NY Times sent me this today:
GUEST COLUMNIST
Changing Places
By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr.
Is it possible, after all these years, that white folk have come to speak "black" far better than blacks speak "white"?

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/30/opinion/30gates.html?th

Fascinating article. You have to register to get it but, apart from site cookies, there's nothing at all to worry about.

The AUE copyright cops might let me get away with quoting these few paragraphs:
"Still, I have to confess that the use of "ax" for "ask" has always been, for me, the linguistic equivalent of fingernails' scraping down a blackboard. The first time I heard the word "ask" pronounced that way was on a Bill Cosby album in the 60's.

"I'm-o, I'm-o ax you a question," his character stammers, and in my Appalachian hamlet we'd laugh at that, certain that nobody would really be foolish enough to say "ax" for "ask."

"Don't get me wrong: it's not as if the black citizens of Piedmont, W.Va., spoke the king's English, but axing was something we did in the woods.
"It was when I first visited Bermuda, where just about everyone I met says "ax," that I began to suspect that this usage had deeper origins than I'd known. Sure enough, as William Labov, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, explained to me, "aks" is traceable to the Old English "acsian," a nonstandard form of "ascian," the root of "ask."
Bermuda? I suppose Antartica will be next.
aokay
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NY Times sent me this today: GUEST COLUMNIST Changing Places By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr. Is it possible, after all ... explained to me, "aks" is traceable to the Old English "acsian," a nonstandard form of "ascian," the root of "ask."

I question the use of "nonstandard" here, at a time centuries before there was anything that might be called a standard dialect of English.

Furthermore, from what I have read, it is not at all clear whether "ascian" came first or whether "acsian" did. Has new scholarship actually identified which was first?
It is a conceit of the program Futurama that a thousand years from now people will say "aks" instead of "ask." I mentioned this in a post a month ago, saying that it was not a one-off joke, but was part of the continuity of the series. I couldn't remember in which other episodes I had heard it used, however.
Since then I have heard Leela use "aks" in the episode in which Fry is infested by worms and the episode in which the group travels back in time to the Roswell, New Mexico of the 1940s.
Bermuda? I suppose Antartica will be next.

As to the question in your subject line, "'aks' or 'ax' just how widespread is this word?" I'd say it's rather rare.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
NY Times sent me this today: GUEST COLUMNIST Changing Places By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr. Is it possible, after all ... The first time I heard the word "ask" pronounced that way was on a Bill Cosby album in the 60's."

Is "fingernails" apostrophised in the original?
Metathesis in words like "ask" is a common phenomenon with various causes. It would appear, for example, that the brain finds it easier to say "aks" than "ask", which is probably the origin of why it's commonly heard among less educated people in the UK.
Adrian
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NY Times sent me this today: GUEST COLUMNIST Changing Places By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr. Is it possible, after all ... article. You have to register to get it but, apart from site cookies, there's nothing at all to worry about.

I don't know how popular it is. I know my father (white) now "axes" questions. I believe it is because he works around younger people.

The one that puzzles me though, and that seems a bit more common, is "excape" or "ekscape". Why do some people pronounce it this way? I say "escape".
Larry
Furthermore, from what I have read, it is not at all clear whether "ascian" came first or whether "acsian" did. Has new scholarship actually identified which was first?

Checking the etymology in AHD, they say both forms are from the reconstructed Germanic *aisko^n, which in turn is from Proto-Indo-European ais-sk-, from a root ais- 'to wish, desire'. I take it from this that in West Germanic the -ks- version developed from the -sk- version, as indeed one would expect, yes? (It seems less conceivable that a -ks- could become a -sk-.)
As to the question in your subject line, "'aks' or 'ax' just how widespread is this word?" I'd say it's rather rare.

Clearly you've never been to Brooklyn (Fourth Largest City in America), though arguably the most common form there is "axk" /&hksk/.
NY Times sent me this today: . . . By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr. . . . "Still, I have ... if the black citizens of Piedmont, W.Va., spoke the king's English, but axing was something we did in the woods.

The novels of Kathy Reichs (published by Scribner's) attempt to show dialect pronunciation in print (unsuccessfully in my opinion.) They thus print:
1: ax for the chopping tool (i.e. standard US spelling) 2: axe for the dialect pronunciation of ask.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Furthermore, from what I have read, it is not at ... "acsian" did. Has new scholarship actually identified which was first?

Checking the etymology in AHD, they say both forms are from the reconstructed Germanic *aisko[/nq]^n, which in turn is from
Proto-Indo-European ais-sk-, from a root ais- 'to wish, desire'. I take it from this that in West Germanic the -ks- version developed from the -sk- version, as indeed one would expect, yes? (It seems less conceivable that a -ks- could become a -sk-.)

As to the question in your subject line, "'aks' or 'ax' just how widespread is this word?" I'd say it's rather rare.

Clearly you've never been to Brooklyn (Fourth Largest City in America), though arguably the most common form there is "axk" /&hksk/.

And if 'The Sopranos' is any way representative of New Jersey, it's not unknown there. The prelude to wise guy demonstrating irrefutable logic is invariably "Lemme aks you sum'n..."
On 'ask' OED comments "Acsian, axian, survived in ax, down to nearly
1600 the regular literary form, and still used everywhere in midl. andsouth. dialects, though supplanted in standard English by ask, originally the northern form. Already in 15th c. the latter was reduced dialectally to asse, pa. tense ast, still current dialectally.) "

And a cite says "runne Medit. 430 Some axen questyons to do hym wrong.
1387 Trevisa Higden (1865) I. 67 Þre questiouns beeþ i-axed. 1803 PeggeAnecd. Eng. Lang. 114 A true born Londoner, Sir, of either sex, always axes question, axes pardon, and at quadrille axes leave. "

There are many more earlier cites using 'axe', going back to Chaucer.

John Dean
Oxford
William Labov, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, explained ... "acsian," a nonstandard form of "ascian," the root of "ask."

I question the use of "nonstandard" here, at a time centuriesbefore there was anything that might be called a standard ... not at all clear whether "ascian" came first or whether "acsian" did. Has new scholarship actually identified which was first?

I don't think we need any new scholarship: the original OED's entry looks all but watertight to me.
The "Common Teutonic" forms all have s before c/k/ch, and the Sanskrit cognates are similar. The metathesis took place in OE, and (simplifying a great deal) acs-/ax- survived nearly to 1600 as the regular literary form and in England "still used everywhere in midland and southern dialects". Ask , now standard, was originally the northern form; which by 15C had become assc , with past tense ast which was for OED, and still is in my hearing, still current dialectally.
I was unaware, but ought not to have been surprised, how many Middle-English forms there were. OED1 lists:
ox (with long o), ax,ex, ask, esk, ash, esh, ass, ess.

Mike.
I was unaware, but ought not to have been surprised, how many Middle-English forms there were. OED1 lists: ox (with long o), ax,ex, ask, esk, ash, esh, ass, ess.

The American Vulgate, a speaker of which I sometimes am, has (&st) ("ast") for "asked". That could conceivably be a contraction of either "akst" or "askt".
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