I have been noticing an increasing number of synonyms suggested where people are trying to use synonyms to create a tag hierarchy.

Stuff like:

  • php4 -> php
  • xslt2.0 -> xslt

And so on.

So it's clear that somehow the page that lets you enter synonyms is not doing a good enough job at explaining the function.

What wording should we add to help eliminate this problem?


4 Answers 4


Sometimes questions get tagged incorrectly, and that makes them hard to find and answer. By adding a tag synonym, we can remap variants of this tag to one master tag, so everyone can find it.

Incorrectly-tagged questions are hard to find and answer. If you know of common, alternate spellings or phrasings for this tag, add them here so we can automatically correct them in the future.
Examples: suggest "bike" as a synonym for bicycle, or "sock" for socks.

  • 2
    Love the wording ... I think the example does a lot here
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:08
  • We are talking about breaking out the info/stats tabs to another section altogether, so its not just a tab on questions, Jeff said you had some ideas about a highlighted answer area.
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:12
  • I did? Hrm... I run my mouth too much! You should post another question on it...
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:18
  • 3
    +1, but it should include some bad examples, like mentioned in this question.
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 4:19
  • I think the confusing part is we can remap variants of this tag to one master tag since you could interpret variant as subset... maybe equivalent varients.... tbh, synonym is very clear - the explanation just confuses things. The examples are good though. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 5:17
  • @Mark: I'm reluctant to suggest that route - there are all sorts of things that aren't valid synonyms, trying to list them all seems likely to devolve into noise.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 15:56
  • @Peter: Agreed - "synonym" is a very good name for this, "A word or an expression that serves as a figurative or symbolic substitute for another." I think the description just needed to better illustrate how this should apply to tags.
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 15:57

While i like the wording that was added to the tag info pages it doesn't seem to be sufficient.

There are again enough "similar" or "hierarchic" proposals that partially even get upvoted. I am just on a downvoting round, so here are some examples in case they are already gone:

  • [pypy][python] (+1)
  • [jython][python]
  • [cpython][python]
  • [python-3.x][python]
  • [c#-to-vb.net][vb.net] (+1)
  • [rewriterule][mod-rewrite] (+1)
  • [ca-layer][core-animation] (+1)
  • ...

There are also still misunderstandings even from experienced users.

So either the added info-text is not prominent enough or it should have counter examples.

  • My list: quality <- code-quality, vim <- gvim, wix <- wix3, ruby-on-rails <- ruby-on-rails3, emacs <- emacs23, emacs <- emacs-info, emacs <- emacsw32, icons <- .ico, training <- self-training, clr <- clr4.0, core-graphics <- quartz-2d, batch-file <- windows-batch. Haven't downvoted them all, since it would take too long :) Commented Aug 24, 2010 at 20:00

To offer a mathematical (geometrical, in fact) version (mostly restating the title of this question):

synonyms are congruent not merely similar


  • 1
    s/not/not merely/ - since two congruent shapes are similar. Also fewer people know what congruent means than what synonym means. Finally if you're only familiar with congruent numbers, then this is very confusing. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 16:57
  • 1
    @PeterAjtai change made as suggested.
    – Mark Hurd
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 2:10

If you look at the questions tagged php5, you'll see they'll almost all about PHP in general; the OP just happens to be using PHP 5, like the rest of the civilized world.

I think it would only make sense to tag something php5 if the question was specifically about differences between PHP 5 vs PHP 4. They're not that frequent and a lot of questions were tagged only php5 before it was a synonym. Therefore, I think it makes sense to have php5 map to php.

As to php4... I voted down that synonym. Someone asking about PHP 4 is special enough to merit its own tag.

  • 5
    php5 -> php synonyms were absolutely not our intentions when we designed this system.
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:02
  • for example, how would one tag a question that deals with a particular question that only applies to php5 and not php4 or the upcoming php6
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:03
  • @Artefacto: some folks asking PHP questions are... kinda special. Or at least, think that the version of PHP they're using is. As you note, it's usually not, but it takes a... more savvy PHP user to figure this out. Fortunately, a great many PHP users on SO possess the ability to re-tag questions when appropriate - and this is a great example of an appropriate time to be retaggin'
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:07
  • This is very short-sighted. When we're on PHP 6, will you say that questions about PHP 5 are special enough to merit their own tag, php5 but PHP 6 should just be php? What about all the existing PHP 5 questions that will already be tagged php? Are you volunteering to manually go through every question tagged php and determine if it has to change to php5? Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:08
  • @Artefacto: Actually I was the one who proposed the merge of php5 and php ;) And @waffles is right, at the beginning I thought the synonym system works differently but then I already proposed it. If I could I would revert this proposal , but the community decided so I'm unsure. Tags with version numbers in it will always be a problem. Currently we assume that php === php5 anyway because it is most often used. But what about PHP 6 in 2? years? On the other side I don't want to put all php4, php5, php5.3, php6, php7, php8, php tags on my interesting tag list. There has to be a better way.
    – Felix
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 1:25
  • I disagree with this. Even though the answer to the question might be the same for PHP 4 and PHP 5, knowing that the user has access to PHP 5 is important for two reasons. First, it lets answers know that the asker has PHP 5. Second, it lets readers who are trying to use this information know that PHP 5 might be required to implement it. I think that specific versions should always be included for filtering and searching purposes. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 2:11
  • 4
    And Felix, the point is that a PHP5 question should be tagged "php" and "php5". The "php" tag is used by people who are interested in all versions of PHP - if you are a PHP developer, you are probably familiar with multiple versions of the language and it's capabilities and would follow the PHP tag. However, if you are looking for a solution, the specific version is of great interest to you - the features and solutions available to your problem might be different. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 2:13
  • @Thomas Owens: Yes I know. But if you have a close look on the php5 tag, only a little more than half of the questions are tagged as php. Normally, if I see a question that is missing the php, I add it, but obviously, we cannot get all of them. So there has to be another way.
    – Felix
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 8:56
  • 4
    Perhaps a tag association system to say that "all php5 questions are php questions" without saying that "all php questions are php5 questions". Some kind of hierarchy of tags? In a way, that would be best as it would allow someone to use just the php5 tag, and people who follow php (which would be the "parent" of php5) would automatically have php5 questions highlighted or hidden. Search would also use the hierarchies. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 9:31
  • @Thomas The hierarchy is a great idea, actually. Something like an hypernymy relationship.
    – Artefacto
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 10:07
  • 2
    Yes, without a hierarchy, we're going to run into problems like this: either you end up against the 5-tag limit (php, php5, php5.3, php5.3.3) pretty quickly, or you have to remove all versioned tags. I really think we need a hierarchy.
    – Bobby Jack
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 17:41

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