During the past few weeks, two readers of this blog commented on Jasper Spierenburg’s use of the expression “begging the question“. As far as I know, there is nothing wrong with it, so why the comments? To check my (non-native speaker) intuitions, I resorted to Google N-gram, which I set to English generally, searching for both begs the question and prompts the question (the suggested alternative). And look what I found:
So on the basis of these data, it is clear that begs the question (the blue line) is the most frequent form. (I didn’t find any differences for American or for British English from this general overview.)
What then is going on, why do people object to the use of begging the question when it has always been more frequent than prompting the question? Could it be perhaps that due to its enormous increase since the 1950s or so, people suddenly get critical of the phrase?