This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Begging the question - a rant.

I saw a muley last night.


Oh, all right, I'll tell you about muleys later. I only mentioned them because I was hoping to arouse your curiosity.


Well, because of all this silly begging the question malarkey. No one has a clue what it means. Lots of people think that if I say something which makes people ask a question (what's a muley?) then I've begged that question.

Now, I, personally, don't agree: mentioning muleys raises a question, but it really doesn't beg it. 

So what is begging a question, then?

Oh, if only people were agreed about that!

Some people say it's when an answer to a question isn't an answer at all.

The other day, for instance, I asked a friend how he chooses which books to read. And his answer was I just look along my to-read shelf.

Now, that's no answer at all, and some people (including me) would say my friend was begging - failing to answer - the question.

But some other people (don't talk to me about people!) say that begging the question is an argument which goes round in a circle.

God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible must be right because it's the word of God.

And, quite honestly I wish people would make their flipping minds up.

Meanwhile, to keep the pedants happy perhaps the phrase is best avoided altogether.

Except, of course, that pedants are only happy when they're finding fault.

So we just can't win, can we?

Word To Use Today: beg. This word comes from the Middle English word beggen: and for a word that's so useful it's hardly changed at all for so long it's still causing a lot of trouble.

Oh, and a muley is a cow without horns. From the Welsh moel, bald.

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