Begging the question

Yes, but (as RivkahChaya pointed out) that’s not really the literal meaning of the phrase. The phrase originated as a description/(mis?)translation of a logical fallacy. Then people encountered it and recognized it as idiomatic but guessed wrong (or remembered wrong, or deliberately changed) what the meaning of the idiom was supposed to be.

I had always understood it to mean yet something else. By way of illustration: I have a sure-fire method for winning the lottery. How? It’s easy: All you have to do is put the right numbers on your ticket. Yes, but that begs the question, how do you get the right numbers?

In other words, it’s when you purport to reduce a problem to a simpler one, but the “reduced” problem is just as complicated, and is in fact the core of the original problem.

Merriam-Webster has “to require as necessary or appropriate” as a definition. Some other site had “call for” as a synonym for “beg”. And again, people who have never heard of the fallacy have no problem understanding that it means “raises the question”.

If I’d never heard the idiom that mechanical things “run,” I’d have no problem in assuming that your clock literally runs around the room on little legs (and, Roombas kinds do that, so it’s not unprecedented), maybe to self-wind or something. And I’d be totally, totally wrong.

I wouldn’t be so adamant about this if we didn’t need “begs the question” to mean what it means. Try using “predicated on its premise” sometime in casual conversation, and you will be very glad for “begs the question.”

I experience the same annoyance when people user the word “enormity” as a synonym for “enormousness” when it actually means something that is very bad. Sometimes they accidentally use it correctly, like when a weatherman refers to the “enormity of the storm”. What they really mean is that is a huge storm, but it is also destructive, so their usage is correct, but not intentionally so.

There is an episode of Twilight Zone (the newer version) that makes this point in an episode called Wordplay. A man slowly notices that the people around him have begun to use common words with completely different meanings. For example, his friend at work asks him if he knows of a good place to go for “dinosaur”-- which now means “lunch”.

At first it is just a few words, but by the end of the episode he can no longer understand anything anyone says and is forced to study his child’s elementary language book to begin to learn the meanings all over again.

I have come to accept that over time descriptivism wins over prescriptivism.

I don’t follow … where is the fallacy in “IF you place the right numbers, THEN you will win the lottery”? It shouldn’t matter if the corollary is also true “IF you win the lottery, THEN you placed the right numbers” Both of these statements take a step in some direction.

Now say “IF you win the lottery, THEN you’ve won the lottery”, we do not take a step … we’re “begging the question” in a figurative way.

It’s not that it’s a fallacy; it’s that it ignores the most important part. My method is surefire if you know the right numbers, but knowing the right numbers is far from surefire.

And we don’t need “begging the question” in its original meaning. “Predicated on its premise” might be a mouthful, but “circular argument” isn’t.

When does ‘predicate’ get used as a synonym for ‘beg’?

Sure, the truth of the conclusion depends on the truth of the assumption, that’s good logic. The fallacy is when the assumption and conclusion is the same thing. “Predicated on its premise” is a mouthful and doesn’t convey the same level of condescendence, although “circular argument” does have a taste of the "[backslap] … you moron" flavor to it.

But you just can’t beat calling someone a filthy beggar if you want rude. Within this context, it’s the perfect word … beg …

It’s not. It’s a verb that means “to base something on,” so “predicate on its premise,” describes a redundancy: it means “basing something on its base,” essentially. You can’t predicate an argument on its premise, because it’s axiomatic that the argument is not the premise; the premise must be otherwise supported so it can support the argument.

Not all examples of begging the question are technically circular reasoning. Don’t ask for an example not, because it’s too late, and I had half a hard cider earlier.

How does the word ‘beg’ fit into that, except for it’s use in ‘begging the question’, which would be begging the question.

I’m glad your nose stopped bleeding …

Someone in the Middle Ages translated it that way, same way someone in the Middle Ages chose the translation “proves the exception,” and a lot of biblical words got transliterated a certain way that in no way reflects the way Jews pronounce them.

I’m sure at the time it made sense, though, as opposed to “begging the question” not meaning “raising the question” now. If people were still taught to parse phrases in school, we wouldn’t see mistakes like this. I took English grammar in college, and did some really serious sentence diagramming, which is why stuff like this bugs me. If you want to use “beg” to mean “request” it needs a preposition.

Oh, it will again. I get a lot of nose bleeds.

Well, there’s the slippery slope that if we tolerate the people who use it in place of “RAISE the question”, eventually no one will realize that the logical fallacy of assuming your conclusion within your premise is an actuaal thing, because we won’t have a term that means that, unambiguously and exclusively.

Someone will challenge a person who is actually assuming his conclusions within his premise of begging the question, and the audience will all be scratching their heads and saying “What question? Are we supposed to ask some question here? That guy’s full of shit. Other guy’s point wins.”

People are still taught phrase parsing, and it doesn’t help. There is no current meaning of the word “beg” under which the phrase “begging the question” makes sense. In order to make any sense at all of it, one must assume that some grammatical rule must be broken. The logical assumption is to find an interpretation which minimizes the amount of rule-breaking that is necessary, and that interpretation is to assume that the preposition was elided. In other words, to interpret the phrase as meaning “begging for the question”.

Now, it so happens that this process, logical though it may be, does not successfully recover the original meaning. No logical process, in fact, can recover the original meaning, since it relies upon a definition of the word “beg” that has ceased to exist.

Whether any particular change in meaning should be resisted individually is a personal decision and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to hold any specific line.

But I just listened to a fascinating episode of Slate’s “Lexicon Valley” podcast which went through the evolution in meaning of the word “sad.” Amazing when you look at it.

Sated/full - heavy/weighty -serious/grave - brave/valiant/steadfast - unhappy/sorrowful - pathetic/unworthy

I’ve probably missed out on a few meanings just going from memory.

This sounds less like a grammar problem and more like a RivkahChaya problem.

My view is that if people are using a construction my language model says is grammatically troublesome without issue, it’s my model that’s broken, not the people. But that’s just me.

The correct usage has been decimated.