2039: "Begging the Question"

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Sableagle » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:23 pm UTC

Alternatively:

A: "Dude, last time someone tried to set up a government based on that ideology, millions of people died, a large part of Dresden got burned to cinders, vast amounts of resources got burned up or sent to the bottom of the ocean, two million women got raped and the infant mortality rate hit 90 percent. Quite apart from emulating an ideology almost universally condemned as being exclusively held by arseholes, you're proposing a course of action with a history of being disastrous."

B: "The Clintons killed people to cover up Bill Clinton's rapes."

A: "The fuck?!? One, if that was one percent as well-docum-"

B: "See? You're defending him! You're defending a rapist."

A: "Dude, Forget Bill Clinton. You were propos-"

B: "Oh, so it's alright when your guy does it, is it?"

A: "He ain't my guy. I never voted for him. I'm just saying that trying to actually be the second comin-"

B: "You've got no moral high ground to stand on if you don't condemn the Clintons for killing witnesses to cover up their rapes."

A: "You know what? FINE! Fine. I disapprove of the killing of witnesses to cover up rapes, no matter who did the raping, who did the witnessing or who did the killing. Kind of the definition of a liberal, there, not giving a fuck what nationality the criminal or victim has. Now, about your proposal to massacre millions of inn-"

B: "What about Obama? He was a fucking MUSLIM! A Muslim in the White House!"

A: "Oh, jesus fucking christ on a lemon-yellow pogo-stick."

B: "See? You've got no come-back!"
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:12 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:"Oh, jesus fucking christ on a lemon-yellow pogo-stick."

I am so keeping that one up my sleeve for the next team meeting.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Old Bruce » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:31 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Sableagle wrote:"Oh, jesus fucking christ on a lemon-yellow pogo-stick."

I am so keeping that one up my sleeve for the next team meeting.

I have it on good authority that if you put an "H." between the "jesus" and the "fucking" then you can't be accused of blasphemy. [trust-me emoticon] I have been doing that for years and not once have I been convicted. [sly-wink-and-nod emoticon.]

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby chridd » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:17 am UTC

hjordis wrote:
chridd wrote:
Archgeek wrote:"Nauseous"'s common meaning can cause confusion when it collides with the medical definition, which approaches "actively vomiting or dry-heaving".
…so what exactly is going on with the word "nauseous"/"nausea" here?  At one point a long time ago I thought it meant "sick to one's stomach", but then I saw it defined as something like "a feeling one is about to throw up", which seems less useful

I'm not sure these are entirely different things? When I'm "sick to my stomach" I feel like I want to throw up. Whether or not I actually throw up is just a matter of how sick to my stomach I am. Well, personally I only throw up when I have a bad cough or that one time I had the stomach flu. I think it's been years. But I do *feel* like I might throw up often enough and describe it as nausea. I probably wouldn't always describe it as sick to my stomach, because I tend to reserve that for when I have something contagious and maybe food poisoning (I'm more often nauseous due to cramps or overexertion or slightly overeating), but I think that might be a quirk of mine that doesn't reflect general usage.
It's possible I'm misremembering or that I misinterpreted, but the definition that made me doubt my understanding of the word seemed to me to imply that it referred to the feeling right before one throws up, rather than the more common "Maybe I'll throw up at some point later today, maybe not" feeling (or "This is the same as the feeling when I'm sick, but since it's so weak I'm probably not going to actually throw up"). And if I'm about to throw up, there's not really time to think about what I'm feeling; I'm too busy getting to the bathroom or getting a thing to barf into, and then actually throwing up.

I don't think there's ever a time when I want to throw up (it's more like a warning than a desire). My body just does it on its own, I don't have much control over when it does it; and if I'm feeling sick enough, I'm generally trying to find a way to prevent myself from throwing up (since I find throwing up unpleasant). It's not like, say, going to the bathroom, where my body tells me it needs to go and then I can decide to hold it until a more convenient time. Is this different for other people, and maybe that's the source of the confusion?
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:53 am UTC

for me i find the act of throwing up unpleasant and so don't 'want to' but i sometimes feel like my body is going to anyway, and i can to a limited extent repress that action of my body, which i would describe as 'wanting to throw up'. it's a case of not having words to describe separate aspects of oneself; 'i', the part of my body that would be directing me to throw up if 'i' the executive functions of my brain weren't barely suppressing it, 'want' to throw up, inasmuch as 'i'-that-part-of-my-body is 'trying to' against 'my'-the-executive-functions resistance.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:14 am UTC

