As you may have noticed, I got absorbed with the word "get" earlier today. "Let's get out of here" and "You just don't get it, do you?" are 2 famously recurrent lines in movies. In the comments, I was saying:
"Get" — the word in both cliche lines — is a funny word. I've noticed that professional writers -- e.g. lawyers -- will replace the word "get" whenever they can (with seemingly more proper words like "obtain" and "acquire" and "depart" or "arrive"). It's like it's not a regular word. It's so useful we shouldn't use it.And:
"You just don't get it" is a fascinating phrase. It was huge during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Do you remember? It's used to exert psychological pressure. You're trying to persuade someone that a particular viewpoint is correct, and you're jumping to this level of disgust and disbelief, essentially telling the person that they are dumb and isolated from all the people who already understand. It's not just that you don't agree with me already, you're some kind of outcast.St. Croix said avoiding the word "get" is "a class thing," and professionals who avoid it are trying to sound "high class," trying "to impress." That made me do a little search to see whether the Supreme Court suppresses the word "get," and found it in only one third of the cases in the past year. Often it was a quote, like "Have you ever tried to get cow s*** out of a Prada purse?" (which is a cute low/high mix). Justice Scalia began a dissenting opinion with: "Let me get this straight..." (which might be taken as a deliberate working-class affectation). I'm seeing the word used in colloquial phrases like "get around," "get it backwards," and "get it right." Following natural speech patterns, "get" would appear much more frequently, so I say there's active suppression.
I ran across the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. sentence about free speech and the marketplace of ideas:
"But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out."Imagine what the standard present-day legal editor would do to that sentence: the best test of truth is the power of the thought to gain acceptance in the competition of the market. (The editor would also try to purge the passive voice by fiddling around with the subject — maybe it should be "competition" — toying with the notion of making "test" the verb, and fretting over whether "test" and "market" amount to a mixed metaphor.)
Lawyers and judges just don't get that "get" is a fine word that shouldn't be replaced by boring longer words. When it comes up naturally, as you'd use it in speech, that's where it belongs. It feels natural because it's won in the marketplace of people talking to each other over the centuries, carrying out their affairs in real time. "Got" is true.
As I said, I got — got! — absorbed in the word "get" today, and I got — got! — interested in figuring what's the best song with the word "get." A marketplace of "get" songs. "People Get Ready" won. (Look at how many cover versions there are!) Other contenders — in addition to the above-mentioned "Get Ready" — are: "I'll Get You"/"Get Back"/"Getting Better"/"Got to Get You Into My Life" (The Beatles), "Get It While You Can" (Janis Joplin), "Get Off of My Cloud" (The Rolling Stones), "Get on the Floor" (Michael Jackson), "I Get Around" (The Beach Boys); "Can I Get a Witness" (Marvin Gaye), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (The Animals).... That's just stuff easily picked from my 1960s-leaning iPod.
My point is: What a hard, sharp word! Use it.
(And: "People Get Ready" = sublime.)