I beg your question

I just read the following sentence in Michael Polan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: “This begs the question of why the problem has gotten so much worse in recent years.” Polan is a great writer, but in using the expression, “begs the question” he is falling prey to misusage that has become so common it has virtually destroyed the original meaning of the phrase.

This has happened because the literal definitions of the individual words suggest a simple meaning that is “obvious” to those not schooled in formal logic. This made-up alternate meaning also fulfills a need for a clever response to answers that are so unsatisfactory they, “beg us to ask a follow-up question.” However, this usage of the phase, compelling as it is, is nonetheless stomping all over the original meaning as defined by logicians. It means you’ve assumed the conclusion you’re trying to prove [you dummy]. It’s as bad as using the word presently to mean “now” instead of “soon.”

If you’d like to join the handfuls of people struggling to preserve the proper meaning of this phrase, you may wish to consult this site.

DadExplanations06/01/08 1 comments


David • 06/12/08 8:48 AM:

You know I agree with you Dad, but here’s what Webster’s has to say about presently

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