Posts Tagged 'begs the question'

It Doesn’t Really Beg the Question

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The painfully prevalent misuse of the phrase ‘begs the question’ is a pet peeve of mine. It often appears in op-eds and blogs in place of the phrase ‘raises the question’; I suspect because it sounds more intellectual.

Begging the question means assuming the initial point, in mathematical terms, a=a. For example, the towel is soaked because it is wet.

People often argue that such strict adherence to grammatical precedent is pointless if the appropriate meaning is conveyed regardless (not, as another mangler of English might say, irregardless). As long as the reader, however aggravated, understands what the writer means to say, why does it matter?

Because of professionalism – I expect people to manhandle English in everyday speech because most conversation is off the cuff, following a meandering train of thought. A writer, paid to write articles for websites (say, salon.com) should have a superior grasp of the language and its various rules and definitions, than the average layman. Part of their job description is accurate use of language to convey information and ideas. Resorting to phrases and vocabulary that they don’t understand undermines both the medium in which the article appears and the reading experience.

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