Begging the Question: BTQ Abuse
all have pet peeves, which begs the question, "What is yours?" One of
my pet peeves is the nearly universal misuse of the phrase "begs the
question." As presented in the first sentence, the usage is utterly
incorrect. To "beg the question" does not mean a question is begging
to be asked. Rather, it describes the occasion of a self-proving statement,
a logical fallacy or circular reasoning. Grammarians refer to the transgression
as "BTQ Abuse."
Supposedly, the original derivation is from the Latin term "petitio
principii," meaning to petition the principle, or to challenge the
assertion of a statement. For example, if I say, "ABC Corporation's
receivers are superior to XYZ Corporation's inferior receivers," I have
begged the question, "Why are ABC Corporation's receivers superior to
XYZ Corporation's receivers?," or, conversely, "Why are XYZ Corporation's
receivers inferior to ABC Corporation's receivers?" What brings this
issue to mind is that I just read an article in Discover magazine
where an accomplished astrophysicist erroneously used the term. Eventually,
constant misuse of a word or phrase causes it to be given a place in
modern lexicons akin to how panhandlers are eventually permitted to
populate highway off-ramps and intersections because it's easier to
allow them than to eradicate them. Are you a BTQ Abuser?
the record, another pet peeve of mine is the fallacious statement, "I
could care less." That is another logical fallacy because what is really
meant is, "I couldn't care less." If you "could care less," then that
means you still care at least a little about the subject when what you
really mean is you care as little you possibly can about the subject
already - it is not possible for you to care less than you already do.
A Ph.D.-degreed scientist I listen to regularly on the radio makes the
mistake frequently during arguements.
I will be glad to post
your grammatical pet peeves here if you send them to me - even if (especially
if) they are mistakes I commit (other than an admitted continual rash
January 14, 2014