Letter: I beg to differ

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The headline on page 4 of the Sunday Review (18 May) reads: "All of which begs the question: who is Paul Theroux".

To beg the question is to assume what you are setting out to prove. For example, I, a prosecuting lawyer, say to the CID officer: "There's not enough evidence to charge this man with burglary so we'll charge him with handling stolen goods." The officer replies: "But this man isn't a handler he's a prolific burglar." The officer is begging the question; he's assuming what we want to prove, namely that a particular crime has been committed.

The expression will disappear from the language if persistently used to mean "to raise the question". I think that would be a pity.

Leo Pilkington

London SW8