I have been stuck on this one question for a month!

I first tried asking the question on Linguistics.SE., and it was marked as off-topic on that site. Then I asked the same question on Language Learning, and it was marked as off topic there also. After that, someone voted to reopen the question on Linguistics, perhaps based on this meta post, but my question was never reopened, and my question was deleted from both sites. I also asked the question on Philosophy, and it was marked as off-topic there as well.

So, how can I rephrase my question, and on what site can I ask about the etymology of a particular name?

Current state of my question:

Etymology of Ångström

The word "ångström" is defined as "a unit of length, equal to one tenth of a millimicron, or one ten millionth of a millimeter, primarily used to express electromagnetic wavelengths."

However, I noticed that the word is spelled with the Swedish/Finnish letters "å" and "ö". The word turns out to be named after "A. J. Ångström". What is the etymology behind Ångström's surname?


2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I am one of the mods pro tempore at GenealogySE.

Two things make Stack Exchange stand out from other places such as forums and Facebook groups where people can ask for help.

  1. Self-answered questions are encouraged, so SE can be a showcase for problems that you've solved yourself and
  2. Questions and answers can be written to be of general interest; they should be specific quesions, but they can be used as models so that other people can answer their own questions.

If users drift aimlessly from site to site, seeking for 'the right home' for their question, several things might be the cause.

  1. The question being asked is unclear or too broad
  2. The users are too new to Stack Exchange, and are approaching the site like it is a forum; they haven't learned how to read the material in the help center to see what types of questions are on- or off-topic
  3. The users haven't searched Stack Exchange sites for other questions that might be relevant or similar to their question
  4. The users don't understand the value of showing their research effort
  5. The users don't understand netiquette, specifically, they don't take into account the reasons why many sites advise against cross-posting the same question in multiple areas on the same site.

Communities at Stack Exchange, in forums, on Facebook, and at other places around the Internet, generally do want to help users answer questions, or we wouldn't be here. But the person asking the question should bear some responsibility for 'reading the audience' and understanding how to ask an answerable question. Understanding the community you've come to, limiting the scope of your question, and writing the question so that it will be of general interest to others besides yourself, as well as writing an interesting question, will be far more likely to attract useful answers than vague, broad, "I want to know anything/everything" queries.

Whatever the venue, none of the members of these communities are 'answer jukeboxes' where you can just stick a question in and expect an answer to come out. We are people taking time away from our own research or coding or other work to participate and give back to others. When users approach a community where they have little or no reputation, I think it's even more important than usual to show some research effort in your question. If you are a new to a site, your question is your introduction to the community. Questions which show research effort attract better answers than questions that appear to come from someone doing a 'dump and run' posting. Showing us that you've already done some searching of the literature means we don't spend time telling you about things you've already seen.

Surname origin questions are especially problematic because they are broad by nature. The help at GenealogySE says:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

One could easily imagine a thesis or dissertation on the origin of a particular surname, or at least, a lengthy article in a genealogical journal. A researcher might need to apply skills from several different disciplines in order to get a satisfactory answer to a surname origin question, drawing from One-Name Studes, population studies, linguistics, and other disciplines.

That's why, if you need to ask a complex question at several different groups or sites while you are working a problem, you don't cross-post and dump the same question at each place. You wouldn't ask a genealogy question on a linguistics site and vice-versa. You'd ask a linguist about the linguistics problems, and ask a genealogist about the genealogial records problems.

I would encourage any user who struggles to find 'a good home' for a question to think harder about what question they might want to answer, and how to make it more answerable. What is it that you really want to know? If you have multiple questions that are related to each other, which one do you want to answer first?

Break your big questions down into smaller, more specific, more precise questions, and it will be easier to figure out which experts will be the right people to ask.


This question may be on topic at Genealogy. The question Surname origins and meaning: on-topic? says that researched surname origins questions are on topic (and Understanding what constitutes celebrity genealogy? indicates that it’s probably not off topic even though it’s about a famous person).

You may want to double check if it’s on topic on their meta site or in their chat.


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