Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On begging the question

I work for a publishing company. We have a staff of fully trained editors, the kind of people who laugh at jokes about punctuation. We also have a sales staff, people without a background in Latinate roots and so on, people who can't be convinced that it's a good idea for the editors to glance at the things we'll be sending to thousands of our clients. This leads to frustration.

So when we have an editors' meeting, I look forward to passing a meeting without gritting my teeth at whatever horrible things are going on, grammar-wise.

Today, however, we had an editors' meeting, and my teeth were gritted anyway. One of the editors said that something "begs the question" of why we hadn't done such-and-such. Thing is, "begs the question" does not mean "raises the question." Never has, and never will, no matter how many times people use it wrong.

"Begging the question" is a very specific logical fallacy. It's similar to circular reasoning. When one begs the question, one uses one's premise as proof for itself: "Paranormal phenomena exist because I have had experiences that can only be described as paranormal." 

I know that we can't all know every single thing there is to know about the English language. I just hate when my coworkers don't know the things I do. And I know an awful lot of things.

What grammar goofs drive you nuts? Have you ever misused "begs the question"? If so, do you promise to stop now that you know better?

1 comment:

  1. I've never misused "begs the question" because I never misuse anything.

    Is that begging the question? Kind of?