Monday, June 2, 2008

on begging the question.

This could have easily been a "link of the day" entry, but I felt the need to distinguish the title so that it's easily identifiable. This is not only one of my biggest pet peeves, but it's something that I dedicate almost an entire day to in my class. I'll tell a little story about this whole thing, but first, peep below:

Anyway, let's tell a little story real quickly about the numerous Philosophy classes that I took in college and how this was an unbelievably huge deal to all of those professors. I didn't get it at first, but then I started watching the news, listening to random conversations, etc. and noticing it even more. It just doesn't make any sense! How could so many people misuse something that was so blatantly wrong?! It's frustrating for a person who knows better to hear something so consistently being used in a poor fashion.

I decided when I became a teacher that I would make sure that I taught my students at least a few of the REALLY important things that didn't seem that important, but really, really, really mattered to the smart people that would inevitably be judging them the minute they tried to say or do anything. I knew there were a few things that I wanted to include (did you know that I didn't know that I was misspelling "definitely" for about the first 23 years of my life? It's very sad to be an English teacher and have to cop to that mistake, but I figure it's better than denying...) but I didn't really know where to start. Then, thanks to my afore-mentioned friend Silensy, I was pointed to a now-non-existent page (the author used to be on a different blog service? I don't know exactly what the deal is with the old one disappearing or this new "Tomato Nation" page, but it's all good with me...) that talked about some of the worst mistakes that one can make in the difficult-to-master English language, especially if you're writing a letter to impress someone with your supposed mastery of said language. I loved it, printed it out immediately, and contacted the author to ask her if I could use it in my classroom. She replied that I could, as long as I properly attributed it to her, and I was pleased to do so.

Now Sil posts an entry, we talk about this long-ago happening for a while, and she informs me that the author wrote a sequel of sorts. I'm psyched to hear this and I look through the sequel, happily, enjoying it (but not as much as the first, I have to be honest) and I realize there's a lot more that I can add to the paper for my kiddos. I also notice that she now says that we can use the paper at will, no attribution needed, and I wonder what I'll do with my pithy attribution paragraph that I give the kiddos with the page. (I'll probably keep it. It's good for them to see that some people still do give credit, even when it's not required.) The sequel, as I've already said, isn't as good. It's got lots of important things, but it's not nearly as funny, nor do I feel that she was really "feeling" it as much as she was last time; it seems more like a list of, "Oh, hey, these are some important things too, but I forgot them last time." And that's not bad, at all. I'm just trying to call it like I see it.

Anyway, there is one part of the list that is terribly important: "That begs the question...are we going to see some rain today? Over to you Mark!" OMG! So wrong. So, so, so, so, so wrong. So unbelievably wrong that I literally cannot believe that this guy explained it so succinctly with dinosaurs!

I love the internet.

*I also do think that the last point made in this comic is seriously worth perusing and it's one that I try to talk to my friends about as often as I can: if we use something in a completely different way than it was originally intended, but literally everyone uses it that way all the time...doesn't that mean that the meaning's changed? I mean, don't words only mean what we want them to mean? When someone says the wrong thing, but means the right thing and we know what they mean, we always say, "No, no worries, I know what you mean." It's meaning that we're after, not necessarily semantics. So, since begs the question is misused by nearly everyone nowadays, doesn't that mean that it actually means what they're misusing it as? This is a super-important question to me...I'll take this up in a lot more detail later.

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