin of the author is relevant, they should definitely included that in the body of the text. The question and answer text needs to stand alone (remember that these posts can be reused elsewhere by our Creative Commons licensing). We don't want to make the text of the question or answer too closely dependent on who is asking them by prefacing it by a bunch of meta information. It doesn't add to the quality or searchability of post itself. Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 2:10

1 Answer 1



Nationality is only one of many differences that might change the answer to a question. For example, an American asked "how might someone say they have never had any money" might reasonably be answered

I've never had any money

But depending on where they grew up (e.g. the deep-south) and their cultural vernacular, might also reply:

I've never had no money.

Similarly, in Cockney British English, one might reasonably say

I didn't see nuffink guvnar

Which is grammatically incorrect compared with the Queen's English:

I didn't see anything.

Being British does not automatically make you an expert at Cockney English or Queen's English. Indeed - most people in England are pretty bad at Standard English, particularly when it comes to the spoken word.

One other thing to bear in mind is that a number of ELL users may very well have expertise in more than one area of colloquial English. For example, in my case I'm a British National, but spend roughly two thirds of the year in the US.

Should I be only allowed to comment on British English because that's how I grew up, or should I only be allowed to comment on American English, because that's where I spend most of my time? I was born in Scotland, so should that be my flag, even though I'm certainly no expert on the local dialect?

A flag provides little meaningful benefit to ELL if you can only have one - since it doesn't clarify whether the person is an expert in any particular "field" of English.

If you're allowed multiple flags, it just degenerates quickly into "badges", and it becomes difficult to classify at what point someone should "qualify" for the badge (either whether the badge is awarded, or merely assigned by the user).

For instance, should I get a "South African" flag-badge just for having watched a South African movie? Probably not. What about if I visited it on holiday once? Still no? Ok, how about it was a 3 month holiday. How about I live there now, but have only lived there for less than three months? How about six months?

In short, flags are the wrong way of measuring whether someone knows something about any particular English variant. The best way is to keep the status quo, where users post what they think is correct, and when someone else says "That's not how we do it here", this information appears via a comment. That way, the OP or indeed anyone else coming across the post looking for an answer, automatically gets everything that they want: The answer in a range of dialects from which they can choose the most appropriate answer to their needs.

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