Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Get Real With Garner

The Usage Tip of the Day that Bryan Garner just sent out is so good I have to share it:
"Get" is good English. Yet many writers want to avoid it because they consider it too informal; they prefer "obtain" or "procure." The same tendency is at work here that leads some writers to shun "before" in favor of "prior to," "later" in favor of "subsequent to," and the like. But confident, relaxed writers use the word "get" quite naturally -- e.g.: "Duke was obviously referring to some of the conference championship teams or playoff winners that either got lucky or hot during the playoffs or played an unimpressive schedule to win a conference title and gain an automatic berth." Gordon S. White Jr., "NCAA Tourney Snubs Syracuse," N.Y. Times, 9 Mar. 1981, at Cl.

Although some pedants have contended that "get" must always mean "to obtain," any good dictionary will confirm that it has more than a dozen meanings, including "to become." So the second and third bulleted examples above are quite proper. And it's entirely acceptable to use such phrases as "get sick" and "get rich."


Izzy Bee said...

So what's your take on "have gotten"? I cringe even to hear it, and in print the phrase looks uneducated.
My eighth grade English teacher was very persnickety about "have gotten"; she occasionally would allow "have got" but usually "have" would suffice.
But now I hear it all the time and even glimpsed it in an LA Times book review. Ouch! Am I just getting curmudgeonly?

Unknown said...

Izzy, you must not have gotten the memo. Your superstitions about usage have gotten out of hand.

"The notion that gotten is illegitimate has been around for over 200 years and refuses to die. The word itself is much older than the criticism against it." Or so says American Heritage.

More at

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Being English, I see 'have gotten' as a screaming Americanism. That's no reason not to use it, of course, and you might not care, but it's always interesting to know how the language you use is perceived.

The prejudice against 'got' exists over here; I had at least one English teacher at school who absolutely forbade use from using it.