I have often heard people use the phrase ‘I beg to differ’ to express a contrary view and until recently, I never batted an eyelid when I heard such.
It has often occurred to me that there are phrases we parrot without really stopping to think why we say them and I for one have a knack for placing such things under intense scrutiny.
There is nothing that ruffles my feathers as much as doing something because it’s always been done without bothering to examine why that behavior is expected of me – and our speech patterns (which we borrowed from the Queen’s language) are full of such unexamined phrases.
I suspect that the statement was used as a form of politeness so as not to be seen as being a troublemaker contradicting popular opinion hence the person feels that they owe others an apology for not agreeing with their views.
I do wonder ‘why do we beg to differ?’
Don’t we have a right to hold individual, and at times, contradicting opinions?
In a society that places a heavy emphasis on conformity, there is always a pressure applied on one to be, to think and to do as the collective prescribes – offering a contrary opinion would therefore be something frowned upon.
So before you can speak your mind you need to ‘beg’ others to let you think for yourself and possibly arrive at a conclusion that is not like theirs.
Where did we ever get the idea that we get harmony when everybody just sings the same note?
I have always thought it better to be who you are and say what you feel, because in the greater scheme of things – those who mind don’t matter; and those who matter don’t mind.
One of the truths I gathered as a Linguistics student is that there is no way one can learn a language without imbibing its culture, so of necessity our use of the English language becomes synonymous with us assimilating certain aspects of the culture of the English.
And a careful study of its nuances will reveal that the English are a people very preoccupied with ‘politeness’ and to my way of thinking the line between what people term politeness and hypocrisy is a very thin and blurry one.
What the English would have us believe is social ‘etiquette’, good graces, well-mannered conduct, proper breeding and politeness really boils down to mere hypocrisy – in other words – just don’t say what you mean!
It’s considered crass, distasteful and the height of bad manners to say what you really think, one ought to be ‘tactful’ i.e – just lie through your teeth.
As far back as 1911, Ambrose Bierce wrote in The Devil’s Dictionary that “politeness is the most acceptable (form of) hypocrisy.”
So to be polite we use phrases like ‘I beg to differ’ when in fact we may not be begging at all.
Even those who are quick to take blame for a thing are doing so out of hypocrisy more than politeness.
There is luxury in self-reproach.
When we are quick to blame ourselves we feel that no one else has the right to blame us thereafter.
And when we ‘beg’ to differ – we really don’t expect that we will be refused the right to express our views, after all – we did ‘beg’ so very nicely.
As a parting shot, I borrow the sentiments of Michael Crichton – “Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species, simply repeat what they are told – and become upset if they are exposed to any different view” – quoted from ‘The Lost World’