Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Still Don't Get It

In my last substantive post I pondered the various uses of 'have got'/'have gotten', and mentioned that, in general, 'have gotten' is standard only in North America, and then only for certain meanings. I failed to mention, however, that a few American editors and style guides call for always replacing 'gotten' with 'got', among them the New Yorker. I have been a devoted New Yorker reader since college, but I still haven't gotten used to this feature, or got used to it. For instance, in this weeks issue Rita Katz, a self-employed spy (really - read the article) is quoted as saying
I would never have got interested in the politics of this part of the world if it weren’t for [my father's] execution

I am certain that she must have said 'gotten', which the editors automatically changed to 'got.' Something about the resulting sentence, however, doesn't ring true, though I'm not sure why this example is so much more jarring for me than all the other times the New Yorker uses 'have got' in a distinctly un-American way. So I'll perform the Positive Anymore signature move of making up a fact based on nothing more than my faulty intuition.

I think that there is something distinctly American about the syntax Katz (who, incidentally, is Iraqi born and raised in Israel) employs, which is incompatible with 'have got' in the sense of 'have become.' I don't know precisely what is distinctly American, and I'm eager as always to be contradicted, disproven, insulted... well, maybe not insulted.

In my last post on this topic I mentioned that some Americans use past participles for the simple past with some verbs and others use the simple past as a past participle with some verbs. I'll post more on this later, but I bring it up now because I want to go out on a limb and say that even those Americans who use the simple past as a past participle would not use 'have got' to mean 'have become.'

Who has two thumbs and no data to support his claims? (gesturing at self with thumbs) This guy.

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