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English etymology[edit]

I would need to see an authority or some evidence of continuity of usage to believe the Old English origin. Why isn't this a metathesis of ask, itself apparently a metathesis of Old English axian? DCDuring TALK 16:10, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

In ME there was the byform axen beside asken, which survives in Scots as ax ("to ask", still in use), but I am not familiar with the aks spelling. Is this eye-dialect for ask, used to avoid confusion with ax/axe (vb.) ?Leasnam 16:27, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
The spelling is attestable, mostly in reported dialog. It is most common among American authors, especially currently. It does seem to reflect a particularly hard "k" sound as I have heard it pronounced in AAVE. To call it eye-dialect prejudges the answer to my question above. It is an instance of the question of the origin of AAVE: from English dialects used in Southern US or by a metathesis replicated millions of times by children, less often corrected in certain cultures? Is the second explanation really just a specification of the mechanics of the first? DCDuring TALK 17:49, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
I would be more inclined to lean to the second, since the use is recent as you point out, notwithstanding the possiblity of contribution from Scottish settlers to the Southern US, which if it was more common among their descendants, would make a connection seem more plausible. Leasnam 19:02, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
The vexed question of the relationship between UK dialect English and current AAVE will not be settled here. I think we should reflect the controversy in some way in the entry, probably the etymology rather that the sense line. I noted that the axe/ax/ex spellings are (or were) more common in total, especially in 19th century writings, especially in the UK. I also suppose we should indicate the pronunciation difference that may underlie "aks" vs "ax" in this meaning. I wouldn't entirely rely on my ear. DCDuring TALK 20:02, 4 April 2011 (UTC)