Y'all are apparently strangers to the concept of the tactical chunder. Perhaps not a case so much of wanting to, but certainly of choosing to...
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Keyman » Wed Sep 05, 2018 2:23 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:I see some arguments online consist solely of trying to name the fallacies used by the opponent and suggesting they "look it up."
Nah, that's just the fallacy of nomen nomina. Check it out - it's a thing. Don't feel bad; lots of people fall for it.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:31 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:I would also like to know when Corporate Buzzwordish and Ebonics collided. Using "ask" as a synonym for "request": "My ask is that you reach out to the customer by Friday."


ucim wrote:
Mikeski wrote: Using "ask" as a synonym for "request"
Or worse, using "aks".


Here come the racists, right on cue...

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:32 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote: I have found myself identifying non-native English-speakers by their flawless use of English about as often as I have been able to identify a native speaker of a Germanic of Slavic language by distinctive grammar slipping through into their English.


Honestly, the moment when you finally figure out why these things slip through might be the most fun part of learning a language :)

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:33 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:The Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition offers a decent definition of "nausea" (actually its second definition):
2. a nursing diagnosis accepted by the North American Nursi


For medical contexts, sure.

Colloquial contexts are different.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:35 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Actually, the obsession with named logical fallacies is way more troubling than any particular linguistic pet peeve. I see some arguments online consist solely of trying to name the fallacies used by the opponent and suggesting they "look it up."


TAECFT!

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:33 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:
Sableagle wrote: I have found myself identifying non-native English-speakers by their flawless use of English about as often as I have been able to identify a native speaker of a Germanic of Slavic language by distinctive grammar slipping through into their English.


Honestly, the moment when you finally figure out why these things slip through might be the most fun part of learning a language :)

The next stage is when you come to the conclusion that the grammatical construction that they're using really ought to exist in English, and start feeling the urge to use it yourself, despite that you know it's incorrect.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:43 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Euphonium wrote:
Sableagle wrote: I have found myself identifying non-native English-speakers by their flawless use of English about as often as I have been able to identify a native speaker of a Germanic of Slavic language by distinctive grammar slipping through into their English.


Honestly, the moment when you finally figure out why these things slip through might be the most fun part of learning a language :)

The next stage is when you come to the conclusion that the grammatical construction that they're using really ought to exist in English, and start feeling the urge to use it yourself, despite that you know it's incorrect.


Remember, we're talking about English - the language that's known for pursuing other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. Adopting new idioms is a national tradition.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Old Bruce » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:03 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
orthogon wrote:
Euphonium wrote:
Sableagle wrote: I have found myself identifying non-native English-speakers by their flawless use of English about as often as I have been able to identify a native speaker of a Germanic of Slavic language by distinctive grammar slipping through into their English.


Honestly, the moment when you finally figure out why these things slip through might be the most fun part of learning a language :)

The next stage is when you come to the conclusion that the grammatical construction that they're using really ought to exist in English, and start feeling the urge to use it yourself, despite that you know it's incorrect.


Remember, we're talking about English - the language that's known for pursuing other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. Adopting new idioms is a national tradition.

I would have to supply and/or explain idiomatic English to my coworkers.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Sep 06, 2018 3:33 am UTC

Euphonium wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:The Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition offers a decent definition of "nausea" (actually its second definition):
2. a nursing diagnosis accepted by the North American Nursi


For medical contexts, sure.

Colloquial contexts are different.

Not sure why you cut it off, but the definition fits the colloquial one pretty closely. Anyway, I was responding to the claim earlier that in medical usage, it referred to a state of severe nausea and vomiting exclusively.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby ucim » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:02 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:Here come the racists, right on cue...
Huh? "Aks" is right next to "nukular" and "acrost", and arguably, "butterfly" (which used to be "flutterby"). What does this have to do with race?

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby chenille » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:30 pm UTC

ucim wrote:and arguably, "butterfly" (which used to be "flutterby").

