New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Beg the Question, Bucket List

dictionary and thesaurusNew additions to the Glossary of Confusing Words!  This time we have two colloquial phrases you might hear in everyday conversation.

1) Beg the Question

I notice it frequently used by writers, journalists, television and radio reporters, etc.
It is mistakenly being used as a synonymous wording for “raise the question,” or “ask the question.”

In everyday, conversational English, the phrase “to beg the question” is used to mean “to raise the question.”  For example:

“His erratic behavior begs the question: is this man fit for office?”

If you want to be pedantic about it (and many people do!), the phrase “beg the question” has nothing to do with the way it’s used in conversational English these days.  It’s actually the name of a particular logical fallacy, and comes from the Latin petitio principii, which means something like “assuming the initial premise” (if anyone actually speaks Latin, you can probably offer a better translation).  An example would be: “He’s unattractive because he’s ugly.”  Unattractive and ugly mean the same thing, so saying that he’s ugly doesn’t provide additional proof for your argument

However, in regular conversation, and even in academic and journalistic writing, “to beg the question” means “to raise the question.” So anyone trying to learn colloquial English should be prepared to hear it that way.

2) Bucket List

I saw this phrase on a movie

A “Bucket list” is a list of things you want to do before you die.  It comes from another English phrase: “to kick the bucket,” which means to die.  So, a bucket list is a list of things you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket.

You did indeed see this phrase in a movie – the movie was called “The Bucket List”, and in this trailer, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson explain pretty clearly what a bucket list is:

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