Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Big Ask

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Big Ask

Article excerpt

'That's unnecessarily crude,' said my husband, turning momentarily from the television and improving the shining minute by setting the whisky glass chinking. (He takes ice in it.)

'What? A "big ask"? That's not crude,' I replied.

'Oh, ask ,' he said in a sort of liquid-hoarse whisky-throaty voice seldom remarked upon by phoneticians.

He was watching sport, so the cliché came as no surprise to me. The sports pages are thick with it. Jeremain Lens, whoever he is, may be 'an exciting player but proving it in the Premier League is a big ask'. For gee-gees, a big ask is graduating from winning a maiden to a good Group 2 race.

The bigness of the ask , of course, depends on the size of the task and the capacity of the askee. A big ask has now escaped from the sports pages, and our own Isabel Hardman, commenting on Liz Kendall's troubles last week, varied the phrase: 'It would be a huge ask for any candidate to move the established political convictions of a party electorate during a leadership contest, and she has clearly failed.'

Huge is a word that looks odd if you stare at it long enough. …

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