Metathesis is nothing new and gave us words like bird, but while people sometimes assume this is an example, Old English butorflēoge doesn't seem to play so well with the idea.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:19 pm UTC

Isn't "flutterby" the group noun for butterflies? Like "a murder of crows"; a flutterby of butterflies.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:41 pm UTC

chenille wrote:
ucim wrote:and arguably, "butterfly" (which used to be "flutterby").

Metathesis is nothing new and gave us words like bird, but while people sometimes assume this is an example, Old English butorflēoge doesn't seem to play so well with the idea.

Also, The Great Wiki article on metathesis suggests that "aks" itself might be the earlier form, and "ask" the metathetical corruption of it...
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby xtifr » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:50 pm UTC

Vroomfundel wrote:
xtifr wrote:
ancientt wrote:This phrase drives me a little bonkers. It isn't that someone is using it wrong that bothers me. What bothers me is that when I hear someone use it incorrectly, I instantly think them a little less intelligent.


Interesting. In my case, it's a complaint about the supposed "misuse" that make me think someone is a little less intelligent than I might otherwise have thought them.

To each their own, I suppose. ;)


Stubborn, unreasonable, misguided, maybe even contemptible - but less intelligent? That's an odd criterion to use to appraise people's intelligence.


Seems perfectly reasonable to me--when someone claims knowledge of the jargon of logical fallacies, but is clearly falling prey to the etymological fallacy, that's not exactly a sign of genius.

I don't so much mind the folks who claim that the new usage is a synonym for "raises the question". That's wrong, but it merely shows a tin ear for language and nuance. Not actual stupidity, like the people who claim the new usage is "wrong".
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:17 pm UTC

xtifr wrote:I don't so much mind the folks who claim that the new usage is a synonym for "raises the question". That's wrong, but it merely shows a tin ear for language and nuance. Not actual stupidity, like the people who claim the new usage is "wrong".

Are you saying it's not a perfect synonym, or that it means something significantly different? To me, "begs" seems more intense than "raises": the question is crying out to be asked, but it means essentially the same thing.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:49 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
Euphonium wrote:Here come the racists, right on cue...
Huh? "Aks" is right next to "nukular" and "acrost", and arguably, "butterfly" (which used to be "flutterby"). What does this have to do with race?

"Aks" (or "ax") is an extremely notable feature of AAVE, even though it's never been exclusive to that dialect.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:08 pm UTC

"Etymological fallacy" is a bullshit term. There's no failure of reasoning involved in committing it, it's just an appeal to something that whoever coined that term doesn't think matters, and disagreeing that it does matter is not a failure of reasoning.

It's be like if there was a "hedonic fallacy", which is the fallacy is claiming that something is morally wrong because it hurts someone. To call that a fallacy is just to reject the claim that hurting someone is morally wrong, and to "commit that fallacy" is just to disagree and say that hurting someone is morally wrong.

"Fallacy" doesn't just mean "viewpoint I disagree with".
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:26 pm UTC

(Aks/ax.)

Over here where African Americans aren't American, it's an affected/afflicted 'urban' (as in inner-city estates) accent that tends to cross the ethnic divides even onto other immigrant groups¹ (so that it probably has bounced back and forth a few times already), though used/taken as a marker of class.

The South London (and similar) "arks" is probably a little different from the "axe" from across the Atlantic, in my estimation, and doesn't imply an obvious ebonics/AAVE speaker behind the voice. In fact, the faces that you think might fit are more likely to be speaking with full Jamaican twang or something like an original Nigerian(/<insert other African country here>) character until they start to affect the generalised 'street' accent of their particular postcode, with chances of "ask" or "aks".


¹ Though I'm not sure how much it actually popped up in People Just Do Nothing, the characters (and cast) are (all?) non-African. Then there's the Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ali "Is it because I is black?" G).

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:43 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
"Etymological fallacy" is a bullshit term. There's no failure of reasoning involved in committing it, it's just an appeal to something that whoever coined that term doesn't think matters, and disagreeing that it does matter is not a failure of reasoning.
You can whine about short-term changes all you want, but the fact is that all language *does* change, and so it *is* an error in reasoning when someone chooses to ignore that fact and claim that a historical meaning is necessarily the "true" or current and correct one simply by virtue of being the historical one.

