Make Your Editor Cry: Beg(s) vs. Beggars
The rarely used verb beggar means to reduce to poverty, or the practice of asking for charity. You beggar people by impoverishing them, thus reducing them to beggary. The word “beggar” chiefly survives in modern English either in certain Biblical translations or in metaphorical expressions such as “[something] beggars belief” which Webster caveats as British and defines as “to be unbelievable or not deserving to be believed.” Also, to “beggar description,” which Webster also caveats as British, is used to talk about something that is very difficult to describe.
People who aren’t familiar with this meaning of the word “beggar” often substitute “beg,” or “begs,” with expressions along the lines of “[something] begs belief” or “begs description,” which, without going too far into why it is the case, is, you know, wrong. In fact, it’s almost but not quite as wrong as using the phrase “begs the question” in any sense outside of describing a logical fallacy.
Natasha and Boris hatched a plot so complex that it begged description.
It almost begs belief that anyone could be so cruel.
Natasha and Boris hatched a plot so complex that it beggars description.
It almost beggars belief that anyone could be so cruel.
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.