In answer to a question, I translated por cierto as "certainly," which was criticized by a native speaker, and led me to ask the following question:

"True" meaning of "por cierto"

I was told by three native speakers that "por cierto" is "never" used that way in Spain. But my understanding is that two out of three seemed to think that authorities such as the RAE (Royal Academy) would consider it correct.

Could such an answer then be "unhelpful" if it is no longer in common use?

And suppose it was acceptable in some parts of the Spanish-speaking world (e.g. parts of Latin America) but not in Spain.? (We're still trying to find out whether or not it's the case.)

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IMHO it's depends on what the question is? in the case you are asking I would accept the answer as good in "your" question but not in the "original" question because the person is a learner asking for a translation for "by the way" and your answer (apparently correct, I never heard por cierto as certainly), I think, can be confusing for a learner. Again, just my opinion. –  Laura May 2 '12 at 16:00
    
@Laura: You make an interesting point about separating questioners. As it were the questioner has over 4000 reputation, one of the highest on the site, more renowned for questions, than answers. Although non-native, he is what the site would call a "prosumer" or "enthusiast," rather than a learner (as am I). As such, he'd be "ready" for my explanation. And he make even seek it. I would, in his shoes. –  Tom Au May 2 '12 at 16:09
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As far as I know, this site doesn't associate itself with any specific regional dialect of Spanish, so (IMHO), any answer could be considered valid as long as it:

  1. ...reflects modern in-use Spanish, and doesn't use any archaic expressions.‌†
  2. ...specifically mentions the regional usage of non-universal expressions.


Of course, this wouldn't apply to questions where the asker is specifically looking for archaic expressions for historical or cultural reasons.

Any question that could meet these simple guidelines would be pristine to say the least. Unfortunately, things can't always be perfect, and we shouldn't expect them to be.

There will be cases in which an answerer won't or can't supply the exact usage of an expression. In these cases, care must be taken to not jump to conclusions and assume errors. I'm of the mindset that unless there is specific evidence that an answer is incorrect, it should not be downvoted or flamed.

Rather, I feel that, as a community, we should collaborate to determine regional usage either by a process of elimination (e.g. a person could comment to say that expression X isn't commonly used in region Y, and help give context), or by providing further research.

In short, we can't afford to assume things, because what may sound extremely awkward to me, could sound perfectly fine to you. When in doubt, the community should try to work together, since that's what makes Stack Exchange so awesome after all.

Just my 2¢... :)

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