From our help section we say that a question is off topic if (amongst others):

If your question could be answered by a dictionary, a grammar book, or another general reference, consult these. Explain why this did not help you when asking your question.

This is good to keep the site clean of very basic question where any answer would not provide more than a dictionary entry. Recently many question attract close votes for various reasons, not always obvious to the user who asked, and not always accompanied by a helpful comment. This may lead to confusion especially amongst new users.

Dictionaries do not always provide clear solutions for a given context, even after we had consulted multiple dictionaries (which alone should not be a prerequsite for asking an on topic question). With words that may have very different meanings in standard vs. colloquial or slang German a learner of the language may fail when consulting their dictionary such as it was the case in the following question:

In this case looking up a dicitonary may or may not reveal the colloquial meaning asked for. But the user posting this questions put quite some effort into the question by providing both context, and their own research effort. They made it all right, as was asked in the help secctions. Despite this the question was closed as off topic with a snappy comment saying:

It's always good to try another dictionary, or even a German one.

I believe we should stay open for these kind of questions. For a non-native speaker topics like these may not always be as obvious as for us, and German Language SE should stay a good place for asking this.

What problems does the community have if we allowed such questions? Do we need to further specify the range of questions by adapting our help sections? What kind of questions if not of the kind quoted above do we welcome here at all? Do we want questions at all?

  • Wow. Now I am really insulted. Firstly, I did not intend my tone to be perceived that way. I hereby apologize for that. Secondly, one can hardly call that research effort. Even a simple Google search for either große Klappe or even just Klappe reveals the phrase's meaning. I hope it's not asked too much to append obvious keywords like "German", "English", "translation" or the like. – user6191 Oct 7 '14 at 18:40
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    @Grantwalzer May you read the question once more. The problem was that the poster was looking for something that could describe an island. This was wrong, but errare humanum est and searching under wrong assumptions might easily lead to overlooking the proper solution. Note that even the dictionary he did consult contains the translation "big mouth". I am open for helping out of this kind of trouble. – Matthias Oct 7 '14 at 19:08
  • So the poster seems to have only tried one keyword in one dictionary, without going through the first few links of the more obvious and more general Google search. Lastly, that would enable questions of the format: "I didn't find [keyword] in this dictionary. What does it mean?" And that's just ridiculous. P.S.: After finding out the meaning, it becomes clear that it relates to Evelyn Zupke, and not the island. If I weren't a native speaker, I'd have bigger trouble with understanding "Brüder und Schwestern im Geiste" or even "Aufsässige". – user6191 Oct 7 '14 at 19:11
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    @Grantwalzer sorry to have upset you by this. I do understand your concern about the "translation service" very well, we all don't want to be this. But on the other hand we have to keep in mind how people who took the effort to sit down, think of, and write a question giving us all we asked for feel if we just tell them we don't appreciate that. Then a comment just linking to a dictionary entry or to Google might not be enough. At least there is a risk that it will be perceived as rude. You certainly did not intend that but it had to be discussed. – Takkat Oct 7 '14 at 19:22
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    @Grantwalzer I'm afraid it doesn't convince me. – Matthias Oct 7 '14 at 19:22
  • also related: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/741/… – Takkat Oct 7 '14 at 19:23
  • @Matthias Maybe it will someone else, even if not until this site grows big. – user6191 Oct 7 '14 at 19:38
  • @Grantwalzer My concern is rather that this site will never get big if we scare off users who ask for help in good faith, particular users like boaten who contributed a lot of good questions that helped grow this site. – Matthias Oct 7 '14 at 19:45
  • @Matthias Either that or people begin to ask more carefully. Questions can scare away users, too - just imagine a similar question on SO. – user6191 Oct 7 '14 at 19:55
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    @Grantwalzer I doubt that leaving beginnner's questions open or having an occasional poor question will scare away any user be it beginners or advanced users. But having too few questions is what we should be worried about. If people don't dare to ask because our standards appeared to high we risk to lose not only the poor questions but also the good ones. – Takkat Oct 7 '14 at 19:55
  • Unlike SO or other big sites we do not suffer from too many questions here ;) – Takkat Oct 7 '14 at 19:56
  • Alright, then... – user6191 Oct 7 '14 at 19:56
  • Related: meta.german.stackexchange.com/q/690/2466 too slow in closing questions?? – Vogel612 Oct 7 '14 at 22:26

Thanks for raising this question. I was one of those who voted for closing it. It appeared to me to be something that could be easily solved by looking up the term in the Duden, so I saw this as a clear example for the "we are not a translation service" rule.

However, I was wrong and should have thought about the question at least as long as the OP did. This might not be the most interesting question of the week, but it is fine, on-topic and welcome. My apologies to @boaten, the OP.

  • I was reading too fast, so I missed the main problem the OP had: what does "die mit der großen Klappe" refer to. Maybe he would himself have picked the right meaning of "Klappe" from the dictionary if he had known that it must be some quality of a person, not an island. Helping with this kind of problems is a good purpose of this site.

  • I second your reasoning. Although we can expect some sign of own research effort, we shouldn't expect that it is successful in every case. So the OP met this criterion well enough.

  • We shouldn't be too picky with questions. Immediate closing without prior asking for context or improvement should be restricted to spam and bold cases of "please do my homework, NOW".

  • Maybe we should give some examples of online dictionaries that we would recommend in the help section. The Duden should be amongst them.

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