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Today, someone asked what this sentence means:

This first choice of yours is no second best of all.

Without additional context, I think the answer is "nothing". And we were informed that there was no additional context, so I posted "nothing" as an answer.

However, my answer was converted to a comment, and the question was closed as "unclear what you're asking". This seems odd to me for two reasons:

  1. It's clear what they're asking. They want to know what it means.
  2. What it means is nothing. Nothing is the right answer.

But perhaps we should close it anyway--let's look at the existing close reasons. Do any of these apply?

  • Entirely answerable with a dictionary: No, a dictionary wouldn't answer it.
  • More details, please: No, there are no more details to give.
  • Proofreading: No, it doesn't appear to be about proofreading.
  • Unclear what you're asking: No, it's clear what they're asking. They want to know what it means.
  • Too broad: No, it's fairly focused.
  • Primarily Opinion-Based: No, it doesn't appear to be asking for opinions.

It doesn't seem like the question fits any of the existing close reasons, which is why I answered it. Of course, it's unlikely to be of value to future users, so Too Localized would be appropriate--but we don't have that close reason anymore.

So if we do want to close it, I think we need a new or custom reason. I'm not sure what that reason should be, though.

What should we do with questions like this?

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  • Hmm. Fair enough. I see your point and I'll go ahead and undelete the answer. I still think the question should be closed (though it's hard for me to articulate why), but I'll see what others' responses are and if the community supports reopening of the question, I'll be happy to do so. – WendiKidd Oct 19 '13 at 18:18
  • I should add that I probably should have closed the question with the custom OT "Add more details" reason, but since the other two closevoters had selected "unclear" I went with that. And here is a link to the question in case others would like to cast reopen votes for themselves! :) – WendiKidd Oct 19 '13 at 18:19
  • And I think perhaps the question isn't "is nothing a valid answer to what does this mean", but "is asking nothing but what does this mean a valid question". I think we've decided as a community in the past that it isn't, and I also think we shouldn't answer questions that are OT (because this encourages people to ask them anyway). Hmm, I think I'm just rambling at this point. I'll just wait and see what others think before I say anything else :) I thought I was going along with community consensus when I acted here, but maybe I misinterpreted (or the consensus might have changed!) :) – WendiKidd Oct 19 '13 at 18:23
  • I don't feel strongly that it should be reopened, but I do think that if it stays closed it should have a different close reason. It is clear what they're asking, and there are no more details to give. I'd go with Too Localized, but that doesn't exist anymore. Maybe a new or custom reason would be appropriate? – snailplane Oct 19 '13 at 18:50
  • @WendiKidd I've re-deleted the answer and revised my meta question because I don't feel strongly that it should be re-opened. I would like to see someone suggest a course of action for questions like these, though. – snailplane Oct 19 '13 at 19:08
  • What about: This question, as it stands, is not about the English language as there are no consulted/available/back-up references. – Mari-Lou A Oct 19 '13 at 21:09
  • Is this scenario like the "source-error" tagged questions on Japanese Language & Usage? – Andrew Grimm Oct 20 '13 at 6:17
  • @Mari-LouA It's not really a matter of 'references', which will be taken to mean reference works, but of context. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 20 '13 at 13:17
  • I think it means “This is your first choice, second to none.” – Tyler James Young Oct 24 '13 at 19:22
  • @TylerJamesYoung Then you could have posted that as a competing answer, I suppose, but the author has deleted their question. – snailplane Oct 24 '13 at 19:29
  • Indeed. Though I wouldn't have, even if it had occurred to me at the time, because it's really just a guess I made from the context. If that question (as it stood after being researched by answerers, not as it was originally written) has a real answer, it's from someone who speaks both Japanese and English well enough to translate the phrase. – Tyler James Young Oct 24 '13 at 19:40
  • @TylerJamesYoung The Japanese contains no clues to the meaning of the English, I'm afraid. – snailplane Oct 24 '13 at 19:48
  • Ah. Then we need the author! ...basically I agree that the question and all like it should be closed. It doesn't fit with helping people learn English. Similarly, today I shied away from answering a question about some English (BrE, even) that was intentionally ungrammatical, simply because I don't think understanding it would help anyone learn English. – Tyler James Young Oct 24 '13 at 20:10
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In the old days we had Not A Real Question, which would certainly apply. Today, Wendi's choice of the OT-Add More Details works, but so does unclear what you're asking, since it goes on to say:

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need.

"Additional details" are precisely what you, I and FumbleFingers asked for: a context in which the sentence might mean something, or at least it might be discerned what the author was trying to mean.

I think we cannot yet say that those details will not be forthcoming, since FumbleFingers provided OP more information about just what we're asking for. But if those details do not appear in due course the question should not remain on hold; it will be of no use to anybody and should be deleted.

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  • 3
    This was exactly my reasoning for voting to close. If we had context, we might answer “the writer made a mistake and meant to say this” or “the writer is not a native speaker and here is some other evidence of his broken English” or “from context, it means (…) and has been written this way for stylistic effect”. With no context, this question is unanswerable. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 20 '13 at 11:08

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