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I'm wondering if "besides" at the beginning of a sentence necessarily introduces an additional argument for a claim. Does the following sound okay?

The study finds people look taller in jeans. Besides, there were no gender differences in the results.

The "besides" here does not introduce a second argument. The claim is people look taller in jeans. What follows is mere additional information, not another argument for the claim. Is "besides" used properly here?

Consider the following example, which seems more natural:

"I'm much too old for you," he said, "and besides, I'm married."

Here, the clam is that the person thinks it unfit to have a relationship with a woman. The first argument for the claim is that he is too old. The second argument, introduced by the sentence-initial "besides," is that he already has a wife. Note also that such a claim as is relevant to the use of "besides," correct me if I'm wrong, can be implied rather than stated.

A: Sorry to be so forward, but would you go out with me?

B: But I'm much too old for you, and besides, I'm married.

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  • m_a_s below said that use is okay, so I suspect dialectal variation is involved.
    – Apollyon
    Apr 1, 2021 at 12:35

2 Answers 2

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From an international perspective, the following is not OK:

The study finds people look taller in jeans. Besides, there were no gender differences in the results.

100+ years ago, sentence-initial besides could be used to mean something like furthermore or in addition. You will see this in old novels.

However, the meaning has changed in an important way. Today, native speakers (Americans, anyway) typically use it to introduce a new element with a deliberately anticlimactic effect—or at most to introduce an element of secondary importance. Consider:

I love Stella because she is as intelligent as Einstein and kinder than the angels. Besides, she looks really hot in a bikini.

The point is to contrast the speaker's noble and poetic side with his less noble, carnal side. In other words, it's a joke. Such a joke might be planned in advance. (You probably know people who have a good joke for any occasion.) Or it might be imagined spontaneously, as when a person realizes they've said something inappropriately serious and wants to return a conversation to a lighter mood.

The anticlimactic effect is almost certainly the reason why the following example is included in the definition:

"I'm much too old for you," he said, "and besides, I'm married."

The joke is that the speaker's marital status should have been the first thing that came to mind when a woman of any age propositioned him. It's the kind of thing a foolish husband in a television comedy might say—and immediately afterward, the screen would be filled with the angry face of his wife. In this case, it's the screenwriter who's making the joke.

Even if this usage turns out to be strictly an Americanism, the effect of using it is definitely not neutral, as when you say "elevator" instead of "lift." If there is the slightest chance that the gender differences sentence might be read by an American, it's best not to introduce it with besides.

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"Besides" (the adverb) can mean "moreover" or "furthermore" (M-W.com)

So, the "besides" in the second sentence just indicates you are adding more information after the first statement ("the study finds..."). It is not adding an argument, just another statement in addition to the first.

Cambridge.org https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/besides suggests "besides" means "in addition to", "also":

  • The fair takes place every June with bands, theater and much more besides.
  • The author's wife was a good editor, besides being a great writer herself.
  • There's plenty of other things to do in Gothenburg at night besides drink.
  • His real love, besides his guitar playing, is ultimately songwriting.
  • "I'm much too old for you," he said, "and besides, I'm married."
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  • Are you sure the "besides" in the OP is used properly? Might I ask if you are a natve speaker?
    – Apollyon
    Apr 1, 2021 at 6:07
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    @Apollyon I am a native AmE speaker. My wife sometimes suggests I am a bad AmE listener, though.
    – m_a_s
    Apr 1, 2021 at 6:15
  • A Brit says the "besides" is not correct.
    – Apollyon
    Apr 1, 2021 at 6:19
  • @Apollyon What is the Brit's basis for this supposition of what "besides" means and is used to "introduce a second argument".
    – m_a_s
    Apr 1, 2021 at 6:21
  • Most of the exampes you quoted are those of its preposition and "noun+ besides" use (e.g. "much more besides"); they do not illustrate the sentetial adverbial use. The only relevant example is " 'I'm much too old for you,' he said, 'and besides, I'm married.' " Here, the clam is that the person thinks it unfit to have a relationship with a woman. The first argument for the claim is that he is too old. The second argument, introduced by "besides," is that he already has a wife.
    – Apollyon
    Apr 1, 2021 at 6:52

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