The title of the popular question: My seatmate has digestive problems causing unpleasant smell. What ought the cabin crew do? is, to my mind, stilted, and needlessly ambiguous. Someone with flatulence need not be suffering from digestive problems. That diagnosis is a possibility if a person has severe, and recurrent flatulence and if the wind expelled is particularly foul smelling.

The vague, bland, and speculative "digestive problems" could well be a sign of halitosis. Ever sat next to someone whose breath stinks? It's not pleasant but it really only affects you, the co-passenger. No one else in a plane will be aware of the problem.

I suggested one edit, which was rejected

  1. My seatmate has recurrent "rotten eggs" flatulence. What ought the cabin crew do?

Not long after, a high-rep user rolled back the post to its former title

My seatmate farts like rotten eggs. What ought the cabin crew do? (link)

The original title was very clear, very easy to understand, and written in good English and, yes, it drew the HNQ crowds. Is that a bad thing to have on Travel SE?

I understand why some users felt that the original title was unnecessarily graphic. The offender is the word "fart", which is not listed as vulgar, offensive, or rude in the following dictionaries: Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionary but is said to be taboo by the Oxford Learners Dictionary and “often vulgar” by Merriam-Webster.

Would it not be better to replace the term "fart" with a more formal and serious term, e.g. flatulence? That is not an offensive, vulgar, or rude word.

Ten hours later, the title was rolled back by a third user, to its present format

I then proposed my second suggestion, which I thought struck a good balance between accuracy and politeness.

  1. My co-passenger has recurrent flatulence. What ought the cabin crew do?

When I checked back, I found to my surprise that the question was locked.

  • Is it my fault?
  • What did I do wrong? Were my suggested edits bad?
  • Why was my first edit rejected? I don't have enough rep to read the review history.
  • What could I have done better?


The question is now unlocked. Which pleases me enormously and makes me feel less guilty. I will not suggest any further edits.

  • Many thanks to @@Dirty-flow who told me where to look for my proposed edits: ☞ profile page → all actions → suggestions

The reason given by both reviewers for rejecting the first edit was: “This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.”

The second edit was rejected because: “This edit deviates from the original intent of the post. Even edits that must make drastic changes should strive to preserve the goals of the post's owner.”

  • 1
    I am not sure if you can access this: in your profile, go to the tab actions and then to suggestions.
    – Dirty-flow
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:14
  • @Dirty-flow Found it, it is in my profile page, under all actions. Thank you!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:32
  • 1
    the current headline with "digestive problems" is totally ridiculous.
    – Fattie
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:49
  • All you have to say is "My seatmate has horrible gas. What ought the cabin crew do?" It's that simple.
    – Fattie
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:50
  • Mary-Lou, the polite, straightforward, way to avoid "fart" is simply "has gas". "Flatulence" just comes off as comic/ridiculous, it's worse than "fart". And again, (not that any of this matters a fart!), the current headline is just nutty.
    – Fattie
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:52
  • @fattie there were a couple of alternatives, polite euphemisms, e.g break wind, that were suggested in the comments, but all the comments were subsequently deleted. Personally, I don't find the term flatulence to be ridiculous at all, it's perfectly accurate and formal. Anyway, what's done is done.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 21, 2018 at 1:46
  • I gues "break wind" is a good one!
    – Fattie
    Jul 21, 2018 at 18:26
  • The OP has rolled back the edit. The original title is back (grabs popcorn and large soda).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 22, 2018 at 6:19
  • 1
    Aaaand the title has been changed back again. (Grabs more popcorn)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 22, 2018 at 9:13
  • @Mari-LouA Sorry. I overlooked this Meta post. "Farts like rotten eggs" feels clearest to me, as "digestive problems causing unpleasant smell" is ambiguous and too understated. But your English is better than mine.
    – user13759
    Jul 23, 2018 at 0:20
  • Aaaand the question is locked. Oh, this is such a farce. @Greek-Area51Proposal you'll just have to be patient. The editing conflict has become a battle of the wills. Cheer up! The question title was good though, I liked it but I can understand why some people did not. Patience. :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 23, 2018 at 1:16
  • 2
    I don't think it is your problem, but Greek-Area51Proposal has now raised the warning light for trolling by asking the question of preventing someone cutting the line in Travel, Interpersonal skills and Academia, mentioning his grandmother, himself and his sister being cutted by an officer, customer and professor. You know: Gold bars, bullet-proof vests and bazookas....:) Jul 27, 2018 at 11:14

3 Answers 3


@Mari-Lou A, if you could look at the edit history of this question you would see that it has been changed quite considerably for as long as it has been on the site, but more importantly, it has been going back and forth on the same lines.

Your suggested edit was as good as any of the edits that was posted in the past, it was that there have been too many edits already.

The last edit I had seen was by a Mod, and that was to create an acceptable version the site would keep. The OP called mods for attention in the chat when an other edit was proposed, to stop what was becoming an edit war.

There are two strong streams within the site, one wants the more basic, rough and free speaking versions, the other wants 'polite language, suitable to read out to your grandmother' and when we do not put a stop to editing some questions like this will be edited all the time.

Sorry that you were the one that triggered the 'lets protect this question' reaction, but questions that keep being changed will need a quiet time.
It was not you, it was not your edit, you could not have done better, it was just that you picked out a question that had a history.
I do enjoy your posts and look forward to further edits by you as well as answers and questions by you.

