The Yomiuri, Japan’s leading newspaper, quoted a phrase

There is a single stupid question in the world. That is the question which is not put on your mouth

translated from Stephen King’s novel, “Under the Dome” in its August 13 issue.

The quote was made in reference to the remark of Oleg Verniaiev, Ukrainian Silver medal winner of the artistic gymnastics in Rio Janeiro Olympics, who cut in when Kohei Uchimura, the Gold medalist was asked by a reporter if he gained such high score because the judges were all "sympathetic" to him, and said, “It’s a useless question once the score was published. It’s the fair result.” Oleg Verniaiev lost the Gold medal to Uchimura by a narrow margin of 0.099 points.

Ensuing Stephen King’s “There is a single stupid question in the world” phrase, Yomiuri columnist wrote that the reporter’s question looks like “a single stupid question in the world,” but it wasn’t, because it pulled out Verniaiev’s sportsmanly and laudable remarks, which was reported worldwide.

I'm curious to know if somebody knows the exact line of Stephen King that matches the Yomiuri columnist’s quote "There is a single stupid question. That is the question which is not put on your mouth."

I'm simply asking what is the original English version of "There's no stupid question," which I found interesting because it's equivalent to Japanese proverb, "Asking a question is a momentary shame. Not asking a question is an eternal shame," to which quoted line of Stephen King exactly matches. I'm only following the wisdom of this proverb.

I tried to find it by googling, but wasn't able to locate it.

  • 2
    Commentary about whether this question is topical here should be posted on this Meta question and not in the comments here. It would also be good if one of the people who discussed this in chat (@Lawrence?) would summarize the discussion in an answer to the Meta question. Thanks.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 22 '16 at 12:38
  • @KitZ.Fox Done.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 22 '16 at 15:22

The phrase "stupid question" does not appear in Stephen King's Under the Dome. (I checked online.) The following King line (as noted above by Jim) does appear in The Wind Through the Keyhole:

The only stupid question, my cullies [my friends], is the one you don't ask.

This means that it's stupid to refrain from asking a question that you fear has an obvious answer that you happen not to know. That is, it's better to speak up and ask, even if you thereby demonstrate your ignorance.

We can trace the translation failures in

There is a single stupid question in the world. That is the question which is not put on your mouth.

Only has become single, and the question has been promoted from that one question in someone's mind to the sole question in the world. Somehow ask has been transformed into put on your mouth. Someone who speaks both Japanese and English will have to explain how that could come about. Put on your mouth is not idiomatic in English. Words put in your mouth is, but that doesn't mean ask; it means someone speaking for you, imputing to you something you didn't actually say.

It seems that the Yomiuri columnist wanted to say that the reporter's question was singularly stupid or was the stupidest question in the world. And the columnist was right. After all, what's the athlete going to say? "Sure, I didn't deserve the gold medal; the judges were all prejudiced in my favor"? But the columnist either didn't understand the Stephen King quote or was misled by the translation. For King, the stupid question is the one not asked but that should have been asked; the reverse is true of the reporter's question, which he actually asked but which he should not have asked.

  • "That is the question which is not put on your mouth" is a vervatim translation of Japanese line, "口に出さない質問.".I knew it is awkward in English. So I wished to obtain the original line of Stephen King. Anyway, many thanks for your giving an elaborate answer.
    – Yoichi Oishi
    Aug 14 '16 at 12:31
  • @YoichiOishi English idioms for speaking prefer in with mouth (as in I don't want to put words in your mouth, i.e., mischaracterize what you say) or out (as in Out of the mouths of babes..., i.e., even the naive can say wise things). Interesting. I'v learned something. Thanks.
    – deadrat
    Aug 14 '16 at 17:20

The exact wording you are looking for is:.

“The only stupid question, my cullies, is the one you don't ask.” which is from the book "The wind through the keyhole" by Stephen King published in 2012.

The phrase is actually based on a popular saying which has a longer history:

No such thing as a stupid question:

  • "(There's) no such thing as a stupid question" is a popular phrase that has had a long history. It suggests that the quest for knowledge includes failure, and that just because one person may know less than others they should not be afraid to ask rather than pretend they already know. In many cases multiple people may not know but are too afraid to ask the "stupid question"; the one who asks the question may in fact be doing a service to those around them.

For example:

  • A 1970 Dear Abby column in The Milwaukee Sentinel said: "There is no such thing as a stupid question if it's sincere. Better to ask and risk appearing stupid than to continue on your ignorant way and make a stupid mistake.


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