It (and the more general genetic fallacy of which it's a type) is an informal fallacy, but it's still a fallacy just as much as the rest of the informal ones.

(And the "hedonic fallacy" isn't its own fallacy simply because it's not common enough to get a name. Until then, that hypothetical line of reasoning is just an example of, you guessed it, begging the question.)
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Euphonium » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:00 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:"Etymological fallacy" is a bullshit term. There's no failure of reasoning involved in committing it, it's just an appeal to something that whoever coined that term doesn't think matters, and disagreeing that it does matter is not a failure of reasoning.


Actually, ignoring reality or pretending that it's not important very much is a failure of reasoning.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:18 am UTC

Yeah the article is a mess, and it isn't clear to me why it needs to be set apart from the article on the genetic fallacy, but it is clear to me that the "etymological fallacy" as described is definitely a genetic fallacy. What a word means to a population of speakers is a matter of fact, not opinion, and cannot be determined by looking at historical usage.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Quercus » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:41 am UTC

Are begging the question (in its sense as an informal fallacy) and circular reasoning identical? In particular, are there any forms of circular reasoning that don't take the form of premises (directly or indirectly) assuming the truth of the conclusions they are used to support? I feel like there might be, but for the life of me I can't come up with any examples.

If circular reasoning and begging the question are identical then there is no loss of expressiveness involved in begging the question's shift in meaning, especially as circular reasoning seems like a much clearer term.

Edit: even if circular reasoning is not identical, "assuming the consequent" is a great alternative to "begging the question".

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:45 am UTC

"Assuming the consequent" is a formal fallacy. It is a syllogism of the form "If A then B, B, therefore A" or "All A are B, P is B, therefore P is A." That's not what's going on in the informal fallacy of begging the question.

When begging the question, you make an argument that rests on a premise that is weaker than the conclusion and not accepted by the (real or hypothetical) person with whom you are arguing. We say you have "smuggled the conclusion into the premise." It is only an informal fallacy, not a formal fallacy. For instance, the argument "all Ohioans are good people, I am an Ohioan, therefore I am a good person" is formally valid, even though it would never convince anyone that I was good, because by the nature of them objecting to me being good, they already obviously object to the claim that all Ohioans are good.

Circular reasoning is similar, but not exactly the same. It is the formal fallacy of the form "If A then B, if B then A, therefore A and B." For instance, "If I were a good person, then I would never lie. And if I never lie, then I must be a good person. Therefore I am a good person and never lie." It's a pretty crappy argument when laid out like that.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Quercus » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:08 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:"Assuming the consequent" is a formal fallacy. It is a syllogism of the form "If A then B, B, therefore A" or "All A are B, P is B, therefore P is A." That's not what's going on in the informal fallacy of begging the question.

When begging the question, you make an argument that rests on a premise that is weaker than the conclusion and not accepted by the (real or hypothetical) person with whom you are arguing. We say you have "smuggled the conclusion into the premise." It is only an informal fallacy, not a formal fallacy. For instance, the argument "all Ohioans are good people, I am an Ohioan, therefore I am a good person" is formally valid, even though it would never convince anyone that I was good, because by the nature of them objecting to me being good, they already obviously object to the claim that all Ohioans are good.

Circular reasoning is similar, but not exactly the same. It is the formal fallacy of the form "If A then B, if B then A, therefore A and B." For instance, "If I were a good person, then I would never lie. And if I never lie, then I must be a good person. Therefore I am a good person and never lie." It's a pretty crappy argument when laid out like that.


Thanks for the clarifications. Though it now leaves me annoyed that we are indeed losing a convenient way to refer to that particular informal fallacy.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:01 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:"Assuming the consequent" is a formal fallacy. It is a syllogism of the form "If A then B, B, therefore A" or "All A are B, P is B, therefore P is A." That's not what's going on in the informal fallacy of begging the question.

