2039: "Begging the Question"

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2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby The Bus » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:39 pm UTC

Image

Title text: At least we can all agree on the enormity of this usage.

________________

I personally wish people would usage begging the question fewer.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby fibonacci » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:45 pm UTC

'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'


Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Ray Kremer » Wed Aug 29, 2018 5:46 pm UTC

I find this comic to be very ironic!

:wink:

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:11 pm UTC

Ray Kremer wrote:I find this comic to be very ironic!

:wink:

I didn't think it was at all ferocious.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby cjm » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:20 pm UTC

I like how the alt-text is subversively traditionalist.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Sableagle » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:24 pm UTC

Can anyone borrow me a fiver to buy a women a covfefe? She's defiantly the hostess one I've seen in a while and I want to proactively leverage our synergies but I'm out of cash at the mow.


Just think: another 40 years of this and nobody'll be able to read The Lord of the Rings without a translation guide.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby RandomMarius » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:24 pm UTC

One of the first big words I learnt to use correctly was malapropism.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:32 pm UTC

RandomMarius wrote:One of the first big words I learnt to use correctly was malapropism.
Could you imagine the time I could not tell people I was suffering a temporary lethologica, then.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby jgh » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:34 pm UTC

Careful with that snake, it's poisonous. Try the fish instead.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Vroomfundel » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:39 pm UTC

I'm so happy that Randall has dedicated a comic about my pet peeve!

In case somebody is not acquainted - to beg the question means to use circular reasoning, a logical fallacy. It's an important concept with a clear name - when somebody says "Of course I didn't grope her, I'm not a pervert" one would rebut with "But this is just begging the question!" and learned folk in attendance will nod in agreement. However, people would more and more say things like "This just begs the question: <insert question here>", in superficial immitation of said learned folk, in much the same way cargo cults work, which has ruined a perfectly good name of a logical fallacy. Every time I hear it I shed a tear for the loss of expressive power of the English language.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Apeiron » Wed Aug 29, 2018 7:57 pm UTC

We have different words because they have different meanings.
We think in language.
We use language to communicate with each other in the present.
We use language to speak to future.
We use language to listen to the past.

Language is too important to be left to the whims of its least competent users.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:20 pm UTC

Languages are inherently not static. If people understand the way a term is used, if it correctly communicates the intended message, then it is being used correctly. Obviously there is value in explaining misused or misunderstood words, but if it's an actual, clear usage that everyone understands, there is no sense harumphing about its impropriety.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:53 pm UTC

Has it never occurred to anyone that the reason people object to incorrect usages is because it doesn't correctly communicate the intended message?

Sure, all of the examples that you're probably thinking of right now are things that people with any opinion on this topic are familiar enough with that by now we all understand what the intention behind such common misusage is. But the only reason we know about it is because it's something people have been publicly arguing about for a while, and the reason why that argument got started was because someone used a word or term in a nonstandard way and that sounded jarring and confusing to some listener. E.g. "I could care less", said one clueless moron some ages ago, and a listener with two brain cells to rub together understood that for what it actually meant and though that that was a weird thing to say; and that happened often enough that now it's something we've all heard of here.

Also, just because a fight will probably be lost doesn't mean it's not worth fighting.

"Beg the question" was a bad translation of a bad translation to begin with, though, and should never be used to mean anything at all.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby chenille » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:47 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:E.g. "I could care less", said one clueless moron some ages ago

Sure, "I could care less" was definitely a conceptual error. Because someone being dismissive would never say the opposite of what they really meant. Can you imagine if such a thing became part of language?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Zylon » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:53 pm UTC

Changing usage be damned, saying "begs the question" in place of "raises the question" will always be a ripe target for mockery specifically because it's something that people only say when they're trying to sound smart (or erudite, as a smart-sounding person might say).

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby chenille » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:06 pm UTC

Really? My experience is almost the opposite. Many people, without pretension, casually use "begs the question" for what it sounds like, a question the situation is begging to have asked. Mockery then comes from others trying to show off that they know the prescribed meaning, however inappropriate it may be. Insisting you stick to a usage most people won't understand originating from mistranslated Latin as Dan Shive put it.

I am all for working to make language what we think it should be, but some rules were made up badly in the first place. For those who need to refer to the fallacy, circular reasoning or – if you really prefer terms of art to general use – petitio principii remain available.
Last edited by chenille on Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:12 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Justin Lardinois » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:11 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:Can anyone borrow me a fiver to buy a women a covfefe? She's defiantly the hostess one I've seen in a while and I want to proactively leverage our synergies but I'm out of cash at the mow.


