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This begs the question, when will it stop?
April 1, 2005 11:31 AM   Subscribe

March To End "Beg The Question" Abuse! For too long this logical fallacy has been misused! Today we take the matter in to our own hands, and march on Washington to demand legislation to preserve the sanctity of language!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (66 comments total)

 
Sounds like something Hitler would say.
posted by NickDouglas at 11:32 AM on April 1, 2005


Uh?
posted by ORthey at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2005


This begs the question of whether these sorts of protests accomplish their intended goals of increasing public awareness of the issue in question.

What? What'd I do?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:36 AM on April 1, 2005


Appropriate, that Steve_at_Linnwood wants to preserve the sanctity of logical fallacies, seeing as how he works do hard to fill his comments examples of them.

That said, great post, Steve.
posted by orthogonality at 11:36 AM on April 1, 2005


Isn't it April now?
posted by 31d1 at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2005


Not March as in the month, March as in a million men.
posted by Plutor at 11:44 AM on April 1, 2005


Maybe it shouldn't have been translated so badly if they wanted it to be used properly.

I actually like the modern interpretation better since it works better than "this raises an interesting question". "Concede the point" is a better phrase for the original meaning.
posted by destro at 11:44 AM on April 1, 2005


Also, I would totally march for this. Oh yeah.
posted by Plutor at 11:45 AM on April 1, 2005


Finally, a cause I can get behind. Also, what is happening to the "-ed" and the end of renowned? "Renown" is becoming the new spelling.
posted by Faze at 11:49 AM on April 1, 2005


Missed last years march.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:51 AM on April 1, 2005


I find it particularly amusing that the term itself is defined so poorly there as to make it so that most won't get the distinction.
posted by norm at 11:53 AM on April 1, 2005


"Concede the point" isn't the right way to phrase the original meaning. In fact, it's almost opposite. The original meaning of "begs the question" is something like "assumes without proof the matter in question." It's just another way to say "you've used circular logic."

If I say "Bush is a retard, as proven by his retardedness" I have begged the question.

But I agree that the modern interpretation is handy. In fact, if you use "beg the question" in the original sense, today, you'll come off as an idiot, or a pretentious snob (like me, maybe, in the first paragraph). There's no proper language except for the way we speak.
posted by Hildago at 11:53 AM on April 1, 2005


Sounds like something Hitler would say.

Totally reminded me of an article I once saw on how to win any argument, with 10 simple techniques. Accuse your opponent of "begging the question" assuming that no one really knows what that means. Another accusation: "That sounds like something Hitler would say."

I can can tell you from experience that the Hitler thing works great. People just automatically start backpedaling.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:57 AM on April 1, 2005


I propose we stop calling this particular logical fallacy 'begging the question' and start calling it 'religion'. See, there's plenty of words to go around. ;)
posted by boaz at 11:59 AM on April 1, 2005


But Bush is a retard, proven by his retardedness!
(Beggin' is the most fun fallacy...)
What's it in Latin? Principium peto ere? Petitio principii?
posted by klangklangston at 12:00 PM on April 1, 2005


It's kind of silly when conservative forces attempt to block the tidal wave that is common useage. The language is a fluid medium.
There are parts worth preserving but as destro points out, the original meaning needs a new phrase.

common useage 1 pedantic conservatism 0
posted by peacay at 12:02 PM on April 1, 2005


Sticky- I got that thrown at me when I argued against LaRouche minions outside my university. I was grinning because they were trying to argue that a line drawn on a piece of paper was not an abstraction, and that it somehow represented real truth. The girl saw me grin and said, "You're enjoying this, aren't you? You know who else enjoyed making people unhappy? The Nazis!"
I have to admit being dumbfounded there, because I'd never had something like that used on me, you know, seriously.
posted by klangklangston at 12:04 PM on April 1, 2005


Damn, I read it as Bag the Question and thought it was a scavenger hunt.

Begging the Pardon is still okay though, right? I'll just have to wait until there's a new Pope.
posted by fenriq at 12:07 PM on April 1, 2005


Second one, klangston.
posted by clockzero at 12:15 PM on April 1, 2005


Faze, S@L, and I are all on the same side of an issue.

