Begged Asked Questions
- Wasn't this an April Fool's Day gag?
- BegTheQuestion.info did indeed begin as an April Fool's Day gag, posing as a fictional march on Washington to end "BTQ Abuse." The original joke is archived here for posterity.
- So this is still a joke, or are you actually serious?
- We do care passionately about the proper use of the phrase with reference to logical fallacy, but it would be false to say that tongues are not in cheeks in this endeavor.
- How did the erroneous usage of "beg the question" come about?
- It's an understandable error: the original Latin term petitio principii was translated into English in the 16th Century as "beg the question." Given that we today understand "beg" to mean "ask," our modern vocabulary would
parsethe phrase with less regard for its intended meaning. Michael Quinion believes the phrase is better translated today as "laying claim to the principle."
- Shouldn't we accept that words change in meaning over time?
- True, words like "cool" and "gay" gained new meaning via a process of modern association with their understood meanings, but BTQ abuse rises from a misunderstanding of its original use. It would be as though people started using "the die is cast" to mean dying, simply because the word "die" is in there, without any knowledge of Caesar. Is there any idiom -- not a single word, but a full phrase -- whose meaning has changed over the years, simply by virtue of its being misunderstood by the linguistically inept or the historically ignorant?
- But language is constantly evolving.
- That's great to know! Descriptivist linguists, whom we do not fault for their stand, are quite free to watch as we bring about an evolution in the vernacular understanding of "begging the question."
- What can I do to help?
- Use BTQ properly. When someone says something that treats his argument as already pre-proven without actual proof, tell him that he is begging the question. When he asks what question he is begging, inform him of the actual meaning of the term. If he resists, a firm backhand slap should put him in his place.*
- Print out our BTQ Cards to give to public speakers, bosses, writers, preachers, politicians, or random people on the subway and bus whom you hear getting it wrong.
- Get BTQ Merchandise to show you care. BTQ shirts and mugs can go a long way in informing the public, and they make great gifts for the pedantic linguistic curmudgeon in your life.
- When you actually do mean "raising" or "prompting" a question, be sure to emphasize your use of the alternate terms to show that you are not "begging" the question.
- If you ever do catch yourself saying "begs," you can quickly save your grammatical reputation and spare your audience by saying "begs for the question," which would still be quite correct, if slightly awkward.
* BegTheQuestion.info does not condone firm backhand slaps, and only recommends such extreme measures in jest.