Whilst the issue has been discussed for tags, I think there is scope for some level of synonyms being used in searching, and not just in tags -- for example, on MSO, I'd searched for the terms "rep" and "favourited" before asking this question which was jumped upon with one comment pointing to the valid duplicate; yet that doesn't show in the search I'd done.

It's less than obvious that for searching on anything to do with rep, you also have to search for reputaiton; and to search about things being favourited, you have to search for favorited, favourite and favorite as well.

That's just one example, and there have been quite a few others where "obvious" dupes are pointed out to other people, yet the search can;t find them due to abbreviations, or localisation issues.

  • Try the Google – TheTXI Aug 19 '09 at 19:36
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    How do you establish these synonyms? Rep is also short for "repetition" and "representative". Though on SO it tends to have a more specific meaning, it's very hard to defined what words map to what in practice. – Welbog Aug 19 '09 at 19:41
  • I believe the question was at -2 before I posted the link to the duplicate and cast the first vote to close; so I don't think it was the duplicate that caused the downvotes. Honestly, I would just chalk it up to everyone being a little "negative" today, which happens. I noticed at one point 5 of the 6 most recently asked questions were at negative scores. Regardless your point about the search is a good one. – Timothy Carter Aug 19 '09 at 19:41
  • @welbog just because it's hard, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done - in fact it's the hard problems that are more rewarding to solve. @TheTXI Google is one solution, but given it's the same engine for SU (etc.) it is saying "come here, but although we have a search box, go somewhere else to get one that works" - I'm more forgiving for SO/SF aas the target audience is probably used to using advanced features of other search engines to search within sites... – Rowland Shaw Aug 19 '09 at 19:55
  • Hard was the wrong word to use, then. Impossible is a better one because it conveys the futility of trying to solve it. Once you start mapping shorter words to specific longer words, you're by definition invalidating all of the other possible expansions of the shorter word. Anyone who tries to search using an abbreviation of a word that isn't the abbreviation you thought of is going to get results that don't make any sense and they won't understand what went wrong. It's better if you just query using the full words. The favourite = favorite issue is different, I think, and can be solved. – Welbog Aug 19 '09 at 20:02
  • @Welbog I think the internationalisation issues would make a difference for a start, and maybe word stemming would be a more useful approach rather than synonyms for a large number (favourite/favourted). You could then go to "phase 3" and implement synonyms if required for the remaining cases on a per site basis (e.g. "rep" on MSO might not be needed on SF) – Rowland Shaw Aug 19 '09 at 20:19

As I've said a zillion times (and it's still true!) users have the uncanny ability to ask the exact same questions using zero words in common -- they often use completely different and seemingly unrelated words.

I agree with Welbog, you're asking for the impossible. You can try google for what you describe (see the bottom of https://meta.stackoverflow.com/search) but I doubt it will do any better.

This is why we have and allow duplicate answers and questions, to capture those synonyms. The dupes all link to a master question.

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