Just think: another 40 years of this and nobody'll be able to read The Lord of the Rings without a translation guide.


The Lord of the Rings is already hard to read in 2018. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it or with the modern state of the English language; it's just a demonstration that texts are frozen in time while language marches on.

Apeiron wrote:We have different words because they have different meanings.
We think in language.
We use language to communicate with each other in the present.
We use language to speak to future.
We use language to listen to the past.

Language is too important to be left to the whims of its least competent users.


Pfhorrest wrote:Has it never occurred to anyone that the reason people object to incorrect usages is because it doesn't correctly communicate the intended message?


The problem with this attitude is that either you really do understand the meaning behind the incorrect usage–and thus you're just being a pedantic dick–or you're the only person in the room that doesn't, in which case you're not really much of a "competent" user yourself.

The only truly "incorrect" usage is one that no one understands.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Kit. » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:12 pm UTC

jgh wrote:Careful with that snake, it's poisonous. Try the fish instead.

Do people genuinely say "poisonous" instead of "venomous"?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:26 pm UTC

Justin Lardinois wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:Has it never occurred to anyone that the reason people object to incorrect usages is because it doesn't correctly communicate the intended message?


The problem with this attitude is that either you really do understand the meaning behind the incorrect usage–and thus you're just being a pedantic dick–or you're the only person in the room that doesn't, in which case you're not really much of a "competent" user yourself.

The only truly "incorrect" usage is one that no one understands.

And of course you snip the bulk of my message where I preemptively addressed what you just said.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby qvxb » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:10 am UTC

Try "That food made me sick."

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Mikeski » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:28 am UTC

Sableagle wrote:Just think: another 40 years of this and nobody'll be able to read The Lord of the Rings without a translation guide.


Meh. It was better in the original Elvish.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 30, 2018 1:24 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:
Sableagle wrote:Just think: another 40 years of this and nobody'll be able to read The Lord of the Rings without a translation guide.


Meh. It was better in the original Elvish.

Only if you mean Quenya.

That bastard tongue Sindarin is no better than Westron or any other tongue of [spit] Men.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:42 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Has it never occurred to anyone that the reason people object to incorrect usages is because it doesn't correctly communicate the intended message?

It's not so much that it hasn't occurred to me as that it is very obviously not the case.

Sure, all of the examples that you're probably thinking of right now are things that people with any opinion on this topic are familiar enough with that by now we all understand what the intention behind such common misusage is. But the only reason we know about it is because it's something people have been publicly arguing about for a while, and the reason why that argument got started was because someone used a word or term in a nonstandard way and that sounded jarring and confusing to some listener. E.g. "I could care less", said one clueless moron some ages ago, and a listener with two brain cells to rub together understood that for what it actually meant and though that that was a weird thing to say; and that happened often enough that now it's something we've all heard of here.

The overwhelming majority of the time, the common usage is learned well before the antiquated one. Maybe once in a while someone first hears the phrase "beg the question" in philosophy class and then gets genuinely confused when they hear it in ordinary conversation, but the opposite is clearly quite a bit more common. So by your reasoning, it is actually the original meaning that is incorrect, because it can cause confusion with the more popular, better-understood meaning.

And it's not like this is specific to "beg the question." The other example in the comic, "nauseous/nauseated," is an even more pedantic and trivial distinction and something that is even less likely to cause confusion, except when used in the conventional sense. Nobody is confused by the sentence "I feel nauseous," but many are confused by "that smell is nauseous," because that simply isn't how most people use the word anymore. The example in the title text is less extreme but still relevant. "Enormity" does still get some use in its original sense, but the sense of "enormousness" is displacing it, and most people cannot explain the difference between the two. That suggests that using "enormity" in the original sense is actually more likely to cause confusion than using it in the emerging sense.

Also, just because a fight will probably be lost doesn't mean it's not worth fighting.

What could possibly be the value of this fight?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:05 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The overwhelming majority of the time, the common usage is learned well before the antiquated one.

Maybe now it is, at least for many of those usages that are widespread enough to be go-to examples in discussions like this.

But each of those examples will have started with someone saying it the now-common incorrect way, and someone else going "huhwha?" at that, because it's weird and confusing and jarring. That's how these arguments start. As the arguments spread, if the incorrect usage becomes more common, then more people will have more likely heard of people using words the wrong way to mean something other than what you'd expect on the surface, and to know what people are trying to say, but to still be aggravated that they're saying it in this weird, jarring, wrong way.

