Sorcery and Cecilia (was Re: The Importance etc)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Jan 12 18:11:44 EST 2005


Ania wrote:

>I have lent this book to a friend as soon as I finished reading it, so I
>can't go and check, but I think there was more to the reason for my
>irritation than the mere presence of the word 'gotten'. As far as I remember
>it occurred in phrases/idioms much too modern for the setting, such as 'I
>have gotten hold of' or 'it has gotten cold', when surely if anything they
>should have said 'I acquired' or 'I succeeded in obtaining', and 'it became
>cold'. I might have overlooked it if they had used 'got' instead. But as I
>said, I don't have the book at hand.

I have, and I can find seven uses of "gotten", five by Patricia C. Wrede
and two by Caroline Stevermer.

"But I had better think of something, because he's gotten lost."
"He has gotten a new snuff-box in silver filigree..."
"Evidently she has gotten the notion that you have a sort of Grand Plan to
unite her with Robert."
"Word has gotten round that Sir Hilary is back in residence..."
"...to suggest that you damp your dresses when you have just gotten over a
shocking cold."
"And then Sir Hilary wouldn't have gotten either of us."
"...she didn't know what she had gotten hold of and she let Thomas steal
him away."

Apart from "word has gotten round" (which I think would have been "word has
gone round") those uses of "got" all seem to go back at least to the 1550s,
some to ME.  "Got" is one of those words that is very much present in
English in all sorts of phrases, and from very early.  Shakespeare uses it
extensively in combinations, f'rinstance.

>Perhaps one of the many Austen fans could tell us if she uses the form and
>in what context? She is more or less of the right period.

Dunno, but Hobbes ("Reason is not gotten by Experience onely") and Sir
Walter Raleigh ("when I had gotten my libertye") do, a century and two
centuries earlier.  So the question is really not "was/is gotten English"
(as opposed to American) but rather "was it still holding out in 1815".

Incidentally I don't disagree with you, because "gotten" jarred on me too,
but it may be that it would have been correct and simply seems wrong now
because the two languages have diverged.  (I did try to get it cut out of
*The Grand Tour* but I can't remember whether it is still there or not.)
If "gotten" hadn't survived in American, we probably wouldn't mind it in a
book set in England two centuries ago, would we?

>I do sometimes read biographies- I really enjoyed The Surgeon of Crowthorne-
>not surprising considering it was about one of the major contributors to the
>Oxford English Dictionary (I would gladly take the OED to the desert island
>instead of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare!)

That's a really good idea -- it would be a fine thing to have.  If they
allowed it instead of those two, what would you take as your "one book"?

Minnow


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