16 May 2009


I'm a bit of a stickler for usage, and often find myself riled by abusage. I'm not over-zealous, but I try to be correct. When I find that I've committed a diction sin or grammatical error, I like to work on it and rid myself of it. One of the many, many phrases in English that had a narrow, specific meaning or usage at one time but has morphed into a less precise, broader-applied phrase is "begging the question." There is a blog--well, a website, at least--that attacks this abusage and points us to the proper path. It is called Beg the question: get it right. Just this morning I improperly used BTQ in a comment on a blog post. I meant to say "raises the question," but lapsed into an idiomatic mistake and used the aforementioned BTQ. Blog posts are timely, ethereal things. Tomorrow there is a new post and the old ones are forgotten even if they are carefully archived and catalogued by Google. Comments are often conversational, and the grammar, spelling, and diction mistakes they exhibit are more than anything a result of the hurried, off-the-cuff nature of that form of expression. But I don't like that: I appreciate proper English. So I was chagrined by my casual mistake. "Begging the question" means to assume something is true simply because you've stated it. It is a logical fallacy, a weakness in an argument, a bit of rhetorical cluelessness. "I don't like hamburgers because they aren't any good" is begging the question. You are asserting the truth of the statement without any foundation. Alas, this usage is perhaps obsolete in our fast-moving times, but it got WordMan™ off his duff for today, at least!

No comments: