Friday, March 31, 2006

Should We Mind Corrrect English Usage?

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If he and Obasanjo run against each other, it will beg the question: is any civilian capable of running Nigeria?

After our short visit I had to beg the question the world has been asking finally has an answer: what's a middle-aged PR guy, who happens to work with a lot of biosciences companies, do to unwind on the weekends?

The experience does beg a question.

That should beg the question: What is a neocon?

It makes you wonder (no, it does NOT “beg the question”) why, though, the idea videotaping yourself lip-synching to pop music seems so, well, gay

Thomas’ solution (as CP notes) allows philosophy to operate according to its own principles—no revelation may enter as this would be to beg the question.

This does beg the question, why didn’t Locke first try to crawl threw the vents first?

It does beg the question of whether any form of enterprise architecture should be handled by consultants and what can corporate America see and learn from our government as to how not to do enterprise architecture.

My argument doesn’t beg the question by first assuming that God exists as following from premise (3). All premise (3) concludes is simply that the universe has a cause, not that that cause is necessarily God.

Doesn’t it beg the question of what’s wrong with their country of origin? And if there is something wrong, then why isn’t anything being done to change those countries?


Well, that was the intention. The above ten statements were lifted randomly from a Google search in the blogosphere of the phrase, beg the question. Google gave out 30,973 results. And indeed, upon reviewing the above statements, you will find that this phrase forms the common thread that binds them all together.

And your purpose is?

English being such a dynamic and universally used language, one cannot help finding and discovering words and phrases whose usage have changed over time, either subtly or abruptly in some kind of barrage in popular usage. And the common phrase above is one such classic example. And if current usage as exemplified by most (one exception, maybe) of the above statements is to be accepted, then consider how differently the original meaning compares with the current one. Not unlike another classic example, the verb, to cleave, which in olden times meant to join together or unite. But now means to cut apart as evidenced by the use of the term, meat cleaver.

In its original concept, using the term to beg the question is to point to a logical fallacy, brought out when one argues taking for granted or assuming the thing that one is precisely trying to prove. In other words, in a roundabout or circular way one evades the issue by not giving a straightforward answer, or making the argument part of the proof.

Believe it or not, Aristotle defined this fallacy:

The fallacy was described by Aristotle in his book on logic in about 350BC. His Greek name for it was turned into Latin as petitio principii and then into English in 1581 as beg the question.


Well, if you accept the current usage as reflected by most of the above statements, the phrase then comes to mean:

That the statement made prompts or forces the question to be asked.

While the original intent of the term was to point to a fallacy, like for instance when one makes the following statement:

We should not kill because all people should be allowed to live.

Then one can respond that the above argument is begging the question.

Consider the confusion then when both become standard and accepted usage. Readers will not be sure what the intended meaning of the writer is and in this instance one is very different from the other.

Are there more out there?


To Reader PhilippinesPhil:

As one can deduce from this blog’s archives, I appear quite attached to and enamored with the subject of the English language. Wrote a blog entry about English being the unofficial lingua franca of the blogosphere

Another word that has raised the hackles of many language purists is disinterested, its usage and meanings. Now many use and accept it to mean as not interested, rather than the more traditional and standard one which is to denote impartiality. Imagine picturing a “disinterested judge” as yawning at the proceedings, rather than listening intently and showing no biases.

I regularly resort to Google to try and learn about words, their etymology, current usage and meanings, etc.

Are many aware that one can Google using foreign language characters? After all many sites are written in languages other than English.

Sometimes morbid curiosity can amount to some good, such as accidentally tripping into some yet untapped features of some resources.

I had wanted to learn more about an unknown Russian actress raunchily featured in one episode of the Red Shoe Diaries series, a project of David Duchovny, made famous by that sci-fi thriller of HBO as one of the duo FBI agents, Mulder and Scully.

Well, I learned about her name but it was in Russian characters, from some Russian website featuring, you know what, pretty young Russian women.

So copied and pasted the name to Google and got the needed results.


One essayist, a Mr. Michael Saffran, associate director of University News Services and an adjunct professor of communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, thinks bloggers should mind their grammar and spelling.

To accent his point, he has coined a word, wrogging, which at this stage may be too early to see if it will catch on in the blogosphere.

But as defined, wrogging is to be used “to distinguish higher-quality writing on some blogs from the personal-diary-like revelations on many others.”

He lists his wrogging requisites:

• No first drafts, also known as ramblings, streams of consciousness and brain dumping (some call that writing — it's not).

• Proper grammar, punctuation and spelling (this should go without saying; but without saying it, they're often the first to go on some blogs).

• Simple thoughts are sometimes OK; simplistic thoughts are never OK (there is a subtle difference between the two).

• Follow the writing process: Think — Write — Edit — Rewrite (Nowhere in the writing process will you find: "Post first draft of the first thoughts that enter your mind.")

• Have passion for words, writing and reading good writing.

And I say, Amen.

Commented at Tiger Beat blog

English is a second language to me. And it took great pain and effort, and time too, to arrive at a place where I can write English decently and be understood by a host of readers coming from different backgrounds. And the learning continues to this day.

It comes as a surprise then to read that other writers of English, where it is the native tongue, would pose any question at all with your proposition that correct grammar and usage should be a standard in blog writing.

Beyond just being understood easily and properly, I personally find that the habit of using English properly can lead to a better mastery of the language. In this instance I subscribe to the cliché that practice makes perfect.

On another, but sadder, note, I am reminded of the old homeland where endemic poverty has not made possible the more universal usage of computers. Instead, they have the cheaper cell phones which they use essentially as their communicating tool. So instead of emails or blogwriting, many resort to sending texts to each other in packets of a few hundred characters. Most educated citizens are bi-lingual and English is the second language, though it is the medium of instruction in most schools.

Sad, because in their texting in English, they have somehow created an entirely new vocabulary designed primarily to save characters and speed up the process. And thus, to the uninitiated, they come out like coded messages. Missing vowels. Spelling based solely on how the word sounds. Lowercasing. Sentences interspersed with the dialect. Etc.

In effect, the process is mangling whatever English is learned in school because this corrupted form is now seeping into formal communication. Pretty soon, it could become second nature and reflexive.


  1. People use phrases like this all the time without knowing the origins. Relatively few folks have taken Logic & Semantics and have no clue as to your reference to Aristotle. So, that begs the question...!

    I've noticed that English, as used by my Filipino professors, is subtly different than what I'm used to speaking as an American, especially when it comes to many phrases and metaphorical speech. I soon stopped trying to "correct" them and just learned how they use it. Who is to say who is "right" anyway?

  2. I salute you, Amadeo -- from one 'wrogger' to another -- for your thoughtful and well-crafted remarks in this post and throughout your blog.

    Michael Saffran
    Rochester Institute of Technology


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