That's bizarre: I could have sworn that I'd seen "assuming the consequent" proposed as a synonym for "begging the question", even right in the Wikipedia article, but of course now all the search results give this formal fallacy. Did both Quercus and I hallucinate the same thing?
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby katriel » Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:56 am UTC

chridd wrote:I don't think there's ever a time when I want to throw up (it's more like a warning than a desire). My body just does it on its own, I don't have much control over when it does it; and if I'm feeling sick enough, I'm generally trying to find a way to prevent myself from throwing up (since I find throwing up unpleasant). It's not like, say, going to the bathroom, where my body tells me it needs to go and then I can decide to hold it until a more convenient time. Is this different for other people, and maybe that's the source of the confusion?


For me, throwing up may be unpleasant, but it also provides instant relief from the feeling of "being about to throw up" (nausea, I guess?). This is why in prolonged nausea (early pregnancy comes to mind) I sometimes do actively want to throw up. And I kind of always assumed it works like this for everybody, so I'm surprised by your trying to prevent it.

(Besides: hi everybody! When I'd registered to the forum to take part in a particular discussion and then changed my mind, so I got left with a ready to use but never actually used account, I never thought I would start my active forum life with a post about vomiting. Oh well.)

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Vroomfundel » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:47 am UTC

xtifr wrote:Seems perfectly reasonable to me--when someone claims knowledge of the jargon of logical fallacies, but is clearly falling prey to the etymological fallacy, that's not exactly a sign of genius.

I don't so much mind the folks who claim that the new usage is a synonym for "raises the question". That's wrong, but it merely shows a tin ear for language and nuance. Not actual stupidity, like the people who claim the new usage is "wrong".


There are two things I disagree with here.

Claiming the new usage is wrong is not necessarily a manifestation of the etymological fallacy; it may be based on unrepresentative sample i.e. you deal mostly with people who use the traditional meaning, therefore assume the new one to be wrong, even though it might turn out that the populate at large has switched to the new meaning. It's a stretch to infer low intelligence from lack of knowledge of detailed statistics of word use. Further, in a particular context it might actually be wrong - there is a difference between coloquial and technical usage.

Also, in many cases the new meaning is technically wrong, even if used by the majority of the population - it might be used by the majority of the population but OED (or some context-specific authority) still lists the old meaning. Yes, even if everyone understands you - the usage might still be wrong. Language changes, that's true, but there are still rules you are not supposed to break in formal context. If a someone objects to a particular usage that hasn't made it into the rulebooks yet I'd call them pedantic, not stupid.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:11 am UTC

Dictionaries are not rulebooks; they just document actual usage. But of course it is true that formal English is much more restrictive than informal English, and a construction that makes sense in conversation might be inappropriate or even incomprehensible in a formal context.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby orthogon » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:45 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Dictionaries are not rulebooks; they just document actual usage.

That depends on the dictionary; some, including in particular
Vroomfundel wrote:[the] OED
take a rigorously descriptivist approach. Others such as the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language are more prescriptivist in nature. But even that dictionary takes into account their Usage Panel, so is somewhat descriptivist, albeit of the language of a particular subculture and register of writing. But the panel reports on how they think the word ought to be used, which is not necessarily even how they use it themselves. (Pinker's A Sense of Style opens with many examples of style-guide writers who break their own "rules" frequently right in the guide itself).
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:30 am UTC

The AHD never struck me as prescriptivist, but then the one I had growing up was probably a later edition (likely late 80s or early 90s). There was a lengthy explanation in the front matter about how at least in the case of pronunciations, no complete list was possible, and the first pronunciation listed was not more correct than any other. I do remember a usage panel, but it always had usage recommendations, not judgments of correctness, and low prestige senses were just called "nonstandard."

In any case, sure, there are dictionaries out there that are totally prescriptivist. The Scrabble dictionary, for instance, is really a big rulebook in disguise (at least when it comes to spelling). Publishers may have their own style guides, which lay out the rules that publisher enforces. And a variety of other technical situations require prescriptive rules, like military jargon or mathematics. If someone says a sequence "converges to infinity," they are definitely using one of those words wrong in its technical sense. But how can a dictionary of the entire English language purport to give explicit rules for what is right and what is wrong? What authority would it rely on to make those distinctions?

E: It looks like the AHD's usage panel is now chaired by Steven Pinker, so I think it is safe to say that the panelists do not all feel that their votes are deciding prescriptive truths.