  • The OP can make frequent edits to fix the grammar, wording and style of their question. I think no one can object to that. There was one approved suggested edit, the current one, whose grammar was corrected in a second edit. Then someone rolled back the edit (I would have preferred a euphemistic turn of phrase) Then a mod rolled that edit back to the current and ambiguous title. Eliminate "rotten eggs" and "farts" and replace them with "recurrent flatulence". Why is that not an improvement?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 10:55
  • BTW, could you please tell me why my first edit was rejected? I would like to know. Was it deemed trivial or too invasive? What? Did the OP reject my edit? Ahh... that would make sense.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:00
  • I do not know why your earlier edit was rejected, as there are so many people who check the review queues and either accept or reject the edit on personal points of view. The same edit will be accepted one day and rejected an other, because different people do the reviews. People who reject an edit are asked to tick why they reject, that message should be available for you. Even the number of edits on a given post might for some people be a reason to reject an edit.
    – Willeke Mod
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:09
  • 2
    Go on as you did before. You were just unlucky in this one case. Seeing the quality of your post you might earn rep fast and get what you are used to on your other sites. I do know the frustration.
    – Willeke Mod
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:16
  • Thank you for your support, I do appreciate it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:27
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA totally get what you were trying to do, but yes, as Willike said, there's sometimes history to a question that affects people. Love your work, keep it up!
    – Mark Mayo
    Jul 19, 2018 at 12:03
  • " ...with "recurrent flatulence". Why is that not an improvement? " The phrase "recurrent flatulence" is really ridiculous - it sounds comic. It's admirable to want to change it to a netural word in native English, but you definitely don't want "recurrent flatulence"! It's almost like the edit is making fun of the OP - you know!? :) The correct phrasing is nothing more than " .. has bad gas".
    – Fattie
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:58
  • 'polite language, suitable to read out to your grandmother' - they haven't heard my grandma talk... :)
    – ANeves
    Jul 23, 2018 at 10:16

I was the "bad guy" who voted to reject both of yours suggested edits. My reasen to do this was that the title has been changed several times already. I was afraid that it would never end, so I rejected your suggested edit and flagged the question for a mod attention.

  • Did you disagree with the reason I gave for suggesting that edit in the first place? To reject an edit there must be two users in agreement, so you're not the only "bad guy" :P
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 12:31
  • 3
    to be honest, I am not sure if your suggestion was good or not. I assume it was a good one, because you are an high-reputation user on English Language & Usage. However, at that point I would have rejected any edit on the title and asked the mods to take a decision.
    – Dirty-flow
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:10
  • What? You didn't bother evaluating its merits? Just discarded it, automatically?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:13
  • 6
    As I said, I am the bad guy. There were too many edit suggestions and rollbacks in a short time so I decided that I will reject any edit that rewords the title. Maybe not the best desicion but when the community is not agreed, the mods should take care of the problem.
    – Dirty-flow
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:24

Someone with flatulence need not be suffering from digestive problems.

You might be correct that "digestive problems" are not necessarily the most accurate term in regards to that particular passengers smell issue, but it is a good way of describing the general problem at hand. For all we know "flatulence" could also have been a case of mistaken identification and the passenger actually had a piece of durian in their front pocket.

and, yes, it drew the HNQ crowds. Is that a bad thing to have on Travel SE?

At Travel.SE we have two goals:

  • Help people solve their issues, as long as they're within the scope of our site
  • Attract new users coming from search engines who are trying to solve the same issue

Having the attention of HNQ crowds is of little importance for us as the ~90% of our traffic comes from search engines, rather than referral links within Stackexchange. This is different for a website like Expats.SE which has little organic traffic.

I understand why some users felt that the original title was unnecessarily graphic

The problem is not with the word "fart", its with the fact that its a clickbait title where using a graphic word adds zero value to the question. On Travel.SE we prefer to use neutral and polite titles, where possible.

I found to my surprise that the question was locked. Is it my fault?

A question getting locked is not a big deal. The are 30k+ questions on the site, so having one locked out for a while won't affect anything. Don't worry about it.

What did I do wrong? Were my suggested edits bad?

Kindly avoid editing a question if you see a lot of contentious edits in its history already. Wait for a few days if you really want to add your input and ideally avoid editing the title as long as its grammatically correct and reflects the question at hand.

Why was my first edit rejected?

Because it didn't improve the question.

Thank you for your contributions and I hope you stay on our site.

  • 1
    @Mari-LouA at the end of the day contentious edits have to be resolved by the mods. In this scenario the mods have chosen to use the polite version. Lets move on.
    – JonathanReez Mod
    Jul 19, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1. It is the edited title which makes a diagnosis, not my suggested edits. 2. the original title was grammatically correct and reflected the question. 3. The suggested edit was an attempt to compromise, the language was formal and not ambiguous. 4. Thank you for replying (Sorry but for the sake of clarity I had to edit the original comment)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 19, 2018 at 19:47
  • 2
    "We aren't Medicine.SE" - right, so why are you choosing to use words which aren't accurate? You know "fart" is accurate, you know "flatulence" is accurate, you don't know that "digestive problems" is accurate...
    – AndyT
    Jul 20, 2018 at 13:52
  • 2
    @AndyT it is completely irrelevant to OPs question of dealing with a smelly passenger. The same would apply if their companion didn't shower for a month or recently ate a durian. "Digestive problems" is a neutral statement that gets the point across.
    – JonathanReez Mod
    Jul 20, 2018 at 15:19

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