Benefit of the Doubt

One expression I’ve always had a problem with is “benefit of the doubt” — as in, “Billy’s claim that the squirrel entered his rectum accidentally after he sat on a hollow tree stump sounded hollower than the stump itself, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.”

First of all, what’s up with the definite article? The benefit of the doubt? Which doubt? Are there numerous impostor doubts out there that would necessitate clarification about which doubt we’re actually referring to?

Of course, giving someone the benefit of a doubt sounds wrong, too. Whaddaya mean you only gave me the benefit of a doubt. Aren’t I worth the doubt??? Screw those second-rate knock-off doubts — I want the real thing! For my money, we should probably drop the “the” entirely, so that the expression becomes “the benefit of doubt.” Otherwise, it sounds like some old person talking about the internet. You there, young man: Could you tell how to use the Google? I tried to use it to get to the Wikipedia the other day, but I ended up on the Craigslist instead, and now some guy from Newark claims that I’ve purchased tickets on the Cleveland Steamer, or some such nonsense.

It’s thoughts like these that explain why my Tivo keeps trying to record The Real Housewives of Orange Country without my permission.

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