Sunday, December 10, 2023
The Grammar Prick

The Grammar Prick Fingers Three Who Misused Begs the Question

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WEST CHESTER, Penna, – Hello, boys and girls. The Grammar Prick has a treat for you today. Instead of our regular quiz designed to irritate you and to undermine your confidence in your “language arts skills,” we’re going to present our first Helmet Head® awards, which are designed to irritate “professionals” whose “language arts skills” have already been undermined.

The first Helmet Head® goes to Dana Hunsinger Benbow, who writes for the Indianapolis Star. After reporting in a recent article that Wal-Mart might not keep all its stores open around the clock any longer, Ms. Benbow wrote, “Which begs the question: If Wal-Mart is re-evaluating the all-night model, is it really worth it to stay open 24 hours?”

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The second Helmet Head® is awarded to Doug McIntyre of the Los Angeles Daily News. While waxing nostalgic about his paper’s one-hundredth anniversary, Mr. McIntyre wrote, “Our city has changed in amazing ways over that hundred years . . . [a]nd through it all, this paper has been here to chronicle the events of our lives both great and small. Which begs the question, will the Daily News be here 100 years from today?

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The last-but-not-least Helmet Head® goes to Wisconsin State Representative Leon D. Young. Writing in the Milwaukee Courier, Mr. Young said, “If you are like me, you are probably wondering what does this bad housing bill have to do with creating jobs or putting people back to work? For all the talk from this governor and his Republican lackeys, there is little to show. This begs the question: Where’s the beef (JOBS)?!

The observant reader will notice that each of these writers used the expression begs the question incorrectly. Begs the question does not mean raises or leads to or suggests a question. In its traditional and proper sense—which was first described by Aristotle nearly 2,400 years ago—begging the question occurs when a speaker takes for granted or assumes the truth of the proposition he or she intends to prove. For example, suppose you offer the following argument to prove the existence of god: I believe God exists because the Bible says he does, and I know everything in the Bible is true because the Bible is God’s word. Therefore, God must exist.

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Now you know what begging the question truly means and why begging the question is also known as circular reasoning: the person using it goes round and round in circles, eventually disappearing up his own ass.

Your assignment, boys and girls, is to harass the recipients of Helmet Head® awards by sending them threatening emails and texts, hacking into their Twitter accounts, and leaving burning bags of dog shit on their doorsteps. It’s nasty, brutish work to be sure, but somebody’s got to do it.

Time’s up again, boys and girls. The Grammar Prick has to go water board the cat. See you all next time.    

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