The segment was really short– less than five minutes, I think? I was so nervous I’m not even sure of the time! (Plus I was tired, since I was up half the night coughing.)
Sadly, I didn’t get to discuss anything else grammar-related, only “begs the question.” (Sorry to all who sent me their pet peeves and questions– especially those from the AbsoluteWrite forums!)
Since “begs the question” is basically circular reasoning related to logic, I found it difficult to explain. Logic and I don’t get along very well. It’s one of those things you just know is wrong, but the more you try to explain it the more confusing it is. I didn’t get to add my last (and easiest!) explanation, but oh well. They obviously did their research, too, probably just in case I confuzzled everyone!
I’m the type of person who just knows something is wrong, but finds it’s not always easy to explain. I’m not the best at definitions or even giving examples– especially on the spot on the radio, not to mention early in the morning!
Ask me about nauseous/nauseated, less/fewer, who/that, that/which, lay/lie, its/it’s, and the correct use of apostrophes and general punctuation anytime—therein lies my specialty. I get lost in logic. It’s easier for me to edit on paper than on the air.
So, if my explanation confused anyone even more, check out this great example and explanation that I probably should have included in the segment!
Update: Roger J. Carlson at AbsoluteWrite thought I “did a terrific job explaining something really complicated in a short time.” Thanks, Roger! That makes me feel better. 🙂
From Jenna Glatzer’s book, Words You Thought You Knew:
Here’s one of the most misused phrases of all time, and I vote that we ban this expression altogether, because even if you use it correctly, most people won’t know what you mean. Journalists often say that something begs the question when they mean that there’s a question begging to be asked. A celebrity says, “I’m seriously involved with someone,” and a journalist says, “Well, that just begs the question—are you engaged?” Wrong. To beg the question is to offer as proof something that itself hasn’t been proved; for example, “Women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because men are better decision-makers.” It may also use the original thing that needs to be proved as part (or all) of the argument: “Tall people are smarter because you have to be intelligent to be tall” is begging the question.
Now I’m off to make some tea to soothe my sore throat. I’m surprised I have any voice left since I was up coughing half the night, but I tried not to cough on the air. I think I’m getting a cold. Oh, and if you listen closely I think you can hear my husband laugh in the background, too! Our phones are really sensitive.
Link to the audio interview, in case you want to hear me (with my sore throat) try to explain the logic behind “begging the question” (wherein I probably should have just used Jenna’s example above).
NPR blog entry wherein someone mentioned the difficulty understanding my example in the comments section, and I tried to redeem myself with the quote from Jenna’s book. Nobody’s perfect (you try talking logic on live radio before 8 A.M.), but so far people seem to appreciate what I had to say! 😉