(It's kind of like when my mom says something about "chemtrails". She doesn't believe the government is spraying mind-control drugs from jet airplanes, but she hears people call those white streaks across the sky "chemtrails" and thinks that's just the word for it. I know what she's trying to say, but... no, they're not chemtrails, they're contrails. She doesn't even grasp the mindset she's implicitly conveying by using that word instead of the right one. I know what she means, but that's just because I'm familiar with her usage and can mentally correct what she says to get what she means; someone else not familiar with her would hear her and think she means something she doesn't.)

And sure, eventually maybe the once-wrong usage spreads so much that it doesn't sound weird or jarring to anyone anymore, and by that point it ceases to be wrong and has just changed meaning. But that's like saying that once an invading population has completely wiped out all of the natives, it's their land now; sure, but only because there's nobody left to contest that. While the shift is still happening, you don't get to just say that the people who think other people are saying things in a weird and unclear way should just shut up and roll over. They're part of the linguistic community too and they get to push back on how their language gets shaped going into the future.

I did specifically say that I don't think "begs the question" is a good example of this, because that was only ever a badly-translated, unclear jargon phrase, and all uses of it in any sense should just stop.

The other example in the comic, "nauseous/nauseated," is an even more pedantic and trivial distinction and something that is even less likely to cause confusion, except when used in the conventional sense. Nobody is confused by the sentence "I feel nauseous," but many are confused by "that smell is nauseous," because that simply isn't how most people use the word anymore.

I was actually unaware of that distinction until reading this comic, but immediately upon reading it I thought "oh yeah, actually that makes a lot more sense". Even more clear would be "nauseating/nauseated", as structurally "nauseous" seems like it should just mean "pertaining to nausea" without any specific attachment to agent or object. "That smell is nauseous"... I'm not sure if I've heard that usage or not, but it reads to me as synonymous with "that smell is nauseating", and I would/have probably assume(d) that that's what it meant.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby da Doctah » Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:36 am UTC

qvxb wrote:Try "That food made me sick."


I am literally puking my guts out now.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:28 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:
Sableagle wrote:Just think: another 40 years of this and nobody'll be able to read The Lord of the Rings without a translation guide.


Meh. It was better in the original Elvish.


Elvish? Bilbo (and Frodo) wrote in Westron - hence the existence of three volumes of "Translations from the Elvish by B. Baggins" alongside "The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King (as seen by the Little People; being the memoirs of Bilbo and Frodo of the Shire, supplemented by the accounts of their friends and the learning of the Wise.)"

Lord of the Rings was never in Elvish - neither Quenya, nor Sindarin, nor any of the many less widely adopted tongues various Elves derived - unless someone has translated it in the last 70 years or so.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby TheEngineer » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:42 am UTC

Not all changes in usage make language easier to understand. My pet peeve is the mixing of tenses, especially replacing the past or past continuous with the present continuous - "Yesterday I am watching TV and I am seeing ...". Now I get this when it's used sparingly as a literary device to create suspense but it's just damn confusing in everyday speech. Is is also common in the UK now to replace the present continuous with the past as in "You are stood in the corner and I am sat here". I'm worried that if these trends ever collide, we will get infinite linguistic recursion and a stack overflow and some kind of grammatical BSOD. Or perhaps the tenses will annihilate each other and time will end.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby john_shaver » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:48 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Languages are inherently not static. If people understand the way a term is used, if it correctly communicates the intended message, then it is being used correctly. Obviously there is value in explaining misused or misunderstood words, but if it's an actual, clear usage that everyone understands, there is no sense harumphing about its impropriety.

Yes, you're right.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby speising » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:13 pm UTC

That depends on the tensile strength of the english language.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Kit. » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:32 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The overwhelming majority of the time, the common usage is learned well before the antiquated one.

That's begging the question. Or shifting the goalposts. Or a straw man. Anyway, a kind of red herring.

Eebster the Great wrote:Maybe once in a while someone first hears the phrase "beg the question" in philosophy class and then gets genuinely confused when they hear it in ordinary conversation, but the opposite is clearly quite a bit more common. So by your reasoning, it is actually the original meaning that is incorrect, because it can cause confusion with the more popular, better-understood meaning.

I would like to notice that the phrase you hear in a philosophy class is "begging the question", with the gerund; it is unlikely to be heard in "profane" conversations. Still a silly name, but not a reason for confusion.

