Begging the question

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The protagonist begs the question for more in this classic scene from Oliver Twist.

Begging the question is a popular but difficult way of persuading interrogative statements to grant favors. Although many people have attempted to shake down questions for cash, gifts and other benefits, the questions make the following tacit assumption:

Only someone who does not need my money would ask me for it.
The fact you are asking me for money is proof of this.

Many people use the phrase "begging the question" interchangeably with "raising (money from) the question," but the two are very different. Panhandling the question assumes you will get a quarter from "Where is the library?" by merely asking the query for change for the bus. But raising money from philanthropists like "What's that smell?" and "Can't you read?" is an elaborate and tricky affair that relies on observing a question over several weeks before raising money from it.

The question's strategies have been studied and adopted by many people, and are frequently employed when beggars approach.

Beggar: Excuse me, sir, do you have any change?
Beggee: Could you say that again?
Beggar: Do you have any change?
Beggee: One more time?
Beggar: Change, sir.
Beggee: WHAT?
Beggee: Can you keep your voice down?

This instance of begging the question failed like many others.

Other means of persuasion[edit]

For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about Begging the question.


Although begging the question is rarely successful, there are many other ways to plead your case. These include:

  • Sponging off the statement. An effective means of attaining your ends. One approaches the statement quietly but firmly.
You: I need money.
Statement: Here is a dollar.
  • Commanding the imperative. Useful when time is short and you need what you seek immediately.
You: Since I drove all this way, you make dinner.
Imperative: You will enjoy my kielbasa.
  • Extorting the exclamation. The exclamation can be firm but also emotional and easily manipulated. A good sob story can get you what you need.
You: Oh my God! If I don't make rent this month I'll be thrown out of my apartment!
Exclamation: This $500 check is yours!
Prince Metternich maintained peace in Europe for three decades by begging the question, proferring the preposition and splitting the infinitive.

Not useful[edit]

  • Dinning the dependent clause. The dependent clause appears sympathetic at first but may end up wasting your time.
You: Hey, do you have that fiver I lent you?
Dependent clause: Although I can reach for my wallet,
You: What?
Dependent clause: While I am perfectly willing to pay you back,
You: Yeah?
Dependent clause: Despite my sincere determination to make up my debt . . .

And so on, ad infinitum.

  • Slighting the superlative. Most only do this out of frustration, and it is only recommended as a last resort.
You: Hey, look, I know you've been going through some stuff . . .
Superlative: How very true.
You: And it's been a bad time for you . . .
Superlative: The worst.
You: But frankly, your sales haven't been up to snuff.
Superlative: That's the biggest lie in history!
  • Finagling the fragment. While one can occasionally strike gold with a fragment, most are too random to approach in normal situations.
You: Hey, let's go to the beach.
Fragment: three hundred pounds and a
You: C'mon, man, it's a beautiful day!
Fragment: pie! But really, any kind of pastry
You: We'll have the whole place to ourselves!
Fragment: for Perry, who, unlike Dick, had neglected


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