Queen’s English – An Optional Plural and Circular Reasoning

Our first topic concerns money, and its plural.  Is moneys (or monies) a correct plural of the word, or is money one of those words that has both a singular and plural meaning?
   It is unlikely that upon hearing the price of a bauble at a Tiffany counter, you would respond, “I do not have enough moneys in my wallet to cover the cost” (at Tiffany’s, who does?); yet, in larger transactions you will frequently hear parties speak of the amount of moneys needed to complete the transaction.
   Is either form of the word improper for plural purposes, and, if not, is one form preferable to the other?  The answer seems to be that money works perfectly well as a collective (plural) noun in smaller transactions (what’s in your wallet?), but moneys, if used at all, will occur in larger transactions.
   Conclusion: the options are all yours.  Both money and moneys are proper; use the one with which you are comfortable.  And, no one should chastise you for spelling it monies if you choose.
   Our second topic involves the precise meaning of the phrase begging the question, which seems almost universally now to be synonymous with “raising the question”; however, this was not its original meaning which had a certain elegance which may be lost. It was a challenge to the inquisitor to avoid devious language.
   Litigators on cross-examination have been known to employ circular reasoning by presuming a “fact” which could force an unwarranted admission; the well-worn illustration is: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Either a “yes” or “no” response would put the witness in jeopardy; and he or she should respond instead in the original sense of the phrase, “You are begging the question.”  (Followed by touche ?)
   While use of the phrase may still be valid in that sense, its meaning has devolved to something more simplistic; as now used to “beg the question” is to raise the question or illustrate the problem.  An example: During a severe drought where the need for rationing is obvious, a legislator might say, “It begs the question, to ask whether we should ration water until the crisis passes.”
    This is not to say that to use the phrase as it was originally intended is in error.  In fact, to do so may gain you additional respect of your adversary.
— Ken Butera

Posted in Newsletters, Queen’s English / Latin Lovers