Sorcery and Cecilia and Desert Island books

Anna Z Skarzynska ania at
Thu Jan 13 15:30:48 EST 2005

Minnow- Had to change the order of your post slightly, because my comments
will make better sense like that. You'll see. Also, I must remind you that I
am not a native English speaker (this really was brought home to me when
reading the thread about the sestina with equinoctial tears- whole new
vistas opened to me after reading all your readings of that poem- especially
Minnow's one. For this I am Grateful)

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

> Apart from "word has gotten round" (which I think would have been "word
> gone round") those uses of "got" all seem to go back at least to the
> 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.

Granted, but it is my impression that 'to get hold of something' in the
sense of 'acquire' is a relatively recent meaning; I understand it only used
to mean 'to grasp', and only in its completely literal sense, so 'I got hold
of the book' meant 'I grabbed the book in/with my hand', or indeed 'I TOOK
hold of the book', not 'I acquired the book'.
The others- well, FWIW, here are the 'offending' phrases with my suggested
'improvements' (note the quotes!)

> "But I had better think of something, because he's gotten lost."
not sure here.

> "He has gotten a new snuff-box in silver filigree..."
'he has' or 'he acquired'

> "Evidently she has gotten the notion that you have a sort of Grand Plan to
> unite her with Robert."
'she had the notion'

> "Word has gotten round that Sir Hilary is back in residence..."

> " suggest that you damp your dresses when you have just gotten over a
> shocking cold."
'you overcame/have overcome' (?)- on second thoughts, maybe not- still, it
doesn't sound quite right as it is, somehow.

> "And then Sir Hilary wouldn't have gotten either of us."
not sure, but that doesn't seem right either.

> "...she didn't know what she had gotten hold of and she let Thomas steal
> him away."
see above for my theories on getting hold of things.

> 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?

Maybe not. But as I said in my original post, it wasn't so much the 'gotten'
itself, but that it drew my attention to phrases/usage that seemed out of
time with the setting. Anyway, I would be very happy to be corrected-
linguistic self-improvement is something for which I constantly strive.

> >I do sometimes read biographies- I really enjoyed The Surgeon of
> >not surprising considering it was about one of the major contributors to
> >Oxford English Dictionary (I would gladly take the OED to the desert
> >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"?

I suspect it would have to be something in Polish none of you has ever heard
about. Probably 'Ogniem i mieczem' (with Fire and Sword) by Henryk
Sienkiewicz: historical novel set during the Cossack uprising in the Ukraine
(then part of Poland) in the 1600s. One of my favourite books.
If it had to be an English book and a novel, then possibly Jane Eyre. If not
a novel, maybe A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal
Indo-European Languages by Charles Darling Buck, or Skeat's Etymological
Dictionary of English.

What's yours?

PS. For those of you who don't listen to BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs is
a programme which has been around forever. It is basically a long interview
with someone famous (not usually as in 'celeb', more in the sense of eminent
in his/her field). The talking is interspersed with music the interviewee
would like to take to a desert island. Towards the end, s/he has to choose
just one of these. Then s/he gets to choose a book (Shakespeare and the
Bible are already provided- I suppose they were worried everyone would ask
for one of these otherwise), and a luxury which must not be anything
practical that could be used to aid the escape or to make physical survival


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