Misusage? Yay, storytime !

Misusages are a gold mine for an English non-native speaker as I am.In fact,I can spot grammar mistakes in conversation websites-with no pleasure at all since I aim to get better.However, when misusage is pointed out by a native English speaker this means in all ways story time.  It is usually an ancient phrase that I will hear about precisely because of misusage. All in all, you misuse, I learn. Or we learn.

Shall we ?

Story 1 : This begs the question

Begging the question does not mean that a question must be asked. It’s circular reasoning.

It has more to do with philosophy than it has to do with grammar

The term “begging the question”, as this is usually phrased, originated in the 16th century as a mistranslation of the Latin petitio principii, which actually translates as “assuming the initial point”. The original phrase comes from Aristotle and literally means asking for the initial thing. 

Here are a few examples.



Many modern English speakers use beg the question to mean “bear the question”, “suggest the question,” “raise the question”, or “invite the question”.

It is common, even in good sources.For instance, in Cambridge Dictionary :

If a statement or situation begs the question, it causes you to askparticular question:

Spending the summer travelling around India is a great idea, but it does beg the question of how we can afford it.
To discuss the company’s future begs the question of whether it has a future.


The common misusage refers to begging as a synonym of asking,inviting  which is its standard definition.

So what are we to believe? And what should we say?

I have heard a few -good- English-speakers say that the phrase is so often misused that it is time the definition was altered to follow language evolution-or decay.

I personnally would love to hear this phrase in a debate or by a fictional lawyer (Martha Costello in Silk would be one).

So finally, should grammar define language or language tailor grammar? This begs the question.

Yeah, I know. Red-lipstick Martha Costello. Loved it.

Neologism :Meet down

Read today on the internet :

What is the best way to make new friends ?

Most frequent answer : Meet up . Someone even said it was a godsend. These people wrote from the U.S so they probably had a different experience.

I had tried Urbeez in Europe and I had a good time attending concerts, exhibitions , movies. It did not work all the times – bars don’t wor for me. You probably have to drink alcohol to enjoy it. Overall, a good experience and I would recommend it.

Then in Montreal, I could not find it. That was a first hint, I suppose but I simply assumed it was less popular in Canada. I ended trying Meet Up. S.M.O.G


Reminder : you meet people who have the same interest as you. This.cannot.go.wrong.

I love cinema. I registered in a “Movie” group , waited for the next meeting over a film, and got ready for someone to refer to Elia Kazan , Orson Welles or at least Scorsese.

I went to the cinema and saw a bunch of people around an aged man- he was the organizer of the Meet Up. I just had time so say hello. It was already time for the movie to start so everyone spread out and reached for a seat. I can’t remember what the movie was, since it did not really interest me. What I do remember was after the movie: they all vanished. OK, I wasn’t quick enough; better luck next time.

Next “movie Meet up”. This time I tried to spot better who was in the group and sat not too far from them. End of the film: everybody rushed back home. Some  had “important things to do”- on a Friday night. Other did not even talk and just went away

The same thing happened on my third attempt.Everyone spread . I ended up with a nice,grey-haired lady who politely said that  she, too, had to come back home but offered to walk with me to the subway. She said dhe did not really enjoy the film, felt it was more targeted at young guys. I agreed.

The same night I opened my laptop and it was still on the Meet Up page and there I saw comments about the event . One was from the grey-haired lady: “Great movie, as usual. I had a great time with you all, can’t wait for the next event”. All comments were positive, whether they talked about the movie or the event on the whole.

I felt I was in the Twilight Zone. Of course, they were lying. But, why ?

Goosebumps. I don’t wanna know. Leave it.

In parallel, I attended other groups : creative writing with Pomodoro method; 25-35 singles, etc.Same scenario with minor variations.

  • Creative writing : write, sip a drink , awkward conversation and go
  • Drums : drumming, paying and go ,etc.

And everyone seemed OK about it.

So ?

No, no, no. Don’t give me the “it’s cultural” which  is more and more used as an excuse to be rude, weird or both. Why would people  bother to confirm they are attending an event, show up, grab coffee and go? How can you come to a meet up in order not to meet people? Or is it all about pretending. OK, that can  be cultural. Sadly, though.

If that is the rule, I am am afraid I am awfully bad at it.




Partir “à la” Guadeloupe ou “en” Guadeloupe?

Au cours de mes années de bureau, lorsque mes collègues me demandaient  si je comptais aller “à la Guadeloupe” pour les vacances, la tentation était grande de leur répondre que je resterais “dans la France“. Autant dire que cette expression m’a toujours donné la sensation qu’un criquet s’était glissé dans mon oreille.

Pourquoi, au juste? Si, en effet, mon intuition et ma culture personnelle me conduisent naturellement vers la préposition “en” , le professeur en moi a la sagesse de douter : j’ai rencontré les deux occurrences, en contexte oral ou écrit.  Peut-être les deux sont-elles valables…

N’importe lequel de mes élèves allophones me dirait fièrement qu’on emploie

  • en devant les noms de pays féminins  : en France, en Chine, en Cote d’Ivoire. Idem pour ceux qui n’ont pas d’articles et commencent par une voyelle : en Israël.
  • au/ aux : devant les noms de pays masculins: au Danemark, au Brésil, aux Etats-Unis, aux Comores.
  • à : si le nom de pays n’a pas d’article et commence par une consonne A Monaco, à Madagascar.

Sauf que… la Guadeloupe n’est pas un pays.  C’est le nom d’une île, d’un archipel, d’un département et d’une région.  Tout cela suffirait amplement à justifier l’emploi de en. D’où vient alors, l’emploi du groupe prépositionnel à la ?

Si on observe la littérature, à la Guadeloupe apparaît généralement dans les textes les plus anciens. Passéistes, mes collègues de bureau? Possible.

L’angle sociolinguistique est toujours plus excitant. Comme le démontre l’excellent article de Sandrine Reboul-Touré, une faible connaissance du réfèrent peut amener le locuteur à employer à la Guadeloupe, alors que si l’île est mieux connue, le lieu est plutôt conçu comme un espace où l’on peut être, et le locuteur devrait employer la préposition en .

La distance et/ou l’expérience, donc. Explication tout à fait convaincante. Toutefois, qui aurait idée d’associer à au nom Australie ou encore Polynésie française?

L’emploi des prépositions n’est pas stable, c’est entendu.  Si on tient donc à expliquer l’emploi de en ou à la  devant le nom Guadeloupe, il reste à choisir entre l’explication de la linguistique historique ou  celle de la sociolinguistique.

Je conclurai par la citation suivante, assertion d’un linguiste:

“La langue permet aux individus de décrire non pas la réalité mais, plutôt, la perception qu’ils ont de cette réalité.” (Aunargue,1991 p.103)

Ce Que Je Voulais Démontrer.


A lire:

AUNARGUE, M., 1991 : Contribution à l’étude de la sémantique formelle de l’espace et du raisonnement spatial : la localisation interne en français, sémantique et structures inférentielles, Thèse, Toulouse, Université Paul Sabatier.

Reboul Sandrine. « À la Guadeloupe/ en Guadeloupe » : vers une interprétation cognitive ?. In: Langue française, n°103, 1994. Le lexique : construire l’interprétation, sous la direction de Simone Lecointre et danielle Leeman. pp. 68-79.