wife-beating question

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From wife-beating + question, with reference to the oft-cited example, "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Noun[edit]

wife-beating question (plural wife-beating questions)

  1. (rhetoric) A question that presupposes some controversial premise, such that it cannot be directly answered without incriminating oneself or, at least, unintentionally conceding a point; a loaded question.
    • 1984, British House of Commons debate, Hansard vol. 70, 20 Dec 1984:
      Mr. [Tony] Banks: When the Leader of the House sees his right hon. friend the Prime Minister, will he ask her to come to the Dispatch Box and condemn picket line violence by the police?
      Mr. [John] Biffen: That is the most obvious and plain wife-beating question that I have ever heard asked.
    • 2002, Christopher Hitchens, "Martin Amis: Lightness at Midnight", The Atlantic, Sep 2002:
      Amis also recounts some aggressive questions allegedly put by him to me and to James Fenton in our (James's and my) Trotskyist years, when all three of us were colleagues at the New Statesman. The questions are so plainly wife-beating questions, and the answers so clearly intended to pacify the aggressor by offering a mocking agreement [...].

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