Must be the end times.
posted by adamrice at 12:17 PM on April 1, 2005


I foresee the police decimating the ranks of the protestors, which will only leave nine people holding placards. Still, as long as they escalate their rhetoric, they just might impact our language.
posted by OmieWise at 12:20 PM on April 1, 2005


Stop, I'm begging you!

/got nothin'
posted by wendell at 12:24 PM on April 1, 2005


[Insert snark about the regality of the monophthalmic]

While it may not be accepted style to actually state the question being begged, it's not fallacious to do so provided you correctly identify the question. For example "We know this Papal statement to be true because the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra." That begs the question, and the question is "Oh, is he really?" You can say it that way and it's not an invalid usage, it's just not accepted style.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:25 PM on April 1, 2005


I like the fact that a text that is supposedly written by "linguistic pedants" contains the word "ignoramii" ("we must brace ourselves as the ignoramii of modern society..."). Sure, "ignoramus" is a Latin word, but it's not a noun, it's a verb, meaning "we don't know". You can't add a noun plural ending to a verb. And people seem to believe that there's a -ii plural ending in Latin, but this is a misunderstanding. When you add the plural ending -i to a word where the stem ends in -i, such as "filius", "son", you get a double i: "filii".
posted by Termite at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2005


(totally off topic, the phrasing of this post reminds me of my second-favourite sentance ever: "To long have I been imprisoned between the toes of others!!")

I vote for accepting the common use and renaming the fallacy. I understand the concept of circular logic, but I can not attach it to the phrase "begging the question." Trying to describe circular logic with the phrase "begging the question" makes me feel like I'm actually erasing knowledge from my brain.

on preview: George_Spiggott, that helps. The neurons are reconnecting.
posted by carmen at 12:37 PM on April 1, 2005


So just sit back and relax. Ignore all these silly theories. Just enjoy the game, you Saturnalian, reptile-brained, elk-headed, isopraxic, militaristic, sexist, homoerotic primates.
posted by elpapacito at 1:33 PM on April 1, 2005


whops ! wrong thread :D
posted by elpapacito at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2005


"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the—the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."

George W. Bush
October 27, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:04 PM on April 1, 2005


"The world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership."

George W. Bush
October 28, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:04 PM on April 1, 2005


"I'm the master of low expectations."

George W. Bush
June 4, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:05 PM on April 1, 2005


"By allowing businesses to expense up to $75,000 it means that somebody is more likely to buy a copy machine or, uh, in this case, an architectural-fancy machine."

George W. Bush
January 22, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:06 PM on April 1, 2005


I agree with George_Spiggot on the issue of naming the question. Also, Klangston's story was hilarious. There is little more satisfying than watching people get heated over things that 99% of the world wouldn't even think to care about.
posted by hue at 2:06 PM on April 1, 2005


"I'm sure there's a lot of people frightened—biotechnology is a long word and it sounds—they may say, well, I don't know if I'm smart enough to be in biotechnology, or it sounds too sophisticated to be in biotechnology."

George W. Bush
Nov. 7, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:07 PM on April 1, 2005


"She's doing a fine job of coordinating interagency. She's doing what her—I mean—it shouldn'a—the, the, the role of the national security advisor is to not only provide good advice to the President, which she does on a regular basis—I value her judgement and her intelligence—uhh—but, uhh—her job is also to deal interagency, and to help unstick things that may get stuck—is the best way to put it. She's an unsticker."

George W. Bush
Oct. 28, 2003
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:10 PM on April 1, 2005


"The servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the Middle East and beyond... they seek to indeminate America into panic and retreat."

George W. Bush
Apr. 13, 2004
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:11 PM on April 1, 2005


"There's no bigger task than protecting the homeland of our country."

George W. Bush
Aug. 23, 2002
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:11 PM on April 1, 2005


"You see, the enemies want to create a sense of fear and intrepidation." -George W. Bush
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2005


"AlexReynolds is a wanker." - Pretty Much Everyone
posted by I EAT TAPES at 2:17 PM on April 1, 2005


"AlexReynolds is a wanker." - Pretty Much Everyone
posted by I EAT TAPES at 4:17 PM CST on April 1 [!]
Meta!
posted by thomcatspike at 2:36 PM on April 1, 2005


I vote for accepting the common use and renaming the fallacy.

I wouldn't keep either.

