I Got it, You Got it, We ALL Got it

I've got a bee in my bonnet and of late it has got more and more active. Someone's got to help! Now I pride myself on not being a pedant on subjects linguistic. Your pronunciation of pronunciation is no concern of mine. I'm as prone as the next person to completely overlook the odd split infinitive. If U chooz to use groovy SMS spelling in your txt, I'll LOL with you.

In fact, overall, I'm quite comfortable with the whole 'language is a living thing' thing.

But every man has his limit and I've got mine ... and perhaps by now you've got what I'm saying? No? Then read this, taken from my copy of the classic Usage and Abusage by Eric Partridge, and attributed by him to an anonymous work published in 1789:

“I got on horseback within ten minutes after I got your letter. When I got to Canterbury I got a chaise for town; but I got wet through, and have got such a cold that I shall not get rid of in a hurry. I got to the Treasury about noon, but first of all got shayed and dressed. I soon got into the secret of getting a memorial before the Board, but I could not get an answer then; however, I got intelligence from a messenger that I should get one next morning. As soon as I got back to my inn, I got my supper, and then got to bed. When I got up next morning, I got my breakfast, and, having got dressed, I got out in time to get an answer to my memorial. As soon as I got it, I got into a chaise, and got back to Canterbury by three, and got home for tea. I have got nothing for you, and so adieu.”

Sadly, the overuse of the word 'got' is as bad now as it was 220 years ago. Read and listen carefully and you will see and hear it everywhere - nearly as frequently as this writer suggests.

The problem is twofold.

First, its use is often redundant. As pointed out in 1789, to say "I have got a father 90 years old" is effectively to say "I have have a father 90 years old".

Second, it is lazy and an injustice to the depth of our language. Rather than choose an appropriate verb, the tendency is to chuck in the one which is closest to hand: 'got' (or 'get'). As our 18th century author points out, "When I got to Canterbury I got a chaise for town" could easily be "When I arrived in Canterbury I hired a chaise for town..." which is both more interesting and more precise.

I won't give you the full English lesson - I've got to go. In any case, this problem having been a blight for over two centuries: my blogging about it is going to have zero, zilch and no impact.

But it has helped me get this bee off my chest. Thanks.

(Image Andreas)

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