I read the faq :

it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read.

So why was my question, about a rumor I heard about the etymology of a word, closed ?

The point of this site really isn't clear. I propose one rumor and get tons of researched answers, I propose another and it's off topic.

I'm lost here, please help.

  • 2
    In case you're wondering, Wikipedia.fr says, 'Le mot français canif et le mot anglais knife ("couteau") sont tous deux dérivés du mot d'ancien français "canivet".' That sounds plausible to me because I find it more likely that an English word would derive from the French one than vice versa: especially an old/common word like knife.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 2:26

2 Answers 2


Is the crux of your question really about skepticism?

As Mark Rogers says in reply to the question above:

No, I believe that every question-asker must make some attempt to apply Skepticism in the content of their question.

Are you really skeptical that canif comes from knife? or are you just wanting to get the facts?

As an example, a question like:

"Do cats purr when they are happy?" because I heard someone say they do it because they are going to sleep.

Is not a good question because essentially you are just fact checking, your question is really 'Why do cats purr?'.

This site is not the equivalent of a 'How does everything and anything work' site.

Your question is actually straight forward and can be written as 'What is the etymology of the French word canif?', which doesn't belong on this site.

  • He was asking a Boolean question though: not "how", but "whether". Sceptics questions usually are Boolean: "Is 'X' true?"
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 2:29
  • @ChrisW - But is there really a skeptical claim behind his question or does a simple fact checking give him the answer? Is his question not really 'What is the etymology...' instead of 'I heard... '. Just hearing about something, does that make it a skeptical claim? I heard cats purr when they are going to sleep. Is that a good question for this site or does it belong more on a site about pets or cats?
    – going
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 2:37
  • It's borderline IMO. I'd be inclined to close it, but I'm not sure why: not because it's "how and/or why does this work?" kind of science question (it isn't). It has the right format or syntax for a Sceptics question; I guess it's the 'notability' of the claim that's missing; and the fact that it isn't a science question and therefore can't be 'pseudoscience'.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 3:09
  • @ChrisW: You say it isn't a science question. I'm interested why etymology isn't a science. (I don't know either way. No doubt Rutherford would dismiss it as stamp-collecting.)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 6:50
  • @Odd - Maybe it is 'science', in the sense of 'systematic knowledge'. When I was at school there were three categories of class, three streams of teaching, and students were expected to specialize into learning one: there was science (including maths, physics, biology, and chemistry); modern languages (including english); and history (including ancient languages). According to that classification, etymology isn't a science. If it is a science then, what isn't? Perhaps any questions with a yes/no, true/false answer could be called 'science': if you equate 'science' with 'what ever is true'.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 12:49
  • Sorry, I didn't mean to distract with a "definition of science" question. I note that history questions are clearly acceptable. In a way, etymology is a type of history. I'm still trying to elucidate what makes etymology on- or off-topic.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 12:55
  • @Odd - You could ask the members of the community who voted to close it. A comment says it would have been better on a sister site i.e. english.stackexchange.com
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 13:13

[This is not an answer to your main question. This question was closed by the community, not by a moderator, and I am watching this question to learn what the community wants.]

However, I will not that, had the question remained, I would have asked you to provide some references to support notability - that is, evidence that the claim is common or has been made by someone important.

I think there are two reasons for this:

  • If I am going to spend time researching an answer, I want to know that it will be worth it - that the claim is something that people believe, not just the result of a drunken discussion in a bar that will be forgotten in a couple of days.

  • When it comes to weird claims, I want to help rid the world of the false ones and, even better, convince people the true ones are actually true. What I don't want is to do is reward people with reputation points for making up new weird claims on the spot.

I don't think I am alone in the community on this.

Fortunately, providing such evidence is normally a simple Google search away.

Your first 2800 BC rumor was also insufficiently notable, but within 45 minutes of you posting it, someone had posted in the comments a reference to the claim being made by a notable person, and I had edited the title to bring it back to the claim in that reference, so in that case, the community had your back!

  • Ok, I'm starting to understand.
    – Manu
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 10:34

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