Friday, March 14, 2008

Question Begging, Et Alii

Twice today I have heard abuse of the phrase, "It begs the question . . . "


Misuse of that phrase is a pet target of my uptight side, right up there with hearing "milk" pronounced as "melk" and "height" as "heighth," as well as overuse of the semi-colon and legal latin, conjunctive use of "thus," use of "complicated" in place of "complex," "creative" instead of "imaginative" and . . . well, the list is long and admittedly arbitrary. (And all that stuff is probably only marginally more irritating than hearing someone gripe about grammar.)

I'll spare you exposition of my personal quirks, and instead open the forum for what may be important to only the very dorky and uncool (like me): if you were grammar police for a day, were where would you strike first?



Blogger Armen said...

It's pleaded, a$$hole. Don't think I've forgiven you for that one. "Begging the question" used to be one of my big ones, but I think "methodology" has replaced it.

I think LRW/WOA should require the following (instead of the User's Guide to the Bluebook).

a) George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," (1946).

b) Strunk and White, Elements of Style.

c) Paul Brians, Common Errors in English

If you are a law student or a lawyer and have not read all three of these, take a weekend to become a better writer. It's much better than the crap by Brian Garner re a deep-tissue statement, or so I recall.

3/14/2008 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One really common mispronunciation is "et cetera." It's not "ex cetera." All of my professors have made this error.

3/14/2008 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...




what's the problem with imaginative and creative?

3/14/2008 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

affect/effect is another common one.

3/14/2008 1:15 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I don't know the other two, but Strunk and White's style book is an all time favorite. Used book stores almost always have copies for a dollar or two. I used to stock up just to give them away. Then I realized there were ways to be presumptuous and overbearing without wasting my money.

Creative/Imaginative: one word is hackneyed and overused and the other isn't.

Everyone wishes they were creative. But it is so overused that it no longer means anything.

"She is so creative."

What on earth does that sentence mean? What on earth is "she" like?

Please, say "imaginative," or "original," or "clever," or "inventive" or whatever it is you are trying to get across. But creative? Blech.

3/14/2008 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 49ers event post is blowing up again.

3/14/2008 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

methodology . . . because method isn't a science?

how does that make you feel about the word scientology?

3/14/2008 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pled, Armen, pled! Pled pled pled!

Bad Armen! Bad!

*shakes rolled newspaper at Armen*

3/14/2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Just don't bring out Mr. Hoover.

3/14/2008 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

passive voice in general.

"the fact that"

"genuine issue of material fact" boy oh boy. spare me the drama! someone really needs to something about rule 56.

3/14/2008 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free advice: use "pleaded."

Despite being "incorrect," "pled" and "plead" have gained some standing in American English. In the U.S., "pleaded" and "pled" are both acceptable for the past tense and past participle. In the U.K., only "pleaded" is used, and "pled" is considered an Americanism. The non-U.K. forms are not "correct" usage, but American lawyers and courts still use them.

I clerked in CA, and the only thing about a self-styled "barrister" that impressed our judge was that he correctly used past tense and past participle forms of plead.

Armen's list is good 'til (c). Instead of Brians, tho', put Garner, A DICTIONARY OF MODERN AMERICAN USAGE. If you write legal crap for a living, or even if you're just interested in the English language, you'd do well to have a copy computer- or even bed-side.

3/14/2008 11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Make no mistake."

Oh really? Because I was planning to. Make a mistake, that is. But now that you've warned me I'll be extra special careful not to, you condescending asshole.

3/15/2008 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick - I LOVE you (I do). But your use of the term "hat tip" is incorrect. A hat tip is an acknowledgement to someone (or a website) for bringing something to your attention.

3/15/2008 9:16 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...


Now you tell me.


What's the better term?

3/15/2008 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"shiny gold stars" works

3/15/2008 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two:

1. I hate when people use adjectives when they should be using adverbs. A missing "ly" makes me cringe. For example, "I have a real bad cold." or "They were walking so slow."

2. I hate the use of "you and I" after a preposition. I think kids get yelled at for saying "me and X" so much that the word "me" almost becomes a bad word. "They went to the movies with Bill and I" is NOT right! Grrr.

3/15/2008 3:32 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Okay. Shiny Gold Stars it is.

3/15/2008 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share 3:32's aversion to "I" as an object pronoun. Politicians particularly seem prone to fuck up on the side of "I" instead of the grammatically correct "me." As much as I enjoy hearing polis paint themselves dumb, this error still grates on my nerves like fingernails across a chalkboard, particularly since they're trying to sound posh but flailing before those who're educated enough to know the rule.

I don't share 3:32's aversion to adj instead of adv. A lot of mixing that up is regional and dialectal. I find many of the regional dialects that freely sub adj for adv real(ly) charming.

And now, not my own peeve, but my judge's: No split infinitives in any court orders. Attorneys who split infinitives are idiots, he believes fervently. A bit uptight, given OED now deems splits acceptable, but it all goes to show ya gotta KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

3/16/2008 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another one that should be required reading: "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser. Simple writing = powerful writing.

It bothers me when people say "ironic" when they really mean "strange occurrence" or "a coincidence."

Also "Expresso." Arg!!!

3/17/2008 8:37 PM  
Blogger Jesse James said...

"if you were grammar police for a day, were would you strike first?"

Patrick, maybe you need spelling police instead. :- )

3/18/2008 11:16 AM  
Anonymous notaboaltie said...

"i could care less." drives me absolutely batty.

3/18/2008 8:31 PM  

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