The use of the verb “to ask” as a noun, such as “Making an ask” and “my ask”, has caused me to wince for some time, especially as it seems to be used more and more frequently. It struck me as a mixture of laziness – the noun “request” has always seemed sufficient to me – and jargon, and so I have avoided its use.
But it seems my rancour towards this use is misplaced. According to Arnold Zwicky on Langugage Log, the noun “ask” predates “request” by about two or three hundred years. “So a noun ask was a good thing to have while we were waiting for the French-based request to arrive”, comments Zwicky.
Fundraisers are responsible for one of “three specialised uses” of the noun ‘ask’, the other two being card-players and financiers.
Sport too has been the source of another use of the noun ‘ask’, “namely with an adjective denoting large quantity, with somewhat specialized meaning”, akin to a ‘tall order’. For example, “It was a huge ask of my players, but their attitude throughout the week prior to the game was superb”, cited in Rugby World June 25/1, 2000.
Zwicky’s post has already generated 32 comments so one can see that there is interest in this word ‘ask’ that is at the root of almost everything fundraisers do.