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"... which begs the question" is different to "...which raises a question...", isn't it?

(20 Posts)
BelfastBloke Mon 28-Jan-13 08:27:16

What does to beg the question mean?

I know it's different but can't remember how. Any examples?

Trills Mon 28-Jan-13 09:08:20

Yes, it is.

But I think that the majority of people you ever speak to will think that "begs the question" means "prompts you to wonder" or "makes you want to ask the question".

I cant explain exactly what "begs the question" means. I know it is not that, but I can't explain exactly what.

BelfastBloke Mon 28-Jan-13 09:27:59

So we both know it is different, but neither of us know quite how.

somebloke123 Mon 28-Jan-13 14:00:32

Begging the question is like a sort of circular argument.

You advance an argument or proposition on the basis of a premise that is either equivalent to the proposition itself or just as much in need of justification.

Example: "I know Fred is telling the truth"

"How do you know?"

"Because he doesn't tell lies".

And here is a must-have for all self-respecting pedants:,37288023

somebloke123 Mon 28-Jan-13 14:03:58

That link didn't quite go to it but there's one mug that has the correct definition of the term on it.

SPBInDisguise Mon 28-Jan-13 14:18:50

Begs the question means dodges or avoids answering, while providing an answer which on the face of it, looks as though its doing the job

CatWithKittens Tue 29-Jan-13 09:50:24

Could we change the title to this thread to recognize that things differ FROM each other, not TO each other, and one thing is therefore different FROM another. I know when posting it's easy to type hurriedly and send too quickly because I've done it myself but this is Pedants' Corner so it behoves us to be extra careful. Sorry OP, not really trying to be rude even though it may seem as though I am!

TheSurgeonsMate Tue 29-Jan-13 09:57:37

I really like somebloke's example.

A very traditional example is "Why does this drug make me feel sleepy?" "Because of its soporific effect." The "answer" is no answer at all, it just offers back ("begs") the information already given in the question.

However, if you google this you will find that language experts regard the other use of the phrase as so prevalant that the meaning is thought to be changing.

somebloke123 Tue 29-Jan-13 10:24:40

However, if you google this you will find that language experts regard the other use of the phrase as so prevalant that the meaning is thought to be changing.

Yes and of course language does change, but I find this sort of thing annoying.

It's not the concept of change as such but if "beg" is in this context coming to mean the same as "raise" or prompt" then we are left with a number of phrases meaning the same thing and "beg the question", a useful and succinct term, will have lost its special meaning. And our language will have become a shade more impoverished.

TheSurgeonsMate Tue 29-Jan-13 11:55:15

Never mind, somebloke, we'll just have to learn to pronounce petitio principii instead.

MrsMeeple Tue 29-Jan-13 12:12:58

This phrase has it's own website!


MrsMeeple Tue 29-Jan-13 12:13:09

BelfastBloke Tue 29-Jan-13 19:15:11

Thanks for the clarifications: I think I'm getting it.

CatWithKittens, I didn't think you were rude - you're correct that it's Pedants' Corner and it's worth pointing out; I'm just unsure whether you are correct about your correction of my OP. I'd certainly like to hear other people's take on this.

Trills Wed 30-Jan-13 08:23:38

So if they were using it correctly nobody would ever say the phrase "this begs the question..." followed by a question?

somebloke123 Wed 30-Jan-13 09:59:17



Slightly reminds me of the advice to foreigners, "If an Englishman says 'How do you do?' don't tell him; he doesn't want to know".

CatWithKittens Thu 31-Jan-13 14:59:36

Thanks for your understanding BelfastBloke. I think the clue does lie in the use of "differ" as a verb - you would never say "She differs to ...." but only "She differs from ....". I await the views of others who may say this is another example of changing language - it's just one which annoys me!

jkklpu Sun 03-Feb-13 22:23:45

Yes, it's different from. I once heard someone explain it in relation to Latin prepositions: it's similar to (things moving towards one another) and different from (things moving away). Or something.

jkklpu Sun 03-Feb-13 22:24:06

Oh, and in the US it's different "than", which makes my skin crawl

cardibach Mon 04-Feb-13 15:04:01

Definitely different from. I have a passionate hate for different to, and also for Americanisms like different than. Different from is right damn it!

BelfastBloke Mon 04-Feb-13 19:23:06

"... passionate hatred...", shurely?

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