A friend of mine in Singapore recently sent me this new (to me, anyway) English word and its definition:
a person who constantly asks for your advice, yet always does the opposite of what you told them
I’m not sure if this word was invented in Singapore, which has its own distinctive brand of spoken English (e.g. ending many English sentences with “lah”; and expressing numbers such as “40-over” rather than “over 40”, “forty-plus”, or “more than forty”. I doubt “askhole” was invented in Singapore, simply because the behavior is so widespread around the world.
It didn’t take me long to think of a few askholes that I know. I’m sure stock brokers and lawyers can quickly think of dozens of askholes from among their clientele. That’s not to mention management consultants, counsellors, teachers, parents, and so on — all of whom have dealt with askholes.
Obviously the intended humor surrounding this word derives from its close similarity to another English word in which the “k” in “askhole” is replaced by an “s”. That’s a word we were taught not to use in polite company, although that rule may be suspended while driving your car, if some other driver suddenly cuts in front of you or engages in some other stupidly dangerous driving.
The similarity with that not-so-polite word automatically gives “askhole” a negative connotation. On the other hand, I would rise to the defense of the askholes of the world, because I think there’s a lot to be said in favor of asking lots of questions, whether in search of advice or otherwise.
If someone really asked my advice often and then did the opposite every time, I guess I would be inclined to turn off the “free advice” switch at some point. It’s a matter of degree and situation. Some people face very big challenges when trying to take good advice. Think of compulsive gamblers, drug addicts, alcoholics, or people suffering from mental disorders. We sometimes forget that they’re people too, often struggling with a serious illness.
But my main point here is to sing the praise of asking questions in general.
Most people are afraid to ask questions in case they might sound like dumb questions, which makes the asker in turn sound like a dumb person. This fear should be on everyone’s “Most Wanted” list, like the list of criminals “most wanted” by the police. This fear of asking questions is a major enemy of learning. It deserves to be identified, captured, and executed. Unless you prefer to stay dumb, which is how we all start out and how you will remain if you’re afraid to ask questions.
I think this is a universal fear which people in most societies have to overcome at some point. The challenge is greater in cultures where “face” is a relatively bigger or more complex issue.
I learned a lot growing up at home and in school, which had a big impact on shaping who I am and what values I hold dear. I have also been fortunate to have worked — in business as well as non-profit organizations — alongside some great mentors. Sometimes, due to the difference in age and rank, it’s obvious who is the mentor and who is the mentee in a working relationship. But lots of times it’s not. All sorts of people around you are potential mentors, and they may not even realize it.
It’s up to you to explore, by asking questions. The difference in your learning results might be compared to an old steam locomotive versus today’s high speed railway trains. Some people may prefer the pace of the old-fashioned steam engines, but in today’s super competitive, shrink-wrapped world, I’d opt for the faster learning track. A lot will come from home, and school; but beyond that, a huge amount depends on you asking questions, including dumb ones.
That doesn’t make you an askhole, by the way.
As I am fond of saying to younger friends and colleagues, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.
我不清楚这个词是不是新加坡人发明的，新加坡的英语口语带有明显的地方特色（比如很多英语句子以“啦”结尾，说数字常用“40-over”代替“over 40”、“forty-plus”或者“more than forty”。我很怀疑“askhole”这个词是不是新加坡人发明的，原因很简单，因为这种行为在全世界都很普遍。