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This Wired magazine article summarizes a part of the NIST report on the World Trade Center disaster. Basically, those who obeyed authorities’ instructions to stay put and await rescue, and who also obeyed their training to use the stairs, were more likely to die.

Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives. This disobedience had nothing to do with panic. The report documents how evacuees stopped to help the injured and assist the mobility-impaired, even to give emotional comfort. Not panic but what disaster experts call reasoned flight ruled the day.

To “beg the question”

I think this may be the start of a series on my observations (really, I expect them to mostly be pet peeves) on English. Today, the misuse of the phrase “to beg the question.” It is almost never used in the correct sense (given by the OED):

6. To take for granted without warrant; esp. in to beg the question: to take for granted the matter in dispute, to assume without proof.
Instead, it is now most often used to mean “to raise the question.”

For example, in this blog post:

Which begs the question if he had not been “passed over” would due diligence still be acted upon?
Allow me to be pedantic just so I can think of a good example to satisfy myself:

Alice: So, is it possible for an invisible being to somehow act upon the real world, designing the various species, in particular?

Bob: Well, of course: this supreme being was able to create the planetary environment to sustain life, creating various species would have been trivial.

And I think that’s an example of Bob begging the question. If anyone can provide a better example, do post a comment: this has been on my mind since 1988. I reproduce the OED’s citations in the extended post.

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