Mu /moo/ The Correct Answer To The Classic Trick Question "Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife Yet?

HomeFortune CookiesJargon File

mu /moo/

The correct answer to the classic trick question
"Have you stopped beating your wife yet?". Assuming that you
have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes"
is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and
then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have
one and are still beating her. According to various Discordians
and Douglas Hofstadter the correct answer is usually "mu", a
Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question cannot be answered
because it depends on incorrect assumptions". Hackers tend to be
sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have
adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm. The word `mu' is
actually from Chinese, meaning `nothing'; it is used in
mainstream Japanese in that sense, but native speakers do not
recognize the Discordian question-denying use. It almost certainly
derives from overgeneralization of the answer in the following
well-known Rinzei Zen koan:

A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?"
Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

See also has the X nature, Some AI Koans
Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"
(pointer in the Bibliography in Appendix C.