There are trickier examples, though. For example, the term "alcohol" has completely lost its initial meaning, but still has two different meanings in chemistry and in common use, which should not be confused with each other.

Eebster the Great wrote:
Also, just because a fight will probably be lost doesn't mean it's not worth fighting.

What could possibly be the value of this fight?

Training.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Sableagle » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:45 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
Also, just because a fight will probably be lost doesn't mean it's not worth fighting.

What could possibly be the value of this fight?

If losing or surrendering means they're going to rape you to death, eat your flesh and sew your skins into their clothes, and if you're lucky they'll do it in that order, then a fight you stand a 1% chance of winning beats heck out of surrendering.

If you're outnumbered 50-6 and they're going to massacre you all, taking a few of them with you (and forcing them to keep shooting and finish you off) is the only satisfaction (and the only mercy) you'll find.

Maybe others can draw comfort from knowing that someone at least tried to stand up for them, or find courage in knowing that you at least tried to stand up for yourself.

In the context of linguistic shift, if we can slow the disappearance of the English language as we were taught it we can bring another generation or two the joy of reading all those books written in our English which they would otherwise have found incomprehensible.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:58 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:to know what people are trying to say, but to still be aggravated that they're saying it in this weird, jarring, wrong way.

Did you use that word on purpose? :wink:

I basically agree with you. There's a sliding scale of changing usage:
  • just ignorantly or carelessly using the wrong word (loose instead of lose). Quite a lot of people do it, but those people are (for now) wrong.
  • words that most educated and careful speakers/writers use the traditional way but less careful people sometime use in the new sense (e.g. literally?). These are best avoided because a large proportion of readers/listeners will be irritated and, possibly even confused.
  • words (or phrases) that almost everyone uses in the "new" way and/or that almost nobody uses in the old way, like "begging the question", "due to / owing to". These almost amount to a kind of shibboleth. Most people who know about them learn about them by reading Fowler or some similar grammatical or style guide, rather than by noting the distinction in usage in educated speech and writing.
  • Words which never had the original meaning in the first place, or the "new" meaning is almost as old as the "original" (e.g. acronym).

I think there is a genuine point about misunderstanding. It's true that most of the time, you know what the person means, but on the basis that the average utterance has more listeners than speakers, and all the more so for writers and readers, the onus ought to be on the speaker/writer to make the effort in communicating. It doesn't matter that your listener can probably work out what you mean: using the wrong word adds unnecessary noise to the message. It's particularly important for people for whom language is one of the tools they use more or less directly -- academics, lawyers* etc. -- that words maintain their meanings sufficiently well that they can do their job. But it's not just intellectual snobbery: a builder can't get away with confusing concrete with cement, or nail with screw; it's just that for more rarefied professions, the distinction between infer and imply is just as important in that field of endeavour.

Spoiler:
* Lawyers go too far the other way: words continue to be used with meanings that they haven't had for centuries. I remember being infuriated by my first rental agreement, which talked about conditions under which the contract would "determine": apparently it once meant what we now mean by "terminate".


ETA: TL;DR I think what I'm saying is that at a certain level of intellectual functioning, you get used to the need to pay detailed attention to the exact words somebody is using, in order to extract the full meaning from what they're saying. Using the wrong word or a nonstandard sense of a word in this context is harmful to the communication process, because the listener initially makes the assumption that the speaker is correctly using the word. This mode of listening permits a greater data rate or the transmission of more complex concepts, but at the cost of lower error tolerance.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:28 pm UTC

TheEngineer wrote:Not all changes in usage make language easier to understand. My pet peeve is the mixing of tenses, especially replacing the past or past continuous with the present continuous - "Yesterday I am watching TV and I am seeing ...".

The praesens historicum is literally hundreds of years older than the English language.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Sableagle » Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:34 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
TheEngineer wrote:Not all changes in usage make language easier to understand. My pet peeve is the mixing of tenses, especially replacing the past or past continuous with the present continuous - "Yesterday I am watching TV and I am seeing ...".

The narrative present tense is literally hundreds of years older than the English language.

In Arabic, it gets more mixed up than that: "I live in a big house with my parents, my two sisters and my brother, I sail every weekend in the summer and I was a teenager," the last part in past tense identifying the time at which the earlier parts in present tense were true.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:44 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:structurally "nauseous" seems like it should just mean "pertaining to nausea" without any specific attachment to agent or object

Except, most words that come to mind with the [noun]+ous form do specifically attach to a person or thing, which the adjective asserts has the [noun] in question:
A furious person is full of fury.
A mysterious situation is full of mystery.
A delirious person has delirium.
A dangerous place is full of danger.
A famous person has fame.
Numerous things have (large) numbers.
A nervous person is feeling nerves.