If you mean the common use, just say that something calls to mind the question... , or that something makes you wonder about... both are clearer and more direct than anyone begging or beggaring anything.

If you mean the technical use, just say that someone is assuming the thing they're trying to prove. Hard to mistake what that means; "begs the question" here is just pointless, obfuscatory jargon -- and I do social science, so I know from pointless, obfuscatory jargon.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:40 PM on April 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


BTQ -- misused -- is a well-formed English phrase that means what it appears to mean. Sure, you can prompt or imply or raise the question instead, but "beg the question" still stands by itself as an intelligible utterance, unlike gopher bookcase throwing limelight Pepsi yellow harving gadger sastunable turpadoop. It's not an eggcorn. When people get upset about BTQ-misues, it's like seeing a gleeful lawyer interrupt a conversation to correct someone who just said "I have reasonable doubts about the shrimp at Long John Silver's." Used "properly", BTQ can be understood if you just forget whatever you might know about the meanings of the words beg and question.

Ironically BTQ is usually answered with an ad hominem fallacy: You don't even know what the phrase means; you're ignorant and stupid and therefore your argument is crap; now hold still while I subject you to ridicule. So yeah, don't use BTQ to avoid riling up the schmucks.

If the prescriptivists storm the captiol, I say load up with live ammo and fire into the crowd.
posted by fleacircus at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2005


"This begs the question..." we read in the editorials, see on TV, hear on the radio, (perhaps even read in one of those newfangled "web blogs") and we must brace ourselves

See, I'd be inclined to put a comma after the quotation - notwithstanding the ellipsis, a quote should be set off from the subject who's speaking/citing by a comma. I'd also definitely get rid of the parentheses around the fourth item in that list since it's not really parenthetical to the rest of the list but rather an extension of it. And, regardless, there's no getting around the need for a comma between the first compound clause and the second, parentheses or no. And come to think of it I think it reads better if the "the" is removed from the first item in the list, so it reads ". . . we read in editorials . . ."

Yup, that's how I'd do it, because that little opening statement of theirs strikes me as a poorly written, speedbump-ridden mess.

Then again, I'm not a shrill, self-righteous pedant trying to semi-ironically attack the linguistic tics of "ignoramii" in order to demonstrate my own overdeveloped (and apparently unearned) sense of grammatical prowess.
posted by gompa at 2:46 PM on April 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


My favourite part is the big marching placard that says "Down with descriptivists!" I think this may be the first time in my life someone has protested against me.
posted by purtek at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2005


I would have been behind this all the way if the page didn't scream "Down with descriptivists!" (I didn't even notice "ignoramii" due to my also being a shrill, self-righteous pedant). I essentially have "Descriptivist" tattooed on my sweet ass. I can do the East Coast AND the West Coast hand signs for "descriptivist" while hanging by my legs from a jungle gym.

Faze:
what is happening to the "-ed" and the end of renowned? "Renown" is becoming the new spelling.

renown is a noun meaning "fame"
renown is a verb meaning "to give someone/something renown"
renowned is an adjective meaning "having renown"

Have you really seen people using "renown" as an adjective? *shudder*

Termite:
When you add the plural ending -i to a word where the stem ends in -i, such as "filius", "son", you get a double i: "filii".

And then there are the charming people who think all nouns ending in "us" take the plural ending "i". Not so the fifth declension nouns like "status", whose plural is "statu-s" (u w/macron). *high fives you*
posted by sninky-chan at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2005


Too late for preview: purtek! Baby!
posted by sninky-chan at 2:51 PM on April 1, 2005


We can't beg the question anymore?
posted by kuatto at 2:55 PM on April 1, 2005


I've always considered (and used) the phrase to mean "this raises the quite obvious question of...".

"George Bush could very well be retarded."
"Well, that begs the question: 'How did he get elected?'."

(Sweet Jesus in Heaven. The ending of that sentence is a punctuation train wreck. I can't even begin to tell if I've done it correctly. Surely it's not "... elected'?". *sigh*)

I'm aware of the proper usage only from a long-ago logic class. But in common parlance the meaning seems to be quite clear.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:01 PM on April 1, 2005


Pedant's pride.
posted by caddis at 3:07 PM on April 1, 2005


due to my also being a shrill, self-righteous pedant

FWIW, sninky-chan, I was aiming that barb only at prescriptivists. I'm fine with descriptivists, for the most part. In my experience, they tend to like written language to have more rules than I think are necessary, but they're rarely smarmy snots about it the way your average prescriptivist (viz. the link that launched this thread) tends to be.

