usingtherightwords

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He Wasn’t “Loitering” or “Panhandling;” He Might Not Have Been “Begging,” Either


The other day, as we drove to our supermarket, my daughter noticed a man standing with a sign asking for money. She asked my wife, “Is he loitering?” My wife responded, “Yes.”

That got me thinking. I always thought loitering meant standing around doing nothing. This guy clearly was doing something.

So I checked the dictionary. The appropriate definition of loiter here is “to remain in an area for no apparent reason.”

This guy was definitely there for a reason: to get people to give him money. I thought he was panhandling, but just to be sure, I checked the dictionary.

Panhandling means “to stop people on the street and ask for food or money.” This guy was just standing there. He wasn’t knocking on car windows asking for anything. He simply held a sign.

OK, I thought, he must be begging. To beg is to “ask for alms.”

But my dictionary has a usage note. To beg implies earnestness or insistence in asking for a favor. The guy might have been doing that. But he also might have been beseeching, which implies great eagerness or anxiety. Or he could have been imploring, which is beseeching but with greater urgency.

I didn’t bother to ask him if he was begging, beseeching or imploring. Had I, he probably would have looked at me funny and said, “I don’t know. Just give me money!”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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November 26, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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