Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Got Gots? Maybe You Should Have Fewer…

The word got is ugly to say, hear and think about. Aurally, it starts with a hard G in the back of the throat and initiates a dropping jaw and a burst of air that is corralled by the tongue, which is stopped up against the mouth’s frontal roof. Ick. And it’s a selfish word, very possessive and grabby.

In most cases when we might feel compelled to use got, it could be dropped without losing the sentence’s meaning. If you say, “I have got to quit training for the triathlon because my cigarette keeps going out,” the word got is redundant, and should be avoided.

That is not the case if the have or has in question is contracted; in such cases, the got is required. One iconic example of this that resonates with old people is AOL’s signature greeting, “You’ve got mail!” It wouldn’t quite sound right if it said, “You’ve mail.” If it said, "You have mail," that would be fine, but might lack the implication of delight or celebration that the marketing team at AOL intended.

It can be used for emphasis in special cases like, “You have got to be kidding me,” but if it ends up on your page, ask yourself twice if it has got to be there.