Thursday, 24 January 2013

On writing

After weeks of blogging indecision, it’s obvious I need to start small. This post will be around one word.


Used in a sentence:  ‘go aks your sister’, or ‘I aksed her and she don’t know…’

Urban dictionary, for what it’s worth has a definition.  UB has in fact listed several of the variants, so they’ve given it some thought. I spent a while chasing the word around the UB site – reading about ebonics – along the way. UB is American, and that’s pretty clear from the site.

So when applied to an Australian context, they were a bit cockeyed. But the reference to ‘manipulation and transformation of the English language’ works for me.

You may be aware that aks is not slang. Its not rap, and its not lazy. It’s a little word that packs a big story. 

What inspires you to write – a dream, a disappointment, a word? I was once inspired by a circle of tin nailed half way up a wall. It covered a hole, and had been painted over many times, and again in antique white when I took up residency. Through the layers of paint, it clearly said PET FOOD ONLY.

There are a few words, that capture a voice I’m chasing.  They serve as triggers.   I can put aks into lines of dialogue, off the top of my head, about 5 times. And I hope that you have read this far, without thinking I don’t know how to spell ‘ask’.

Aks him to come round, I’ll cut his woolly hair.

I’m not aksing him, you aks him.

I’m sick of aksing him.

He said you never aksed him.

A word like aks can pin you to a time and place. Sometimes uncomfortably so. Of course it is still in common usage.  If not for the baggage, we’d hear it more often.
The sound is different, of course, by reversing the ‘s’ and the ‘k’ - it took away the (click sound) at the end of ‘ask’.  To my ear anyway, it sounds softer, the kind of word you could hear all day long. Less like the sound of teeth sucking –  tstst – that's reserved for disapproval.

(tstst) I aksed him last Wenesday.

Aks is one of my favourite words, right up there with elocution and enunciation. Some words just feel good to say out loud.

Words his soul danced to. 
David Malouf, Remembering Babylon


Detail of the 2012 David Unaipon Award, Queensland Literary Award.

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