At 9:31 pm -0800 12/1/00, Barry Garcia wrote:
>hear the word "ax" all the time. I really think that here it's more of a
>slang way kids talk.

Maybe - but if so, the 'slang' is more than one & half millennia old   :)

'ax' (= ask) has been continuously used in Brit English dialects ever since
the Saxons, angles and others brought their Germanic dialects to this

As Ed Heil wrote at 8:55 pm -0600 12/1/00:
>And it has a very old history -- "aks" as a variant of "ask" has been
>in constant usage all the way back to Old English.

Yep - in Old English we have both 'acsian' and 'ascian'.

Altho when I was young I heard only 'ask' in my part of Sussex, 'ax' was
certainly used in parts of the county until the early years of the 2oth
cent. (and, for all I know, may still survive in the rural eastern part of
the county) - and, I believe, still survives in some Brit dialects.

In William Durrant Cooper's "A Glossary of the Provincialisms in Use in the
County of Sussex" (1853 - they sure liked short titles then!), he lists
'ax' as used in Sussex, Yorkshire, Somersetshire & Devonshire, in East
Anglia & in Herefordshire.

He also quotes from the Wycliffian translation of the Bible (pre-reformation):
"Jhesus axide hem"   (i.e. Jesus asked them)

And from Chaucer:
"Our host him axed 'What man art thou?'" [from the Ploughman's Tale]
and -
"Axe not why; for tho thou axe me
 I wol not tellen goddes privetee"  [from the Miller's Tale]

[Wow! - so the spelling 'tho' has good authority  :)    ]

He also quotes this from a writer called Hunter:
"Nothing can be more capricious than custom has shown herself in the union
of the s and c - _ax_ must become ask, and _dex_, which occurs in Chaucer,
desk.  But lask is become _lax_; both forms, _task_ and _tax_, are, in
another instance, admitted to be in good usage, though their senses have

Indeed, I checked out both 'tax' & 'task' and discovered that both are
derived from, not Saxon this time, but late Latin 'tasca' or 'taxa'!


A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
                   [J.G. Hamann 1760]