I have a question: Why does anyone use 'the ask'?

I have a question: Why does anyone use 'the ask'?

I feel the urge today to write about an expression I keep hearing, "the ask." It seems to me to be threatening the perfectly good word "question." You ask a question, so I suppose I'm questioning the ask.

Everything from requirements for masks and social distancing to policing protesters is getting described as "a big ask," and various groups' instructions or demands are being summarized as "that's the ask."

No. If something's uncertain, it is a question, or questionable. That means you get to ask about it. Strange things are questionable, not ask-able.

Are people really that forgetful about language? Am I alone here?

Please keep using the word "question" for when you ask a question. I have yet to hear or read anyone "asking an ask," and I hope I won't.

Save "question." It's not too much to ask.


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  • fb_avatar

    M H L my read/talk/hear doesn't include ''question'' or the ''big ask'' etc. Appreciate your quisitiveness tho

  • In reply to William Bowen:

    Thank you, William Bowen. I'm glad you're not hearing or reading it yet. I wish I could say the same!

  • It's nonsense, but the context reveals that it is not a question, but a request. It's "I ask you to wear a mask," not "I'm asking you why you wear a mask." Gov. Pritzker isn't doing the latter.

  • In reply to jack:

    You're using "ask" properly here, Jack. Thanks. The use of "the ask" is either from bureaucracy or the street -- I haven't tracked it down completely -- and is used as "I've told you all the health details, so now I'm down to the ask: Why won't you wear a mask?"

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    From your own "various groups' instructions or demands are being summarized as 'that's the ask'." demonstrates it isn't a question, just the common misuse of a verb as a noun.

  • In reply to jack:

    I was a bit sloppy with instructions here, Jack, but demands can certainly be put as questions: "Why can't we get rid of corrupt cops?" "Why can't people be compelled to wear masks?" "Why can't someone trigger the 26th Amendment?" and so on. Thank you.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    They can be put as questions, but they are not questions, but demands.

    I'm not asking Mike Pence why he isn't invoking the 25th Amendment, but would ask, request, or demand that he do so. I'm not interested in questioning him about his excuses.

  • In reply to jack:

    The French verb for "to ask" is "demander." Demands are considered a kind of question.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I didn't think this was a French blog, and I doubt that the illiterates who use "the ask" went back to the French . For instance QVC has a Spanish banner: "Operados Espanol dispondible. Usted debe solicita." The shill on air is soliciting, but the banner is telling the Spanish viewer to request or ask.


  • In reply to jack:

    Point taken, Jack -- this blog is written in, and usually about, Standard American English. I think we'll just need to agree to disagree on "the ask" vs. "the question."

  • Guilty. The first time I've used the expression, I put myself in a group that got called out for it. It'll be the last time I use it. As long was were cleansing, how about we get rid of "placed at risk of" when "jeopardize" or just a simple "risk" will do? Should we start a list of the most annoying language?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Thanks, Dennis. You're right, "jeopardized" or "risk(ed)" beat "placed at risk of." Another biggie on my list is "expeditiously." If you're trying to expedite something, speed it up and say you're speeding it up. If you want it done quickly, use that two-syllable word instead of "expeditiously" at five syllables.

    Thanks for the list idea. Watch this space!

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