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A big ask

  • A big ask is an idiom that has been around for decades. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying a big ask, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    A big ask is a request that will be difficult for someone to accomplish, whether physically, monetarily, or emotionally. A big ask is the same as asking for a huge favor or asking for someone to go above and beyond what is expected of him. The word ask, to mean request, has been in use for hundreds of years, but the idiom a big ask originated in Australia in the 1980s. Within several decades the phrase had spread to the rest of the English-speaking world.

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    Examples

    NI Covid cases remain stubbornly high and a ‘big ask’ of NI public now required (Belfast Newsletter)

    “I think one of the biggest things was: It’s scary — teachers are already afraid to teach online and then to implement something new while they’re also implementing everything new is a big ask for them,” Haaff Principal Betsy Decesaro said. (Pueblo Chieftan)

    “That’s a whole different look, and for guys who have been playing at the pro level, to throw them on their off side is a big ask and by nature I work with my (defensemen) on both sides, just so you’re comfortable,” Wrobel said. (Buffalo News)


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