[Ads-l] Rhetoric: Have you given up beating your father?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 25 22:02:57 UTC 2015

Off list Barry Popik told me (and others) about a new entry on his
website about a classic trick/comical question:

"Have you stopped beating your wife?" (loaded question)

Barry's excellent first citation is dated February 4, 1894. I
performed a quick search for close variants and found "Have you given
up beating your father?" in a textbook in 1880. I only looked in
Google Books and performed one lucky query, so further progress is

Year: 1880
Title: The Elements of Deductive Logic: Designed Mainly for the Use of
Junior Students in the Universities
Author: Thomas Fowler
Quote Page 152
Publisher: Macmillan and Company, London


[Begin excerpt]
The so called 'Fallacia plurium interrogationum' has not been noticed
in the text, because it is a rhetorical artifice, rather than a
logical fallacy. It consists in covertly putting as a single question
what is in reality two, as for instance, 'Are gall and honey sweet?'
'Have you cast your horns?' (known as 'cornutus'). 'What did you take,
when you broke into my house last night?' 'Have you given up beating
your father?' The object is to entrap the respondent into an admission
which he would otherwise not be likely to make.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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