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Tough ask

Posted by Word Camel on October 31, 2002

In Reply to: Tough ask posted by ESC on October 31, 2002

: : : : :
: : : : : Can some body tell me, whether it is correct to say that some thing was tough ask meaning was difficult to perform?

: : : : Yes. "That job was tough to do." "They gave him a tough job."

: : :
: : : Tough is a perfectly acceptable adjective but "tough ask" isn't correct. "Tough ask" uses the word "ask", a verb as a noun. Adjectives modify nouns. A better choice would be "tough question", or "tough assignment".

: : : Now it's entirely possible that someone out there is using "tough ask" but it isn't correct, nor is it particularly clever or charming as some deliberate grammatical mistakes can be. If I heard someone using this expression I'd probably draw the conclusion that he had very poor language skills or that it was some obnoxious affectation.

: : Two other thoughts: you may have heard "tough task," a good description of something difficult to perform; or you may have heard a professional fundraiser speaking. In the jargon of fundraisers, an "ask" is a noun that refers to a specific need within a larger camparign, tailored to a particular audience. Thus, in a campaign to build a large hospital, the fundraising strategists might separate out the maternity wing as a separate "ask" because a charitable foundation is seen as a likely donor (i.e., the founder would want her name on that wing, and her foundation gives grants in the $7 million range) making them a good target to that ask. Like most trade jargon, it ain't good English, but it's a shared shorthand.

: The poster was asking: Is it correct to use "tough" as a modifier meaning "difficult to perform"? "Tough ask" = question about "tough."

I thought that too until I read the sentence inside the post. Maybe I'm misreading it, but it looks like he/she literally means the words 'tough ask".

Anyway, it's been interesting hearing about the fundraising jargon. It still rubs me the wrong way though.

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