Monday, 20 October 2008

Minor intellectual peeves

There are some common misconceptions, received opinions, slips and so forth which really irritate me.

Here are a few of the most egregious:

"This begs the question..." No it doesn't. 99 times out of 100, when people use this phrase, they mean "this raises the question...". "Begging the question" is a term with a specific meaning, describing a logical fallacy where you smuggle in your conclusion as an assumption, thus appearing outwardly to prove something which you haven't in fact proved at all. This is such a useful term that it would be a shame if we were to allow the likes of Evan Davies (a persistent offender) to wreck it for us.

"If Napoleon had won Waterloo... .... he would have reigned peacefully as Emperor for decades". No he bloody wouldn't have. He would have had to face Blucher's Prussians within 24 hours, and then go on to face an even larger Austrian/Russian army under Schwarzenberg - who had kicked Napoleon's sorry ass at Leipzig - and even had he defeated that, he would still have been blockaded by the Royal Navy and facing open hostility from the whole of Europe. It bugs the hell out of me when people seem to assume that the Napoleonic wars were scheduled to end in 1815 no matter what, with Waterloo being a kind of "penalty shoot-out" with the winner taking all.

"Beautifully designed..." OK, so if this phrase is used on, say, Top Gear or The Gadget Show, I'm not quibbling. It's the careless use of the word 'designed' in writing or TV programmes about natural history that bugs me, partly because it is simply wrong and partly because it offers a shred of comfort to moronic creationists. Nobody designed it, it evolved.

I'm sure others have their own list of pet peeves, of some of which I am doubtless guilty myself; but having got that off my chest I feel curiously cleansed...


scarlet-blue said...

Do you shave your chest often then?

Gyppo Byard said...

Not if I can get a sultry Oriental woman* to shave it for me.

* Invariably Mrs Byard, who looks at me in a funny way if I describe her as sultry.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

"Turgid" does not mean what people think it does. What they really mean is "torpid" or "tedious". "Turgid" is in fact quite the opposite.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Agreeable - when used to mean willing to do something.
Tortuous - when used to mean painful.
Outside of - when used instead of outside.

Kevin Musgrove said...

"Epicentre" when they actually mean "centre" - "ooh, putting epi on the front makes it sound so much more important." Bollocks, it just means that what you're talking about is underground.


"Endemic" when they mean either "epidemic" or "rife." Somebody told me that knife crime was endemic and I was relieved that it was more localised than I thought.

No Good Boyo said...

Disintrested, when they mean uninterested.

Gyppo Byard said...

I agree with all the above!

Kevin - Absolutely. Few things annoy me more than reports saying that 'the epicentre of the quake was 10 kilometres underground'. NO IT WASN'T! The epicentre was the point on the surface 10km under which was the focus of the earthquake!

And how about people who confuse 'flout' with 'flaunt'?

And what about the epidemic of misuse of 'corruscating' to mean 'biting' or 'vicious' (presumably because it sounds a bit like 'corrosive' and a bit like 'scathing')? It actually means 'glittering' or 'glimmering'.

And don't get me started on a person or event "who changed the course of history". NO THEY BLOODY DIDN'T! History isn't pre-determined. It doesn't have a 'course' extending into the future; it's what people write down afterwards. A better term would be that the person of a event has 'a decisive impact' or 'a huge influence'.

Maybe we should form a 'Royal College of Pedants'...

scarlet-blue said...

Sometimes it's well good to be basic like what I am.

Gadjo Dilo said...

A duller but potentially more irritating perversion of English is when people say "bought" instead of "brought", and vice versa. E.g.: "I bought a camera". "You bought another one??". No, I bought the one we already have with me". "Oh". etc, etc.... (But once again it's the English language which is mainly to blame).

Mrs Pouncer said...

Gadjo, I HATE bought/brought. Also, even worse, I hate "I should of .." Why would anyone say that? Why? And I hate "each patient should have their ...." And Mrs Jones has been very guilty of this in the past. She has signed letters with "We ask that each child bring their ....."
I am not Mrs Jones BTW.