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Misbegotten Views on Gotten
A few of you were dismayed by our using gotten in last week’s article. We wrote: “In recent years we have debunked some of these
baseless ‘rules,’ and gotten a lot of heat from frustrated readers.”
An exasperated gentleman from Australia was “shocked” by the appearance of “gotten,” which he denounced ex cathedra as a
“non-word.” His email was generous with vitriol but stingy with evidence. That’s because no language scholar in any English-speaking
country would question the legitimacy of gotten.
has been in continuous use for about seven hundred years, though it all but disappeared from England in the eighteenth century. “In Great
Britain got is the only form of the participle used and the older form gotten is considered archaic,” says Bergen and Cornelia
Evans’s Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage. “In the United States gotten is still the preferred form of the participle
when it is used with have to express a completed action.”
The BBC’s website recently ranked gotten fifteenth on a list of the fifty most annoying “Americanisms.” The Grammarist
website explains: “Many English speakers from outside North America resist the encroachment of so-called Americanisms (many of which, like gotten, are not actually American in origin) on their versions of English, and, for mysterious reasons, some feel especially strongly about gotten.”
In The Careful Writer, the American writer-editor Theodore M. Bernstein admits to some reservations about the use of gotten: “Have gotten might occasionally be useful in written language … In most instances, however, a more precise verb would be used: ‘He has
gotten [received] his just deserts’; ‘He has gotten [obtained] what he was after’ …”
Roy H. Copperud’s Dictionary of Usage and Style has no such misgivings: “An uneasy idea persists that gotten is improper
… Efforts to avoid got by substituting obtained or any other word the writer must strain after are misspent.”
The American linguists Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman offer a further vindication of gotten: “A Brit will tell you that
‘gotten’ is wrong. Not so! The truth is that at one time, English routinely had two past participles for the verb ‘get.’ …
While American English retained both forms, British English dropped ‘gotten’ entirely. The result is that we have a nuance of meaning the poor
“When we say, ‘Jack and Sue have got a dog,’ we mean they own a dog. When we say, ‘Jack and Sue have gotten a dog,’ we mean
they have acquired one. There’s a distinct difference between the two statements.”
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Spelling Doesn't Matter
Aoccdrnig to extnesvie rseeacrh conudcetd at Oxofrd Uinervtisy in Enlgnad, it deosn't raelly mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a toatl mses and you usulaly can sitll raed it wouthit much porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.
Jsut thnik a momnet abuot all the tmie you and I watesed laernnig how to splel wrods croreclty!
p.s. Nedslees to say, tihs lteter has not been splel cehkecd.
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.