Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Verb That Got Me Worry

Get worried? I recall my grade school teachers admonishing my peers and me if we used "got" in our papers.  "It's dull writing!" the elders decried, and we fledglings were most likely using it incorrectly: She got worried about it.

Every generation has its own scruples. My teachers were looking for correctness and variety.

I don't mind got if it is used to mean acquired. But more and more I'm seeing its being used as an auxilary for some other verb.  I know I'm no linguist, and not arbitrator of usage.  With regard to cheerleaders' "c'mon get psyched" to advertisers' "get amazed," I can have no sway.  I've given up hope on in-the-field, off-the-cuff journalist speech, but please allow me to cringe when it's in a written and obstensibly edited article in an educational journal, such as this month's issue of Educational Leadership.  One writer suggested that readers "Get familiar with asynchronous tools" of digital learning.  I simply ask, whatever happened to "be," as in "Become familiar with asynchronous tools."  Get needs a noun, not a verb.  Now my working grammar is not above reproach, but I expect more from edited texts.

Is it too much to ask? I don't expect folks to suddenly add nouns. "Get familiarization," "get amazement," "get readiness," or "get richness" don't roll off the tongue.  I imagine the battle of using adverbs rather than adjectives would be won first. Recall Apple Computer's ubiquitous slogan of the 1990s:  "Think different."  It still bothers me. Language evolves, I know, still it seems a loss, especially when adding -ly to form adverbs or using be or have instead of get is so easy.

Nowadays, I crusade with my students to think of "to get" as "to acquire," and "got" as "acquired."  If you can fit acquired into your sentence, then you may use got (sorry, gained, garnered, partook, copped, collected, obtained, and snagged!)  I got

What about when got is the main verb? "You've got mail," much groaned over, is fine by me.  In this case, Have is the auxilary to the past tense of get. Read as "You have acquired mail." (Remember those halcyon pre-spam days when that was a great thing to hear!)

So get with it! Acquire a new understanding of got.  Don't worry. Be amazed. Be psyched. Think differently.

Image credit: "Worried 62/365." By Roberto Bouza. 1 Dec. 2009. Flickr.

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