On preview: Ynoxas, the period is superfluous no matter where you put it. It's 'How did he get elected?'" (IMHO.)
posted by gompa at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2005


"This begs the question..."
Have you taken a look at the site now? Talk about making sure the world knows this is a joke and at the same time blinding your readers. I was bummed out that the author made notes at page’s bottom so the facts would be known. Funny thing that the post being a joke was still able to make some interesting comments.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2005


Stop, I'm begging you!

/got nothin'
posted by wendell at 12:24 PM PST on April 1 [!]


We need to police the use of the ending a comment with a close tag. Initially some people would set off parts of their comments with tags as if it were a mark-up language, such as [/rant] or [/sarcasm] or [/geek humour], which was a mildly clever and mildy funny way to express your tone. Farkers, not getting the reference, but seeing a lot of people use it, came to the conclusion that it was just a way to make an aside comment. There are other ways to express a side comment, such as the tried and true paranthesis, while there is no replacement for the original usage that is as expressive.

[/linguistic snark]
posted by team lowkey at 4:26 PM on April 1, 2005


APRIL FOOLS
posted by VulcanMike at 4:50 PM on April 1, 2005


I foresee the police decimating the ranks of the protestors, which will only leave nine people holding placards.

If there were only 10 protesters to start with, sure. "Decimate" does, however, refer to "[eliminating] 1 in 10 (or 10%)" -- so if they decimated a protest of 2,389,856 there'd still be 2,150,870.4 protesters left.
posted by davy at 4:55 PM on April 1, 2005


This post panhandles the inquiry, "why has no-one mentioned yet that this prank was devised by our very own brownpau?"
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:02 PM on April 1, 2005


Also, I love the comment on his site:

But if everyone uses correct grammar, think of all the useful shibboleths we'll lose.

Heh. Too true.

Personally, I was late to the party (out pulling pranks) and therefore nominate this site for best proper use of the <blink> tag since 1997.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:05 PM on April 1, 2005


"AlexReynolds is a wanker." - Pretty Much Everyone

Erm, actually, I quite enjoyed AlexReynolds' contributions - haven't laughed so hard in a good while. I'm sure there's a logical fallacy for pretending you're speaking for everyone when in fact you're speaking for yourself, but if there isn't, let's name it Putting Words In My Mouth.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:26 PM on April 1, 2005


If everyone follows the "rules" of grammar, spelling and usage, How will our language evolve..

A language that doesn't evolve becomes unusable.. Ancient Latin for example..

I know that there is a movement to get conversational Latin back in the mainstream... Ute and Navajo, too..

language has evolved much (for the bad some might say) with the use of the internet. What is the shortest language that still gets your point across?

The Language-grammar gestapo are more of the problem than fools using language "Improperly"..
posted by Balisong at 5:45 PM on April 1, 2005


It's true, Balisong. In the future, people will use ellipsis in almost every sentence.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:51 PM on April 1, 2005


You're welcome...
posted by Balisong at 5:55 PM on April 1, 2005


brownpau? Really? Way to go brownpau, that was great, and thanks to S@L for posting it.
posted by caddis at 6:03 PM on April 1, 2005


Where is Dan Quale, he needs to fight for his revolution?
posted by Viomeda at 9:08 PM on April 1, 2005


Bravo -- would certainly help me out in logic class.
posted by ontic at 11:37 PM on April 1, 2005


Anyone have a link without the stupid "April Fools" words flashing on it? Would love to send it to my philosopher/lawyer friends.
posted by ontic at 11:42 PM on April 1, 2005


klangklangston is right. In several philosophy classes, we referred to this as Petitio Principii.
posted by adzm at 1:42 AM on April 2, 2005


..er, to avoid this whole confusion. Most people who use this phrase incorrectly will not stop, and chances are they are having more children than the rest of us.
posted by adzm at 1:43 AM on April 2, 2005


ontic - I've removed the blinking APRIL FOOL text, so it's good to read again. I have plans for BTQ post-April, so the pedanticism will be around for a while.
posted by brownpau at 10:21 AM on April 2, 2005


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