Why other people say “aks” instead of “ask”

In Language on March 3, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Interesting discovery today. As an avid listener and observer of the English language, I wanted to know why other English speakers (specifically black people) say “aks” instead of “ask”.

A lot of people (myself included) initially blamed it on lack of education during the years of slavery and it being passed on from one generation to the next. That was a very sad and cruel misconception.

“Ask” comes from the Old English word āscian, meaning to ask. Incidentally, this is only one of two Old English terms. The other variation was ācsian – which was more widely used until the 16oo’s. This mix-up of syllables and letters apparently has a name – it’s called metathesis. People have jumbled up letters and syllables in other words throughout time and have shaped the history of a language in that little way. This is one of those instances.

To date, the /aks/ variant is still widely used in the U.K. and it’s not exclusive to blacks in the U.S.

I’m so glad I aksed that question.

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