In what centuries was the spelling axe used for ask?
#103097. Asked by ThoHell. (Feb 17 09 7:42 PM)
The variant in modern dialect ax is as old as O.E. acsian and was an accepted literary variant until c.1600.|
The verb entered Old English in the 8th century and had two basic forms, “ascian” and “acsian.” During the Middle English period (1100-1500), the latter form ("acsian") became "axsian" and finally "ax" (or "axe"), which was the accepted written form until about 1600.
Chaucer, in The Parson's Tale (1386), writes of "a man that ... cometh for to axe him of mercy." And in Miles Coverdale's 1535 translation of the Bible, there are lines like "Axe and it shal be giuen you," and "he axed for wrytinge tables."
In the early 17th century, "ask" (which had been lurking in the background) replaced "ax."
Though the spelling changed and the consonant sounds were switched in standard English, the old pronunciation survived in some parts of England.
The "ax" version is still heard in the Midland and Southern dialects, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And it's also heard in the US, as we know.
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