"getting" and "gotting" of American English threatens our ability to
express ourselves with precision, if you get my meaning. I hope my
declaration got your attention
you’re unconcerned about how common get and got are getting
to be, you need to get with it because, believe me, we’ve got problems.
Forgive me if I get on my soapbox, but I don’t want you to get complacent.
We gotta get started on a solution.
It’s not just that get and got
get used in place of more precise and interesting words; their
predominating use also represents a general trend toward less elegant and
artful speech. As you can tell, that trend is starting to get to me,
though I’m aware I may get nothing but trouble for raising the issue.
I’m not advocating a stodgy,
artificially formal style of English, but I am defending (or getting
behind) a style of writing and speaking that retains some of the natural
beauty of our language, as in "I have two dollars" rather than "I got two
The other day I heard a radio
commentator refer to a marketing approach designed "to get interest" in a
song so that the recording company could "get someone to pay for it." How
does speech like that get on the air?
My concern is that, if we stop using
more interesting and colorful words such as arouse and induce,
those words may get dropped (or vanish) from our vocabulary, a
lamentable development given the rich and varied choices we English speakers
have got (or have available to us).
Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that
get is so deeply ingrained in our everyday idioms that we could never
expunge it (or get rid of it), nor would I recommend that we try (or get
on the stick and get cracking with it). Such an effort would get nowhere.
Besides, there is something deeply
satisfying about the guttural sound of get and got, a sound
that seems linked to the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic roots of our
language. It is perhaps no accident that English lends itself so naturally
to the heavily accentuated rhythms of rock and roll. One feels some
sympathy for our French counterparts who must work so hard to achieve the
same effect with the syllables of their unstressed language. English is
definitely the get-down language.
But to get back to (or return to) the
point I’m trying to get across (or convey), how about some degree of
balance between the guttural and the graceful?
My modest proposal: At least on
occasion, in place of got, use have, as in "I have two
dollars," or use achieve, as in "Houston has achieved control of
the spacecraft," or simply use a more precise verb, as in "Houston has
stabilized the spacecraft." How about "I finished" rather than "I got
Still, I think Curtis Mayfield got it
right when he wrote the lyrics to his famous song. Just for the record, he
did not write,
"People, prepare yourselves."