Sep 21, 2009

So, when did "ask" become a noun?

The NEA conference call transcript presented to me a neologism that I'd not encountered before: ask, presented as a noun.

W.T.F.?

"My ask is . . ."

I don't know where to start with all that is wrong with turning the simplest and most forthright human expression of need into a noun.

My first thought was the biblical words of Jesus' exhortation to his disciples, "You have not because you ask not," which I guess the "have nots" have adopted as the sum total of what it means to follow Jesus: ask for stuff.

To ask is to pray, to entreat the favor or help of another. It implies a bit of humility and perhaps even a relationship. Turning ask into a noun just seems to me a false ploy to remove oneself from the humility of supplicant into a mere applicant. I'm just thinking out loud here, but that pretty much sums up the entirety of what is wrong with mandated charity: it turns humble supplication into entitled application.

If you've ever worked in a good charity organization, you know the mindset is to lift up the supplicant and not humiliate them in their need. That's all well and good, but it's all part of the soft landing that eventually undermines its own intention.

Being in need sucks, folks. It sucks big time. Asking for help is painful, needing help is humiliating and receiving it is humbling. Why do people need to be shielded from that most intrinsic part of life? As though we've arrived on this earth, alone and of our own doing, never to be demeaned by needing the personal care of or accountability to another?

The State of Obama envisions a world of equality that cheats humanity of the things that make it humane. It's a gray and administrative office of oversight that seeks to control, not console; to mandate but never measure; to disburse, but never impart.

My plea, prayer, and supplication? Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness.

Ask anyone. They'll tell you the same.

13 comments:

Dewb said...

Some history on "asks":

http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2004/01/07/48304.aspx

I'm a hardcore descriptivist, the opposite of the it's-not-in-the-dictionary prescriptivist that Raymond is. I like the creative use of words, and language is what people use it to do, not what some crusty book says.

But "asks" just doesn't seem like an improvement to me. In the software context, it's a softer way to say requirements; in the political world, it's a softer way to say demands. Why not just say "requests" and avoid confusing people?

Joan of Argghh! said...

Exactly. I love new words and new ways of using language, especially when it truly rings with fresh noise.

But business-speak is hapless and never more so than when it borrows from sports-speak, i.e., "a big ask" meaning a favor.

It is the pussification of language to go all squishy and passive out of meaning. Moreover, the possessive as used in this political scenario is all about "my ask". As though it is a part of my being that I'm kinda sorta putting out there for you to pick up. Or not. But it's still all about my sovereign self not really needing you, just kinda having a wish, or dare I say, a hope?

Ricky Raccoon said...

No one stopped her from making an ask of herself. That's still free.

Van said...

Sorry to but in Joan, but... The American Spectator, The Gunslinger and I seem to be about the only ones on this, and it's a biggee..., if you want to continue seeing "Ask" in any form at all, other than repeating what you've been authorized to have been told by the FCC, Raise a frick'n Ruckus over this!!!

PeggyU said...

"My axe is" ... Does that help?

Van said...

PeggyU said ""My axe is" ... Does that help?"

Hmmm... when nObama saw what he had done, he gave his father forty one....

Sorta works.

The D.I.L. said...

In fundraising, "ask" is used as a noun for when a potential donor is solicited. Example: "The American Heart Association board has courted an influential business owner for several months and is now ready to make the ask."

I apologize if my profession has contributed to the decay of language and community.

'mouse said...

I'm usually ready to take an opposite position on any issue Joan feels passionate about -- it's the principle of the thing. However, this time I have to agree.

I was reading William Least-Heat Moon just last week and he begins the first chapter of his latest book by refusing to apologize for using "hard" words in his writing. He points out, we have this huge, beautiful lexicon of English words which allow us to accurately describe things if we take the time, learn the language and pay attention to nuance.

Which is to say, to dumb down the language to use "ask" as a noun is stupid and unnecessary. There are a plethora of good and more exact nouns for various sitations where "ask" (n) might be used. Request, plea, and solication leap to mind.

So yes, I join you in a hearty "aaaarrrrrgggghhhh!"

margarita?

Joan of Argghh! said...

Hey 'mouse! Yes, thanks.

**

D.I.L., apology accepted!

:o)

Velociman said...

The worst part was using it in the plural: we're going to have some asks of you. Bleah. Bad language. And I certainly am not one to shrink from a madey-up term or phrase. Glad you brought it up, Joanie, it was pestering hell out of me.

Actually, the worst part was the fact that that effete crowd of dilettantes obviously knew the term.

Ex-Dissident said...

Joan, I've seen much worse. I've even gone on a date with a woman whose vocabulary was restricted to only hmm, oh, and ha. The way she could use those 3 words to express herself was really something. Ha could mean either "No way!", "Yes!", and many other interpretations. This all depended on her intonation. As fascinating as our conversation was, I opted out of a second such date.

Betsy said...

Spot on, Joan and beautifully put. Forty years of "help" from the government has diminished the family and community structure in our country. My plea, prayer and supplication is the same. From our lips to God's ears...

ZZMike said...

Come on, lady, get with the program. It's pronounced "ax", as in "my brother he ax me what I'm going to do next".

scrine:
"... refusing to apologize for using "hard" words in his writing."

I've been reading Bill Buckley for years. I remember once when someone took him to task for using "hard words". He replied something like, "I don't use difficult words. I try to use the word that best fits the context".