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Subject:  Re: Rethinking Heinz addition Date:  2/23/2013  5:24 PM
Author:  DrtThrwingMonkey Number:  199039 of 236884

Why is it wrong to say "this begs the question"? I use that expression all the time; didn't know it was wrong!

It is wrong, but one can make the argument, as does the smaller dinosaur here:

... that this incorrect usage has become so widespread as to change its meaning.

It's like the expression that I always learned as 'you can't have your cake and eat it too', which always seemed a bit illogical. You can have it, and then eat it, in fact that's the sequence of what we usually do, so why couldn't you do that?

When I eventually learned that the original expression was, 'you can't eat your cake and have it too', I was relieved - this makes much more sense. But in America (including my northern part), the incorrect order has become so ingrained, it is useless to fight it.

The trouble with 'begs the question' is that it doesn't mean 'it almost begs us to ask the question'. It means, as Wikipedia admirably concisely explains,

Begging the question (Latin petitio principii, "assuming the initial point") is a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion. Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle's Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, "circle in proving") or circular reasoning.

I like how Wikipedia concludes its article:

Academic linguist Mark Liberman recommends avoiding the phrase entirely, noting that because of shifts in usage in both Latin and English over the centuries, the relationship of the literal expression to its intended meaning is unintelligible and therefore it is now "such a confusing way to say it that only a few pedants understand the phrase."

Regards, DTPM, Dart Throwing Pedant Monkey
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