look a question

redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Suppose a stranger is leading me and my friend into a dark alley where I see a manly figure holding a rubber bag. I know there's something seedy going on but I can't figure out what it is. I don't dare say a word to my friend as the stranger is getting testy, and not to mention he has a knife tucked in his belt. So I just look a question at my friend hoping to find out what is going on, but my friend only shrugs, obviously hiding something.

Hi, I came across "look a question" in a book and I'd like to check with you if it fits in this concocted scenario. I take "look a question" to mean "give someone a look that seems to ask a question".
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "look a question" seems unnatural and unlikely.

    "So I just
    look a question shot a questioning glance at my friend hoping to find out what is going on"
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I disagree with Paul. I have heard "look a question" (though I don't think I've ever used it myself), and what it means is exactly what you supposed, Redgiant: Look at someone in such a way that you seem to be asking a question. Paul's suggestion of "shot a questioning glance" works as well.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I've just queried Google Ngram for "he looked a question,I looked a question" - from 1886, they appear, albeit infrequently, in AE but in BE, they are completely absent.

    (Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have found the defining difference - I will write to Mr Chomsky)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I queried for just "looked a question" and there are even some in BE. Here's one from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Nightmare Room":
    Campbell stepped back and looked a question at the lady.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I'm surprised that it sounds so odd to everybody else. I've never had the impression it was common, because I'm sure it's not, but up until now, I hadn't considered it obscure. Maybe I should. But to me it sounds no more obscure than a lot of the expressions we happily answer questions about here - I mean, it's far less obscure than, say, sepulcher vs. sepulture. ;)
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I wouldn't say it sounds 'odd' to me, Kate ... it's just 'unfamiliar' ... and not something I'd actually say or write:)
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    The bottom line is that it isn't a common way of expressing the idea, but it is understandable, and wouldn't raise any non- pedantic eyebrows if you said that.
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    On the third wide circle of John’s Suburban, Dan’s mouth broke into a grin, and a very Abra-like giggle issued from him. Dave looked a question at John across the body of their shambling, stumbling charge. John shrugged and shook his head.
    Source: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

    Not surprising that King uses this expression.
     

    Anglona

    Member
    Español - castellano
    ‘I a better prepared for it than you, as it happens.’
    I looked a question at her.

    From Talking Cubes, a short story by Brian Aldiss.
    It may not be an everyday expression, but not altogether uncommon in literature.
     
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