When creating tags, should we be using the American or British word for the concept? We've already had some confusion over "public-transit" which seems to be an Americanism. There are other words which have completely different meanings in American English and British English, such as "pavement," and some where there the same concept will be called by different names (tarmac vs asphalt).

In a contents of a post, the person can just use the term they are more familiar with, and if there's any confusion, people can clarify in the comments or by editing the post to disambiguate. However, tags are shared between all users, and should generally be short and thus you can't really fit in both variations. How should we resolve this issue? Use all-American, all-British, try to find something that will be clear to both even if it's not the most obvious term to either, use whichever version the first person to create the tag uses?

  • tarmac vs asphalt can be cope with by the fect that English people how what asphalt is and so will not be confused by it's usage.
    – Ian
    Commented Oct 16, 2010 at 16:31
  • @Ian It's not just a case of being able to understand, though. An issue I've seen on other SE sites is that I can't necessarily search effectively, or my posts don't show prominently in search results, because of differences in terminology.
    – Edd
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 11:38

4 Answers 4


Other SE boards have gone through this as well. The SE solution to this is tag synonyms. For example, on this site, tire and tyre are synonyms. Try to tag a question as "tyre" and the system will automatically change it to "tire". Freiheit has done a lot of work with this, so he can answer this in more detail.

The next logical step is to determine whether we should be using "tire" or "tyre" as our default tag. Both are equally valid. However, we're not talking about the content of the site, we're taking about a tag used to identify content. The general consensus seems to be that, for system-level language, US English is to be used on the site.

If SE is ever localized, this will have to be re-addressed. As of early 2009, this was not a priority, but that was when the site was mostly programming-related.

  • differnt spellings are easy as everyone can read and understand both spellings.
    – Ian
    Commented Oct 15, 2010 at 21:28
  • purely out of curiosity, could it be configurable? I can choose to see US or British English in tags Commented Oct 23, 2010 at 20:14
  • @sixtyfootersdude - Not at the moment. That sounds like a candidate feature request if SE ever does any localization. Commented Oct 23, 2010 at 21:47

We also need to think about Google, a British person searching for an answer may use different words then a US person. So how do we make questions come up in search results well for both sets of people?

It is best if we can include both in the Questions Titles e.g. pavement (sidewalk) so that Google will index on both, but often that will lead to a title that is head for everyone to read.

(I assume Google will cope with English/US spelling difference it’s self)


My vote is to let people speak and tag in their native lingo and let the tag synonym system handle the rest.

I'm in Australia which leans towards British spellings and hate when I'm forced to use 'americanisms'.

And the default tag should be decided by where the bulk of the users are. If they are mostly USA then use the 'americanism' as the default. If they are mostly from UK/Euro/Asia Pacific/etc then use the British as the default.

  • 1
    nobody's suggesting we enforce anything on the content, just the tags. Commented Oct 22, 2010 at 14:36

I think if it's possible to find a word that works for both dialects ("road" instead of "tarmac", "asphalt" or "pavement"), that's ideal.

Also, if there's words that are unfamiliar to one dialect, we can always create some tag synonyms and maybe also a tag wiki to help mitigate confusion. (curb/kerb, public-transit/public-transport)

With words that have relevant but different meanings in both languages (pavement meaning a road-like surface in American and a walkway in British), I suspect there may be no easy solution...

As far as which dialect (if any) to prefer: I'm staying out of it. :)

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