Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

This post is prompted by a question I revised.

In the question body the OP used the word 'ol. I had to search for a long time to figure out what that meant, and found that it is an acronym of old.

Since it contains a symbol, it is not as easy to search as a keyword on Google. And even when I get a result, I would need to filter for the possibility according to the frequency it appears in the result.

Moving on to the answers, someone used w/o. And my brain reports a compiling error:

  • Brain Error KK0411

    The semantic meaning for string 'w/o' cannot be inferred from the usage. Try specifying the semantic meaning explicitly.

What does that mean? Does w/o stand for write out? Or write only? write off perhaps? Or any possible word which is one of WO on wiki?

I've also read this question on Meta: Can people PLEASE spell out their slang acronyms

So my question is, how can I find a good and easy way to understand the slang people use? Especially those which contain a symbol character?

Further, could Stack Exchange do this favor for people who are not native English speakers?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Michael Petrotta, Toon Krijthe, Martijn Pieters, Rory, yhw42 Mar 22 '13 at 1:00

Questions on Meta Stack Exchange are expected to relate to the software that powers the Stack Exchange network within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Is there a question somewhere in this rant? Stack Exchange is not a single person, you know? It is a community of people from around the world. – Oded Mar 21 '13 at 20:39
w/o = without, but yeah, annoying stuff. – Bart Mar 21 '13 at 20:40
There is a small glossary here:… – ɥʇǝS Mar 21 '13 at 20:42
I guess my point with the first comment is - the content is community created and edited. Stack Exchange can't control what and how people write. – Oded Mar 21 '13 at 20:43
w/o? I haven't looked at your question yet, but I'm guessing that it means without. Am I right? – Sam I am Mar 21 '13 at 20:46
@SamIam You're not right, you're sam. – Richard J. Ross III Mar 21 '13 at 20:48
I find (perhaps surprisingly), that in most of the edits I make, the use of such non-standard/alternative spelling is very often a sign of non-native speakers. P.s. NEVER start your Meta posts with the message that you expect to be downvoted. We tend to do everything to meet a user's expectation. ;) But other than that it's completely unnecessary fluff. – Bart Mar 21 '13 at 20:52
@Oded: Just because of its a community of people from around the world. – Ken Kin Mar 21 '13 at 20:53
Yes, but how can Stack Exchange monitor and manually edit over 7000 posts a day (on Stack Overflow alone)? – Oded Mar 21 '13 at 20:54
@Oded We should hire interns for some "detail-oriented curation of user-generated content in a fast-paced environment". – Adam Lear Mar 21 '13 at 21:02
@AnnaLear I'm sure they would get to work with some great "characters"? – Bart Mar 21 '13 at 21:03
@AnnaLear If I could put Stack Exchange on my resume, I'd take that job. – mikeTheLiar Mar 21 '13 at 21:10
@Shog9 isn't that a bit too much of a title change? I'd reject that as 'too radical' any day of the week. – Richard J. Ross III Mar 21 '13 at 21:12
ol' is an abbreviation of old, not an acronym. /pointlessblathering – Asad Saeeduddin Mar 21 '13 at 21:14
Nitpick - BTW is not slang. It is an acronym of By The Way. – Oded Mar 21 '13 at 21:43
up vote 15 down vote accepted

First of all, w/o isn't slang, it's an abbreviation. It appears in Oxford, Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Collins and Random House Kernerman Webster (source). All of those except Collins say it should only mean without.

That being said, I'm still in favor of spelling it out on Stack Overflow.

So my question is, how can I find a good and easy way to understand the slang people use? Especially those which contain a symbol character?

Try Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary.

I tried searching for w/o, ol' and even 'ol; it found matches without problems.

share|improve this answer

If someone uses a slang term or abbreviation that you don't understand you should do the same thing as when anyone says anything that you don't understand. You should ask them what they meant. It's as simple as adding a comment saying, "I'm not familiar with the term 'ol'', what do you mean by that?" and you'll get your answer.

If a lot of people seem to have trouble digesting a post due to overuse of slang/abbreviations, or the use of particularly obscure slang/abbreviations you can consider editing the post to write them out, or asking the author to edit the post themselves to do the same. In particular this makes more sense when the slang/abbreviation isn't specific to the topic(s) at hand. A slang term for a programming tool that the question relates to is likely appropriate, for example.

SE sites aren't language documentation pages; they're interactive. If you think a post isn't clear just say so (and try to explain, specifically, what needs fixing).

share|improve this answer
I'm not familiar with the term 'SE', what do you mean by that? – Dennis Mar 21 '13 at 21:22
@Dennis I have no idea what it means, I'm just repeating random buzzwords that I hear other people saying in an attempt to sound smart. Feel free to edit it in if you know it. – Servy Mar 21 '13 at 21:23
@Dennis SE is the plural of SO. – Yannis Mar 21 '13 at 21:31
@Yannis How does stack overflows abbreviate to SE? – Servy Mar 21 '13 at 21:31
@Servy: That might be kind of humor of Yannis. – Ken Kin Mar 21 '13 at 21:37
@KenKin The entire comment thread to this answer isn't serious at all. Dennis knows what SE stands for, as do I, and as does Yannis. He's mocking me (all in good fun). – Servy Mar 21 '13 at 21:39
@Servy In the beginning there was SO. Then we made 100 mini sites just like SO, and called them SE. – Yannis Mar 21 '13 at 21:43
@Servy: Thank you. – Ken Kin Mar 22 '13 at 3:13

The question you linked has far from a major problem. At least here in the United States, ol' as a word is used quite often, and in context it makes total sense.

My rule is this: When in doubt, read it out loud.

That's not to say that there isn't a problem as a whole, however, it has been discussed before: What should we do with experienced users who constantly use slang and shorthand?, Can people PLEASE spell out their slang acronyms, Should leetspeak be edited out of posts?, and many other times, and there's no need to be so abrasive about it.

When you come across it, fix it like you did, and move on.

share|improve this answer
I think the problem is the fact that this makes it very hard to search for things sometimes.. – ɥʇǝS Mar 21 '13 at 20:53
@Seth debatable. If you are using SO's search, then yes it can be hard, but Google most certainly has acronym support in their searches. – Richard J. Ross III Mar 21 '13 at 20:53
It's usually ol', though. The apostrophe indicates the omitted d. – Caleb Mar 21 '13 at 20:57
@Caleb I've seen it both ways, it usually depends on the source – Richard J. Ross III Mar 21 '13 at 20:58
@RichardJ.RossIII Yes, but one is correct and one is not. (Many colloquial phrases are repeated incorrectly by people who don't stop to think about what they mean. Prime example: I could care less.) Looking at the original form of the question at hand, it was 'ol there, and the fact that the incorrect version was used probably contributed to the OP not being able to find a definition. – Caleb Mar 21 '13 at 21:04
@RichardJ.RossIII: Thank you! – Ken Kin Mar 22 '13 at 3:12

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .