Am I the only one to be very disturbed by the re-opening of the 'What is the exact wordings for "There is a single stupid question in the world … " in Stephen King's "Under the Dome"?' question? ... 'I'm curious to know if somebody knows the exact line'. In my opinion, this is far too narrowly scoped, not far removed from 'Can anyone remember the name of the dog in the 'Famous Five' series?' I can't see how this question fits at all into the ELU format. It's about literature, not language. Asking for ELU members to provide an accurate version of a passage from a readily-available book. Quite acceptable on other forums, as is the 'Timmy' request.
I approach close voting in the first instance as if I were on a jury and I were under instructions to apply the letter of the law (the site's close-vote criteria) to the case before me. It sounds straightforward enough—and the law in many cases is quite clear on how I should come out.
But the funny thing about jurors is that they are human and thus susceptible to considerations other than those comprehended purely by the letter of the law. In fact, one major reason we have juries and not merely judges is that jurors de-professionalize the process. It's as though at some level the legal system considers that jurors' irrational thinking may be a check on the possibility of by-the-book injustice. Sometimes, being a rebellious juror is a crucial part of being a good juror.
At English Language & Usage, this situation tends to arise (for me, anyway) in situations where the letter of the law demands condemnation of the accused but other facts and circumstances inspire a wish to grant clemency. In the little world of EL&U, this may sound all too grandiose, but I think that we shouldn't wholly exclude our irrational inclinations from playing a meaningful role in determining whether a question should be closed or left open, reopened or left closed.
Consequently, I can agree with Edwin Ashworth that the EL&U question under discussion here does not meet objective standards to qualify as an appropriate question at EL&U, and yet at the same time (or shortly thereafter) I might support leaving the question open or even reopening it.
These mixed feelings might make me a bad moderator at this site, but I don't think that they make a bad private citizen here. If EL&U's close criteria are someday perfected, the site's governors really ought to automate them and let the machines enforce justice. In the meantime, we humans should be true to our best judgment—at least until we demonstrate that our judgment is so biased or weak or counterproductive that we must be excluded from participation in the process altogether.
In a comment on the original question, Josh61 wrote the following:
I generally tend to read "between the lines" and see if a "simple" question is actually an opportunity to discuss related issues such as its usage in different contexts and origin. While from a strict perspective of the site rules application you are right, I don't see anything wrong, unhelpful or really out of scope in this question. Please take also into account its "non native" origin.
Comments cannot be searched, nor are they votable in the sense of having a score that derives from the sum of the Community’s upvotes reckoned against their downvotes. Comments cannot be downvoted, only upvoted, so it isn’t the same thing. And not being searchable makes them hard to find.
As requested by a moderator, here is a summary of that discussion.
The topic was posted in chat in the usual manner, accompanied by the question:
Does anyone really think this kind of question belongs in our site mission?
Relevant quotes (verbatim from the transcript; possibly verbatim from the OP as well, but the original is no longer available for verification):
My question has nothiing to do with "criticism, discussion, and analysis of English." 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." I'm only following the wisdom of this proverb, which ironically seems to be against you guys priinciple.
Both Josh61 and Dreadrat whom I respect as the reputable user of EL&U kindly advised me where the quoted line is from, which differes from the source the Yomiuri's editor quoted, and read by 9 million plus Japanese readers. It was great finding, I believe, only available from knowledgeable EL&U colleagues.
The discussion can be grouped into 4 main views:
1. The question is prima facie off-topic, and seriously so.
a. There have been questions closed for less cause.
b. Translation questions are off-topic, per Help Center.
(The OP's track record of setting the bar for asking good ELU questions was noted.)
2. The question has a basis in etymology.
This was rejected on the basis of the OP's first quote above
3. Is the question closable as General Reference?
a. Based on Meta posts recalled, good questions should hold the interest of ELU's target audience (etymologists, etc).
b. General Reference refers to accepted repositories of information relevant to a particular SE community. For ELU, they include dictionaries and the like. Books that aren't covered by this are, by definition, not general references.
c. Based on Jeff Atwood's accepted answer to the post that requested Gen Ref as a close reason, it's not merely 'general reference' that makes something off-topic. It's trivial general reference that makes a post off-topic SE-wide.
d. (Point 3d has been deleted - the point raised in chat was inaccurate; it is also not critical to this summary.)
e. Based on those principles, it was inferred that straight 'look it up' quote searches are off-topic because they aren't of interest to the target audience. But if the look-up is somehow integral to a topic that is of interest, then requesting the look-up is accepted as corroboration and research fulfillment.
4. The question is based on translating an idiom.
a. Idiomatic translations are well accepted at ELU.
b. Reconstructed sequence of events, which the second quote above seems to support:
someone made a statement in English;
the English statement was translated to Japanese and reported in a Japanese newspaper;
the OP considered the Japanese version similar to a Japanese proverb, for which the OP half-remembered an English version, as well as its possible source; and
the OP asked about the English translation, providing as much information as he could, including the half-remembered English version and the possible source.
c. Both answers to the OP's question addressed other aspects of the translation, one of which was etymology. It appears that the look-up was integral to the question, but there was some doubt that it would satisfy the OP if someone had suggested a lookup not close to the Japanese idiom.
d. Based on the reconstructed sequence of events, the heart of the question is a request for an English equivalent to a Japanese proverb. This is on-topic at ELU.
This is a site for people to ask questions of each other, where experts volunteer to increase the accessibility of world knowledge in a free and open way. This site is not a service site, whether that's proofreading, dictionary lookup, or language learning. Now sometimes there's a thin line between them, but that's the general principle. (And there aren't very many truly world-class experts here (I'm not!) but we're all kind of experts in our own way.)
Would it be right to go up to a university lecturer in English, or in Literature, or even in the narrow field of Stephen King Studies to ask that question? Would it be right to ask Stephen King himself? I don't think so. You'd go to a library and borrow the book! Or you'd search on Google Books or something like that. Questions like that absolutely do not belong here.
No matter how much of an expert of English you are, unless you had a copy of the books to check you could not answer it at all. No amount of prior experience, no amount of formal study, no amount of practice would help. Only having the books and looking through them. That's how to know that the question is off topic.
@curiosdannil. "Would it be right to ask Stephen King himself? You'd go to a library and borrow the book! Or you'd search on Google Books or something like that. Questions like that absolutely do not belong here."
I return this naive statement straight back to your mouth. I tried Google, but I failed to locate the source as I honestly stated in my question. But I got exact answers that I wished to have within an hour or so from two respectful users, from this site.
Why should I go to library? Why should I search for and go to visit an English professor to ask this question, when there are go-to guys and reliable go-to resources? What's wrong with utilizing, capitalizing on the large pool of expertise, knowledge and learnings English language at our arm's reach?
We call people who don'k know how to use tools / assets / resources in their hands 宝の持ち腐れ in Japanese, meaning a silly guy who rots and spoils treasures in their hands left unused.
This isn't service site, of course not Amazon. But this is the site to exchange stock of knowledge.
I offers all knowledge I have unstintingly to non-native Japanese language speakers (mostly Americans) in SE Japanese Language site. There's no "off-topic" hazard. No one there brandishes insular "off-topic" flag.
By the way, I'm not asking a question about Chinese, Russian, Greek, Hindu, nor Pakistani. It's English language and its usage that I've been asking. Do you know it?