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Re: Begging the question

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 14, 2004

In Reply to: Begging the question posted by Henry on June 14, 2004

: : : : does anyone know the definitions for these idioms beg the question, de rigeur, halcyon days, raison d'etre, warp and woof???????????????????????? I would really appreciate any help anyone has thanks so much.

: : : I'm going to give the other phrase-finders a wonderful opportunity to correct me, and you an opportunity to look these up. To beg the question is so to phrase the question as to include or indicate the correct or desired answer. It does NOT mean "raise the question." It is rarely used correctly, and if you DO use it correctly no one will understand you. De rigueur: straight from the French, means necessary, mandatory, either in fact or in effect. It can be applied, for instance, to clothing, as in, sloppy jeans were de rigueur in those days. Or plaid skirts were de rigueur, on the sisters' say-so. Halcyon days are from Greek mythology; halcyon refers to the kingfisher. Halcyon days are serene, sunny days, really good days. One can use the phrase figuratively, as in the halcyon days of my youth (if that's what they were). Raison d'etre, again, straight from the French, reason for being, reason for existence. The whole raison d'etre of this organization is to promote space exploration. Warp and woof: on a loom the warp goes one way, the woof the other. Figuratively, if you have something that permeates the warp and woof of some medium, it means that the whole fabric shows it or is involved, since woven fabric has only the threads of the warp and the woof. Now look these things up and see whether I'm right or wrong or just unintelligible. SS

: : Isn't it 'warp' and 'weft'?

: Weft and woof are synonyms.

: I couldn't comment further without reference to Fowler. He says that begging the question is the fallacy of founding a conclusion on a basis that as much needs to be proved as the conclusion itself. Arguing in a circle is a common variety. He offers two other examples;
: Capital punishment is necessary because without it murders would increase.
: Democracy must be the best form of government because the majority are always right.
: Today, it is a phrase which is used by writers intending other meanings and is also interpreted in a number of ways by readers.
: Fowler describes a leading question as a friendly one, so phrased as to guide or lead the person questioned to the answer that it is desirable for him to make, but that he might not think of making or be able to make without help.

Thanks, Henry, for making clearer what I can never phrase in a manner that doesn't seem incomprehensible even to myself. (I answered from the top of my head, always risky.) Fowler goes a little further than I would about "friendly" questions, although he may just use "friendly" here just to mean tendentious. His examples seem a little transparent. So I looked up the phrase in the OED: "to take for granted the matter in dispute, to assume without proof." Seems so simple; why is it so often misunderstood? And they give, among other quotations, this: "Begging the question is when the thing to be proved is assume in the premises." Although begged questions seem always to be part of a circular argument, I'm not sure if it works the other way around. Circular arguments are everywhere. Every ethical argument, for instance, eventually becomes circular--unless, of course, I'm the one arguing. Or as Lotg would say, "heh heh." SS
As to "warp and woof": the MWOD has: "FOUNDATION, BASE the vigorous Anglo-Saxon base had become the warp and woof of English speech." On hand looms which I have seen, vertical threads are warp, woof, or weft, created by shuttle passing through is horizontal. SS>