Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

I'm begging everyone to stop begging, or more specifically, to stop *saying* you're begging when you're not.

People love to sound pretentious, and there's really no better way to puff up your side of the debate than by cracking open the textbook from the Introduction to Logic course you took pass/fail as an elective in college and choosing fallacies to accuse the other side of at random. Formal logic is not something the average person is familiar with, so using it can make you sound all smart and confident when conversing with lesser mortals.

Unless of course you are using logic incorrectly in front of people who actually understand it. Then you just look stupid.

This brings us to my second greatest pet peeve (worse than the Alot, but not as bad as "disinterested"): false accusations of question begging.

The logical fallacy of "begging the question," or "petitio principii," as Aristotle would not have said because he did not speak Latin, occurs when a proposition that requires proof is assumed without proof. Basically you're making an argument that X is true, and your argument is that X is true. They often read like the punchline of a racist joke. "Why do Muslims have smelly feet? Because they stink!"

Abusing logic is just so offensive.

The worst question beggars I've come across are the fucking morons who make nature programs. Seriously, just turn on Animal Planet, count to ten, and I guarantee you, by 5-and-a-half you will have seen a question thoroughly begged. I once saw a special on animals with crazy mutations. It was the least informative hour of my life, and that's coming from a proud member of the "I went to a public school, BITCH!" Facebook group. The whole episode basically went like this:

[While showing an awesome video of a two headed snake that I'm too lazy to look up for you guys]

Narrator: Here you see the common garden Snakey Snake. But this specimen has a rare mutation: two completely distinct heads.

Me: Holy shit!

Narrator: Why does this snake have two heads?

Me: I don't know, why? Please tell me!

Narrator: Because it has a condition called Headus Duplicatus, which is Latin for "oh my god this fucker's got two heads!"

Me: FML.

That is definitely in the running for "Most Contentless Statement I Have Ever Heard." You're telling me that this snake has two heads because...it has a condition that gives it two heads? Really? The author of that logical merry-go-round deserves to be sent to the circle of hell where you're eternally eaten by two headed snakes while screaming "Why? Why do they have two heads?!" and then Lucifer says "BECAUSE THEY DO!"

Oh yeah, you begged that question so good.

Anyway, so question begging is really fucking annoying, but not nearly as annoying as when people say "Well, that begs the question blah blah blah." No, people, no it doesn't. What you mean is "That raises the question blah blah blah." When your girlfriend says she wants to go out tonight, that doesn't beg the question "how are we going to get there in this weather?" She's committed no logical fallacy by stating her preference for getting your ass off the goddamn couch, for once. Sure, there are more things to discuss and logistics to figure out before her dream of a glamorous evening at Olive Garden can be made a reality, but that has nothing to do with any begging of questions.

In conclusion, ladies and gents, if a statement has unaddressed implications, by all means address them, but don't go accusing the speaker of a kind of fallacious argumentation so basic, even my chromosomally-challenged cousin would be embarrassed to make it.

Now, if I learned one thing from my German parents, it's that shame is the best motivator for behavioral change. I am therefore introducing the Anti-Question Begging Wall of Shame, to be maintained here and updated whenever I feel like it. It's a bit short right now because I only recently started tracking these errors instead of psychologically repressing them, but I'm sure it will grow and flourish in no time. Without further ado:

The Anti-Question Begging Wall of Shame
The following individuals have issued false accusations of question begging. Whether from ignorance or sloth, we cannot say. Either way, the management encourages them to pick up a bloody dictionary (and hit themselves over the head with it.)

My boss, July 29, 2011 for the gazillionth time.
I'm just going to stop counting now.

Gladston, for his July 6, 2011 article for Cracked.com titled
"3 Reasons There Are So Many Jews In Comedy"
Though it's comforting to know that you also find the rules of capitalization in titles a challenge.

Simon Bower and Eddie Rodriguez, for their May 19, 2011 article for Cracked.com titled
"The 7 Most Ridiculous Cases of Misplaced Priorities"
Perhaps next time you could write an article called
"The 7 Phrases Most Misused in an Effort to Sound Smarter than You Actually Are."

Tad Quill, for Scrubs, Season 5, Episode 13 "My Five Stages"
Out of fairness, I acknowledge that much of this show is ad lib.
I know better than to expect actors to know their fallacies.

Jon Robin Baitz and Jennifer Cecil, for Brothers & Sisters, Season 2, Episode 3 "History Repeating"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but command of the English language is, like, your job, right?

CommonSense.org, for their 2011 "Power to the Parent" Hulu commercial
Next time you spend $40 million on a commercial, at least spend some of it
on a writer who understands and properly applies the concepts he's using.

Meredith G., for her October 11, 2010 Yelp! review for ABC Cleaners
I'm much more sorry for your poor command of the English language than for your missing belt.

Ed Cline, for his February 3, 2011 article "A Qualified Victory for the Framers"
Dude, I had to call you on it. Your use of language usually boasts a precision
comparable to the best of the best, but this was not up to par.

My Boss, for her March 11, 2011 double-whammy of back-to-back verbal misuse of the term
The good news is, I'm pretty sure our clients don't know what it means either. 

 My Boss again, for her March 16, 2011 email
I'm starting to think you and I need to have a chat about this.

 Have you caught someone misusing this concept? Submit your evidence and win a prize!

Step one toward global peace and harmony is consistent and accurate use of language. Don't stand in the way of progress. Just take a little time out of your life to learn what you're actually saying, and make the effort to say what you mean. Else I will mock you relentlessly, yo. 

Peace out,

S. Misanthrope 

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