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Administrivia / No New Stock Phrases

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"No, it is a word. What matters is the connection that word implies."
Ramachandra in The Matrix Revolutions, justifying an AI's use of the word "love"

A TV Tropes ruling established mid-2011 that no new articles in the Trope Launch Pad should be named after a Stock Phrase or line of personal (in-character) dialogue. Bone up on history here.

Number one important thing to remember: You are naming a trope, not giving an article a title.

But before standing up and shouting "Objection!", take a moment to remember what our definition of a trope is: It's a convention of fiction, a motif or element that recurs enough (across a given work, or whole genre, or even all fiction itself) for the audience to identify it when they see it (or, in some cases, after seeing it).

Most Stock Phrases originate from a line of character dialogue, but aside from being repeated so often that people start recognizing it as generic, the words themselves don't really convey whatever actual motif or convention is in play. We're not tagging news articles or blog posts with witty personal thoughts for a header; we're coining names for the concepts themselves.

Problems related to using a phrase as a trope name include:

  1. The big one: They do not work. That is, they don't get adopted as the name of a trope. They get no inbound links. It is more difficult to use them in a sentence when the phrase is not being quoted than a noun or a verb.
  2. We don't want our editors thinking that the trope is about characters merely saying the phrase. Having a "list of times characters said X" is about as meaningful as, say, a "list of times characters sat on chairs". The trope is established by the surrounding context, the actual phrase or dialogue which occurred is merely incidental and thus Not a Trope. The reason the author wrote the line, the thing he or she wanted to accomplish to advance the story being told, that's the trope.
  3. Many older Stock Phrase articles were at some point written as "A common phrase said when...", placing emphasis on the exact words used instead of the actual trope that prompted them. This is bad trope formatting, and one of the reasons it even became a problem at all.
  4. We don't want every example section getting formatted like a list of quotations. All those quotations give the impression that it's about the exact words used at the expense of the real trope surrounding them. There's generally no need to quote the source material verbatim, and the example sections just look better when they aren't broken up every five lines with a distracting block of quotation markup. It can be worthwhile to quote the dialogue that occurred in one or two examples here and there, but only in addition to a properly formatted citation, not in lieu of one.
  5. Sometimes a Stock Phrase ... just isn't a stock phrase. If it could occur for a variety of unrelated reasons, then we can't pick just one to use for the trope — the phrase is too broad, and will get misused when editors only see the name. Doubly so if combined with the list-of-quotations issue described above. This is the same reason we don't like naming tropes after characters anymore, because characters of fiction are remembered for too many different reasons to pick just "that one".
  6. Some Stock Phrase-named tropes become Pothole Magnets (or worse, Troper Tics) where editors link the name every time they use the phrase, regardless of whether they're actually providing an example of the trope, or not. (And in most cases, it's not.)

See Naming a Trope for more general guidelines on how to name a trope.

How do you avoid having your trope name sound like someone talking (i.e. a line of dialog)? Here are some things to avoid:

Alternative Title(s): Stock Phrases Are Not Tropes, No More Stock Phrases