This site is going to have a rather unique issue with tag names that I don't think has been addressed on any other SE site so far. Many Buddhist terms lack canonical (non-borrowed) English equivalents, and Buddhism itself does not have only a single canonical language (unlike e.g. Islam/Judaism). We will need to decide what language our tags (specifically, the master synonyms for the tags) should be in, and I think the earlier we figure this out the better.

There are many possible languages for tags about concepts in Buddhism. Take, for example, "dharma". Do we use the Sanskrit "dharma", the Pali "dhamma", the Chinese "fǎ", the Japanese "hō"? In this particular case, I think we would all agree that "dharma" is best because it is most frequently used by English speakers, but I'm sure there are trickier cases that we will need to handle.

We need not select a single language for all our tags, but we do need a strategy for selecting which language we should pick for any given tag. The simplest heuristic is "what do the majority of English speakers call this concept?", but there may be others that would be better.

Also - once this site's pro tempore moderators are selected, I think it will be important for them to do a fair bit of work creating alternate-language tag synonyms for tags in order to increase tag findability. So if we decide that "dharma" should be the tag, we should also add, at minimum, the Pali "dhamma" as a synonym, and possibly also the Chinese and Japanese equivalents if those are used frequently. (On a larger site, we could do this democratically by voting on tag synonyms, but no new site reaches the point where that becomes feasible for some months.)

  • Isn't there a tag synonym function on StackExchange? I think I've seen one on StackOverflow. That would solve the issue, I think. stackoverflow.com/help/privileges/suggest-tag-synonyms Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:38
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    @Calle Yes, tag synonyms are an option, and one we will want to use extensively (indeed, I noted that we will want to create alternate-language synonyms for many of our tags). Nonetheless, however, we must pick a single one out of all the synonyms for a given tag that will serve as the "master synonym". The master synonym is the one that will be displayed everywhere, so it is still important that we have a procedure for selecting the correct master synonym.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:39
  • I noticed your edit of my question, which is fine, but I haven't accepted the edit yet, since I think that there should be room for all languages (i.e. using synonyms) - people search on different terms, and the tags should preferably match those. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:40
  • @Calle Yes, of course, I agree that we should (indeed, must) use synonyms in the long run, but until our pro tempore moderators are appointed (in about two weeks), we will be effectively unable to implement tag synonyms. Until that time, I think it is best to avoid fragmenting tags for a given concept across multiple spellings/languages.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


Providing a suggestion here, as a possible solution, instead of commenting further on the question.

I suggest that since the Buddhism StackExchange relies heavily on searches, it would benefit from using the language most searched for, as the primary language. Other languages would be set up as synonyms.

Searching Google Trends for common Sanskrit and Pali terms, (Dharma/Dhamma, Karma/Kamma) reveals that Sanskrit is in favor of being the selected language, out of the older languages.

The question is whether English should be a candidate for a primary tag language - and the suggestion here is no, since translations are often ambiguous in meaning and many words do not exist in English.

Another point to make is to allow for all languages in tags - so whoever asks the question can use the language most relevant to the question. For example, my question directly relating to Theravada, would be most relevant with Pali tags, since the question refers directly to that tradition and language.

EDIT: From the Meta help at SE:

How should we tag questions about {subject}?

Tagging questions is an ad hoc way of organizing content. It is mostly improvised by users asking the questions… but only to a point. Tag auto-completion and community editing will influence the proper use of tags for a very long time.

The type of things you should look out for: how to handle acronyms common to your subject, brand versus product-specific tags, common terminology, and the use of semantic tags to categorize specific types of questions unique to your community. Every site will have their own unique set of tag-related issues.

The best way to identify tagging problems is to watch new posts closely, and try to build tag wiki excerpts that explain what the tags are for. When tags become ambiguous, too specific (or not specific enough), or just somehow off, raise those issues in meta, and quickly. Proper tagging is very much a lead-by-example activity. The sooner you get the “community standards” for tagging ironed out, the less chance you’ll have to face the drudgery of cleaning them up later.

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    Some tags that aren't about specific, technical Buddhist concepts should be in English, like history and doctrine and gender.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 8:00
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    @senshin yes, so perhaps "technical" terms should be primarliy Sanskrit and generic ones in English. Pali tags should be allowed (in my humble opinion) since they are relevant to many, but can be synonyms. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 8:06
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    I'm not disagreeing that we should have alternate-language versions as synonyms - doing so costs nothing (besides a little bit of moderator time) and has its benefits, so it is definitely worth doing. I updated the last paragraph of the question to make this clear.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 8:08
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    +1 for using Google Trends as an impartial means to decide.
    – user163
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 12:25
  • I am too in support of Sanskrit.
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 15:34

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