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby xtifr » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:25 am UTC

Vroomfundel wrote:Claiming the new usage is wrong is not necessarily a manifestation of the etymological fallacy; it may be based on unrepresentative sample i.e. you deal mostly with people who use the traditional meaning, therefore assume the new one to be wrong, even though it might turn out that the populate at large has switched to the new meaning.

No, I'm sorry. If you are so out-of-touch with colloquial English that you're unfamiliar with such a common phrase, you're in no position to assume that an unfamiliar-to-you usage is wrong.

I could easily understand being confused by the newer version, if you've been living under a barrel for the last three decades (or if you're an ESL speaker with only moderate fluency), but leaping to a diagnosis of "it's wrong"? Nope, that can only be caused by stupidity. Arrogant stupidity, which is one of the worst flavors.

Also, in many cases the new meaning is technically wrong, even if used by the majority of the population - it might be used by the majority of the population but OED (or some context-specific authority) still lists the old meaning.


Being informal or colloquial is not the same as being "wrong". Heck, speaking a low-prestige dialect is not the same thing as being wrong. (In some cases, it may be exactly the right thing to do! Finding yourself in a dive in the wrong part of town, for example.) Such things are not "technically wrong". They may be informal, or colloquial, or part of a low-prestige dialect, but that's not the same as wrong, despite what some arrogantly stupid people might like to believe.

Yes, if you're writing or speaking formally, it's good to use formal language. And mixing in colloquialisms would be an error. But that doesn't mean that colloquialisms are wrong. The error is in the inappropriate mixing of contexts.

And in this case, the usage has gone far beyond informal or colloquial. It's not a phrase I personally use*, but I encounter it in formal and high-prestige contexts surprisingly often these days.

I'm going to stick with my "if you call it wrong, it's going to lower my estimate of your intelligence", thanks.

* As far as the logical fallacy goes, I prefer to call it "petitio principii". We have plenty of fallacies which use Latin monikers; one more won't hurt anyone. And the phrase "beg the question" is a blind-idiot mistranslation which, IMO, should be allowed to die a merciful death.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby sonar1313 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:13 pm UTC

Sableagle wrote:On other fora, I have found myself identifying non-native English-speakers by their flawless use of English about as often as I have been able to identify a native speaker of a Germanic of Slavic language by distinctive grammar slipping through into their English.

Aha. Sableagle is none other than Zoltan Karpathy!

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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:45 am UTC

Vroomfundel wrote: Also, in many cases the new meaning is technically wrong, even if used by the majority of the population - it might be used by the majority of the population but OED (or some context-specific authority) still lists the old meaning. Yes, even if everyone understands you - the usage might still be wrong. Language changes, that's true, but there are still rules you are not supposed to break in formal context. If a someone objects to a particular usage that hasn't made it into the rulebooks yet I'd call them pedantic, not stupid.

If a dictionary is out of touch with usage, it's the dictionary that's wrong. If a dictionary purports to be a rulebook for how the language works (in general, not just in specific contexts), it's the dictionary that's wrong.

Even if you restrict discussion to formal contexts, English changes as people use it and a dictionary can be wrong if it doesn't accurately reflect that usage.
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Re: 2039: "Begging the Question"

Postby xtifr » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:51 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If a dictionary is out of touch with usage, it's the dictionary that's wrong.

That's a bit harsh. True, but harsh. Lexicographers will freely admit that they can only try to keep up with changing language--especially for a language as widespread and dynamic as English. It's not an easy job. And it really shouldn't be a surprise that they can't properly document every bit of it. Even for formal English. Heck, we don't yet have a 100% understanding of English grammar, let alone vocabulary.

I read a paper recently on noun-preposition-noun phrases (NPN), like "day by day" or "mile after mile". There are clearly rules for such constructions, but we're still not entirely sure what those rules are. Let alone why. Adjectives have to go before the second noun ("mile after endless mile"), but we don't know why. And we don't know why some prepositions work with such phrases while others don't. Yet somehow, despite the fact that nobody is quite sure what the rules are, native speakers seem to be able to follow those rules fairly effortlessly. The brain is an amazing device!

So let's not blame the dictionaries or their creators for doing a less-than-perfect job of a frankly impossible task. Stop treating them as infallible, yes, but don't blame them for their imperfections either.
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