Begging the Question


In his recent New York Times column, Charles Blow uses "begs the question" to mean "raises the question."

This begs the question: “Why do you need someone to push you to do the right thing?” Blow wrote.

Many writers and speakers do the same.  But I was surprised to see this in the New York Times. Traditionalists oppose this use, and newspapers usually take traditional positions on matters like these. And, traditionally, "beg the question" does not mean to raise a question. Instead, it's a term from logic that refers to any of several logical fallacies — stuff like answering a question by posing the same question to the questioner. It's a circular logic, of sorts.

As I've reported many times, when many people use a term "wrong" over a long time, the term becomes "right." That's how the ungrammatical "aren't I" surpassed the grammatical "amn't I." "Beg the question" in the meaning of raising a question has been gaining ground and credibility with experts. Still, I'm surprised the copy editors let this one by.

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