A recent question was asking if the usage of the term “cop” was derogatory. A reasonable question, with some background around the context.

The (accepted) answer (posted by a moderator) includes this headline:

Why did that person say such a thing to you?

This already feels entirely off topic for an ELL answer - we’re not here to guess at why someone who was rude, was rude. If someone were to post the question “why was someone rude towards me” we would most assuredly close it.

you had a racist and/or xenophobic encounter

This is wild conjecture, and somewhat offensive at that - are we to consider everything rude to be racist? Nowhere in the question was race even mentioned. It dilutes the use of the word “racist” when it’s used to mean “a white person being rude”. Try and keep it to mean actual racists.

Since we have chatted about similar things in the ELL chatroom, I understand the larger background, which is missing in your question.

This is a strong suggestion that, in order to thoroughly answer a question, one now has to participate in chat for the full context?

This is entirely against the SE ethos. We are all about the question being self contained - to the extent that comments, below the question, are edited in. Now we’re expected to keep up with chat?

The “correct” thing to do would be to edit this additional context in, and then base an answer on it. (In this case I imagine it would be swiftly edited out, for being off topic).

So, aside from the off topic, seemingly baseless, accusation - do we allow answers to be based on details not included in the question?

  • 2
    No one said you are expected to keep up with chat. That sentence does not indicate that. "Racism" was implied in my usage of "Karen-ed". And I don't see what is so ironic about "Karen". Just because I asked whether "cops" is a derogatory term or not does not mean I can't call a racist person who interferes in others' business Karen (with all other qualities). "Try and keep it to mean actual racists." How do you know that person was not one? I made it clear in my OP, that "Either I have been oblivious to the word's impropriety, or I got Karen-ed.".
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:05
  • 2
    This means that either I didn't know "cops" is a derogatory word (and it turns out it isn't), or that the customer was a Karen. That is my statement, and I am in a position to claim whether they were a racist or not because I was involved in the exchange; I saw their behavior. So no, the accusations are quite on point, they are not baseless. And much of what is said is pertinent to my use of "Karen-ed".
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:05
  • @AIQ I don’t think Karen does imply that, although perhaps I’m out of date in what it means. Either way, that’s one long paragraph simply from the word “Karen”. Perhaps “it appears you were Karened” would be a better summary. I don’t know that person was one - only the OP of the post could even possibly have enough information to make that judgement, and even then its iffy. One instance of a white person being rude does not a racist make (or perhaps it does now, in which case, I’m a pretty bad racist).
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:13
  • @AIQ you didn’t post the answer though? It’s someone else posting an answer claiming someone is racist... you’re welcome to post an answer saying she’s racist, which I would consider off topic because the question should be “is cops derogatory”. What is this nonsense about trying to understand people’s deep dark desires and motives from one unpleasant exchange? I wouldn’t call someone racist just because they were mean to me - I reserve that for explicit racism (and I think that’s a sensible thing to do in general).
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:17
  • (There’s also the 3rd option: she’s a busybody who interferes in everyone’s business. You seem to be reading this situation as black and white: “either I’m wrong or she’s racist”, but there’s uncountable reasons why she could have acted the way she did. Perhaps she’s, shock horror, just an unpleasant person)...
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:18
  • 1
    Also “Since we have chatted about similar things in the ELL chatroom, I understand the larger background, which is missing in your question. That person must have said those words on their own preconceived and stereotype-based notions about you. My guess is they made assumptions about you being a foreign student at a local university and took it upon themself to lecture you” - given the answer includes discussion of external context, I think your argument that I don’t need to read chat in order to answer a question to be flimsy.
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:35
  • Just so we are clear on the definition of Karen "I don’t know that person was one - only the OP of the post could even possibly have enough information to make that judgement, and even then its iffy." There is nothing iffy about this. You don't know if that person was one, yes right. But I do. Because I am the OP. How much information does one need to recognize a racist person? How do you know I didn't have more information? What if I told you the dialogue that I posted was only a part of the conversation?
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:49
  • I did not even mention the shoulder-rub in my OP, which I mentioned in comments under the other answer. "One instance of a white person being rude does not a racist make" - I don't get this - most Karen encounters are "one instance". One encounter with these horrible people are enough to say whether someone is a Karen or not. If you disagree, you might want to take a look at the evidence out there (published encounters in news articles). And I don't have to post an answer saying they were racist, I already mentioned they were a Karen (if my use of the word "cops" was fine).
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:50
  • How many unpleasant exchanges is needed to understand people's behavior? It seems like you are trying to teach me how and when I should call someone a racist or a Karen. "flimsy"? No. Not really. I don't state anywhere in my OP that someone needs to be in the chatroom to be able to answer my question. If you had written an answer (and if I had downvoted your answer stating that it is not useful and incomplete), only then your comment would have been valid.
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:50
  • @AIQ you, as the OP are (possibly) free to make the accusation, although it likely off topic here. I don't think the answer possibly can make that determination. I'm accusing the answer of not being appropriate. You're taking my complaint of an answer (which you didn't post) incredibly personally. I'm also struggling to not get combative in response to these comments. I'll edit out from this question the mention of your use of Karen, because it's not the focus of this Meta post, and I'll aim to keep this discussion on topic: i.e. about the question in the title of this post.
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 9:56
  • I am not taking your complaint of the answer personally. I am taking your numerous attempts - to tell me how to and when to label a person racist - personally. "One encounter, in which a person is rude and nosey, is, to me, nowhere near enough to label them a racist." Right, and I think I mentioned it that they weren't simply rude. See my comments under the other answer. Anyways, I think you are entitled to your opinion on the answer and on the content of my question.
    – AIQ
    Jun 27, 2020 at 10:07
  • @AIQ your comments should be edited in to the question if you expect them to be read. Come on - you know this! You're not new to SE! (I certainly haven't seen where you mentioned they were more than rude. Nowhere in your post, other than the use of the slang word "Karen" is there even an implication of racism. Nowhere are the races of either party mentioned. I'm not sure how I'm expected to read racism from the information given to me. You're welcome to say the encounter was racist, but, from the information in the OP, I can't see how an answer could possibly make that claim. That's my issue).
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2020 at 10:08

1 Answer 1


Is it appropriate to base an answer on details not included in a question?

The answer under discussion is not based on information privy to a selected audience.

The author cited numerous references, which supported their answer, the etymology of the term "cops" was also mentioned in depth–which any user could have found online–but more importantly, it is written by an native American English speaker. Despite the term "cops" being used in many English dialects, the OP asked if it carried derogatory overtones in the US. Who better than an AmEng speaker to reply?

What I think the good answer lacked was a tone of impartiality and objectivity. It degenerated into an accusatory "them and us" op-ed. Fine for a piece of passionate journalistic writing, much less so for a site dedicated to learners of the English language. I do not think ELL is the appropriate platform to talk about racism and documented police brutality:

Police effectively enjoy criminally extensive immunity that has allowed them to continue murdering people of color on the street without real consequences.

The author then includes the following, the part which @Tim objects to, it suggests that the asker and the answerer have established a rapport, one based on respect and esteem for one another

But it sounds to me you had a racist and/or xenophobic encounter. Since we have chatted about similar things in the ELL chatroom, I understand the larger background, which is missing in your question.

If that line were deleted from the last paragraph, the answer would not be any less good. The ‘problem’, I feel, is another.

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