Suppose you have a database installed from a vendor - suppose this is MySQL. There is a website that just happens to interact with this MySQL, and people call it (the website) "MySQL", even if there are many MySQL databases having been set up.

This is vaguely related to What is a word/phrase for using a term for a popular special case instead of a generic term?

To relate this to the kleenex question, here, I am asking for a term that describes not "a kleenex referring to any tissue" (genericalism), but "kleenex referring to a very specific task involving a kleenex-brand tissue".

Example sentence:

Hey, could you please check MySQL for that.

Alternative sentence, if the website just happens to run, or used to run, on a redhat system:

Hey, could you please see Redhat for that.
  • 1
    This may just be a special case of particularisation or customising. Commented May 31, 2017 at 8:31
  • @EdwinAshworth: Yes, that might be what I was going for.
    – Arafangion
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


The examples you are giving are simply omitting parts that are obvious from context.

Hey, could you please check [the] MySQL [website/documentation/wiki] for that.

MySQL could be used for the application in general, or the website. Since you can't correctly use the former in this sentence; you can infer that the latter is intended as it is the only remaining possibility.

Context is always key. At work, I could tell a colleague:

Maybe you should talk to a database admin about your this problem?

I don't mean any database admin in the world; I am specifically referring to any database admin who works for the company.
If something is obvious from context (or common sense), it can be omitted.

You can also consider that two separate things can have the same name. This can happen both coincidentally, or because one is based on the other.

How do I prevent this stack overflow from happening in my program?
You should post a question to Stack Overflow.

The casing here reveals the difference, but the principle is the same.

How does Monica Geller know what time it is?
She asks Bing.

Could be referring to Chandler Bing, could be referring to the search engine Bing. Of course, the ambiguity is used for comical effect here, but again the principle is the same.

Maybe a fun bit of trivia that can serve as another example:

Google's algorithm to order its search results is called the page rank. However, it is not referring to "page" as in "web page" (which would be a completely correct and intuitive name for the algorithm), but instead it refers to Larry Page, who created the algorithm.


Alternative sentence, if the website just happens to run, or used to run, on a redhat system.
Hey, could you please see Redhat for that.

I disagree. It is not evident to refer to a website by the system it is using.

Have you checked ReactOS lately?

Facebook runs on ReactOS, but I doubt anyone realized I was talking about Facebook specifically.

There are pretty pictures on IIS, have you seen them?

Although I think OP already knows: IIS is Microsoft's standard website hosting tool.

Not only are you being incredibly vague (many websites presumably run on the same type of system), it's also impossible to exactly know how a website is served to you.

It's not impossible to figure it out if you have the technical skill; but technical skill has nothing to do with communicating in clear English.

  • This is common language at a workplace I use, they often refer to a service provided as a system. Eg, if there is a need for a new service (eg, say, to organise their documents in the corporation), they'll have a system found and installed specifically for that purpose, and during this phase, that system becomes the service. Eg, as for IIS, we do, infact, have that particular scenario - we have recently had a specific computer that has IIS on it - the domain name includes "iis", but over time the "iis" nature of the product becomes irrelevant to the end-user.
    – Arafangion
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 10:50
  • As for the technical skill, there is not much technical skill involved: It's what everyone else is already calling it, perhaps because the engineer who set it up that way called it that. Or perhaps because the title or domain name calls it that.
    – Arafangion
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 10:52
  • 1
    @Arafangion: but over time the "iis" nature of the product becomes irrelevant to the end-user Which means that is has become a name, rather than an accurate description. A name doesn't always have to be an accurate description (although that is preferable, of course). The classical origins of my first name is "loves horses", but I'm not particularly fond of them (I don't hate them either). Regardless, my name is still my name.
    – Flater
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 10:52
  • @Arafangion: In regards to your second comment, I refer to my earlier statement that context is key. Just because you can say something to a colleague with equal technical skill (or knowledge of things within the company), does not make the English usage (in general) correct or incorrect. Grammar is not connected to context, it is an objective measure of English usage.
    – Flater
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 10:54
  • Ok, very good points, and very good argument, this is indeed just a name - a name with a history, etymology, whatever, but still just a name. Thanks!
    – Arafangion
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 11:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.