Others may not always identify someone as having a particular English noun, but still often or usually ascribe a quality to a person:
A curious person has curiosity, even though there can also be curious situations.
A religious person has religion, even though there can also be religious tolerance.

Pfhorrest wrote:But each of those examples will have started with someone saying it the now-common incorrect way, and someone else going "huhwha?" at that, because it's weird and confusing and jarring.
I strongly doubt that. If a potentially new usage is always met with confusion, it's not likely to take off. It's the ones whose (novel) meaning can easily be deduced from morphology or context that are more likely to gain new/different meanings.

"Nauseous" came to mean "having or feeling nausea" by analogy with other words formed the same way. "Beg the question" came to mean "ask the question" because people already know what "beg" means. "Could care less" and "literally" came to mean (what some insist is) the "opposite" of what they once did because listeners are generally capable of recognizing things like sarcasm and hyperbole. We understand the difference between "This game is shit" and "This game is the shit" because we're social animals who can usually gauge someone's emotional response to a thing even with no words spoken at all.

In other words, we pick up on novel meanings of old words or phrases the same ways we pick up on meanings of genuinely new words or phrases.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:15 pm UTC

Sure, if a new usage made no sense to anybody, then it wouldn't spread and these arguments wouldn't be happening. But conversely, if nobody found it weird or jarring or confusing, if it just made perfect natural sense to everyone, then these arguments also wouldn't be happening.

For any particular usage, we could argue about whether the new usage really makes sense or is in total error, and the weight of reasons given in those arguments might favor accepting the new usage, sure. My only point is that we can (reasonably) argue about it, and the new usage doesn't just automatically win and anyone who doesn't like it should shut up, because that weight of reasons given in the argument might go the other way too.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:03 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:But conversely, if nobody found it weird or jarring or confusing, if it just made perfect natural sense to everyone, then these arguments also wouldn't be happening.
No, because as we've already established here, most of the examples people argue about aren't actually confusing to anyone any more (even if as you claim they must have been at one time), and yet people still argue.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby SuicideJunkie » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:01 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:In Arabic, it gets more mixed up than that: "I live in a big house with my parents, my two sisters and my brother, I sail every weekend in the summer and I was a teenager," the last part in past tense identifying the time at which the earlier parts in present tense were true.

That sounds like a big confusing ball of wibbly wobbly tense-y whense-y words.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:15 pm UTC

SuicideJunkie wrote:
Sableagle wrote:In Arabic, it gets more mixed up than that: "I live in a big house with my parents, my two sisters and my brother, I sail every weekend in the summer and I was a teenager," the last part in past tense identifying the time at which the earlier parts in present tense were true.

That sounds like a big confusing ball of wibbly wobbly tense-y whense-y words.

It's because they write the other way, right? "A teenager I was, that in the summer every weekend I sail and with my parents(, …) in a big house I live."

:mrgreen:

(So long as the original meanings of words are merely decimated, I don't see a problem!)

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Archgeek » Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:54 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:"Nauseous" came to mean "having or feeling nausea" by analogy with other words formed the same way. "Beg the question" came to mean "ask the question" because people already know what "beg" means. "Could care less" and "literally" came to mean (what some insist is) the "opposite" of what they once did because listeners are generally capable of recognizing things like sarcasm and hyperbole. We understand the difference between "This game is shit" and "This game is the shit" because we're social animals who can usually gauge someone's emotional response to a thing even with no words spoken at all.


Unfortunately, issues arise from some of these nascent shifts which give their detractors a bit of a specific point in each case. "Nauseous"'s common meaning can cause confusion when it collides with the medical definition, which approaches "actively vomiting or dry-heaving". This misalignment of terms can lead to inappropriate treatment, or at least waste time spent asking clarifying questions about the condition of someone whose need of assistance comes down to the order of seconds. "Literally" is a particularly annoying one, considering the word had been used as a flag to indicate when hyperbole, metaphor, and co. were explicitly not being employed. If someone promulgated a sarcastic or ironically reversed usage of a term commonly used in health and safety, they'd be rightly pilloried for it, and possibly arrested for endangering others if it somehow caught on. Also quite unfortunately, we're not so great at gauging emotional responses in a textual medium, and so must rely on things like precision of language and emoticons.
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