Ill Gotten Gains

Something of a debate sprung up today over at Leg-iron’s about the word “gotten” used in place of “got”. Leggy said that he would never use the word. But I said I liked it. I think it’s a rather musical word, as in “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” (Gene Pitney 1967). The line wouldn’t scan if “gotten” was replaced with “got”. I said that I thought it was an American word, and therefore most likely an old English word that had fallen out of use in England. Several people agreed. Anyway we still use “forgotten” and “misbegotten” and even “ill gotten gains”.

A bit of searching turned up this:

Although the British stopped using the past participle gotten about three hundred years ago, the American colonists and their descendants–especially in New England–still tend to use it.

Some English teachers have tried to ban its usage to make American English conform to British English, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth century when there was a movement to purify English. Others are just not used to its use because it is not used in their region and hear it as an error.

Ultimately, language is convention.

“Gotten” is an old English word that has been preserved in America, and I’ve re-adopted it. There are quite a few American words I’ve adopted. Like “movie”. In England, they are called “films”. But I prefer movie, because movies move, and a film is just a sheet of acetate.

I have the idea that “Yeah” is another one of these returning prodigal sons, re-introduced in the 60s by “Yeah Yeah Yeah”, and once again derived from old English “Yea”.

“OK” or “okay” is another one which I think has arrived from America. But it may be German in origin, as in Alles Korrect. But it may also be Choctaw or West African.

It reminds me of the time back in 2003 when I hung out on US discussion forums, and found I could easily pass myself off as an American. All I had to do was make sure that I spelled colour as “color” and honour as “honor” and humour as “humor”, and threw in the occasional “y’all”, and everyone thought I was trailer trash living a block or two off the main drag of Lima, Ohio. Although one American emailed me and said she was having an argument with her English husband about me: she was convinced that I was American, but he was equally convinced that I was English. So I owned up. Or, as they say in America, fessed up.

In recent years I’ve begun to think that, now that English has become the principal international language, these differences will probably get ironed out, one way or other. Which spellings are likely to prevail? Will it be the honour of the British Parachute Regiment, or the honor of the US Screaming Eagles? I rather think that it will be the latter, firstly because it involves one less letter, and also because someone in the comments over at Leg-iron’s was suggesting that the added ‘u’ in the English “colour” was a French infection. Some words have already succumbed: the English billion used to mean a million million, but now it means the same as the US thousand million.

There are quite a few of these problem words. In English, smoking a cigarette is often called “having a fag.” But in America that means something like “having sexual relations with a homosexual.” And US cars have hoods while English ones have bonnets. And in England we walk along the roadside pavement, while in America they use the sidewalk. And I must say that simple constructions like “sidewalk” or “boardwalk”and “roadkill” strike me as good pieces of descriptive English that don’t need any explanation.

Another one is the English “maths” versus the American “math” (as in “Do the math!”). I still stick with “maths”, because it’s short for mathematics, which has an ‘s’ on the end. But a week or so back I was watching a YouTube of some English mathematician who kept talking about “math”, and I had the feeling that this was another one that the Yanks were going to win.

But there’s no way – absolutely no way ever – that I’m going to start referring to “chips” as “French fries”. I’ll fight to the death over that one. Yes, sir. I’ll maybe even go down fighting for English “bangers and mash”, although I found out recently that sausages only started getting called “bangers” because the wartime versions of them used to explode after they were given plastic skins. I haven’t seen a pork sausage do that for a long, long time.

In our increasingly globalised world, it’s not just English and American which are coming into stronger collision than ever in the last four centuries. There are also all the other languages. The English language is permeated with a great deal of French, as in en masse and raison d’être and sangfroid. And from Germany we have zeitgeist and blitz and schadenfreude. And from Italy La Dolce Vita. And from Russia apparatchik. And lots more.

And then there are all the new words that come with improving technology, like “email” and “internet” and “blog”.

In all this, I’m not really sure why English has come to predominate. I used to think that it was simply because there used to be a (surprisingly large) British Empire, which has since been largely supplanted by a US Superpower, and we could just as easily have been speaking French or German or Spanish if the events of history had taken a slightly different turn. But while translating some English into German not long ago, Reinhold remarked that English sentences tended to be more compact than German. And maybe that’s the reason. A compact language takes up less space, and uses less ink, and requires less effort. So English is perhaps a Least Action language.

But I’m far from convinced that English is that good a language. When I visited Spain in recent years, and studied Spanish a bit, I was delighted to find that it was probably about as near to Latin as anyone can get. I studied Latin at school, and loved the language because it was so regular and rational. Greek – Ancient Greek, anyway – is very similar. And I couldn’t help but think that if Greece had produced all those philosophers and mathematicians and so on, it was probably because they had a rational language that encouraged – and maybe even enforced – rational thought. Much the same might be said of the Romans. And English always seems to me to be far too irregular and irrational to match the clarity and simplicity of those two languages. And if we’re living in a mad, mad, mad world these days, it’s perhaps because we speak English.

Sic transit gloria mundi, y’all.


About Frank Davis

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73 Responses to Ill Gotten Gains

  1. Reinhold says:

    I’ve learned that there are no French Fries any more.
    They’re called Freedom Fries now, aren’t they?

  2. Have to agree on just about all, especially the chips! I still insist on “film” or “cinema” as “movies” and “movie house” just don’t sound right. Of course in Ireland [pre-ban] we used to go to the pub for some crack. That usually raises a few American eyebrows?

    I confess to using “gotten” myself the odd time. I shall claim it is an attempt at Old English revival.

  3. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to disagree on your projection that the differences will get “ironed out.” I think they’re simply going to get destroyed by Webian and Twitterish. :/ People learn language more by osmosis than by formal classroom teaching, and young people growing up today are learning to speak and write what they read — and what they read is the internet and twitter. Five years ago I almost never saw anyone use “lead” as the past-tense of “lead” but today I see it every week or so, and sometimes in fairly official and educated surroundings. Ten years ago the only person I knew who dropped the “to be” from statements like “This window needs to be washed” was a Filipino. Today I’m hearing it all the time and every time I *do* hear it, it grates on my ears almost painfully.

    In brief…. it’s gotten bad, ‘n it’s gettin’ worse, got me?


  4. nisakiman says:

    Another common difference in which I think the American will come to dominate is the -ise / -ize suffix to words. As I understand it, the -ize ending is supposed to be the more academically correct, deriving from the Greek / Latin roots. The use of -ise by the British is relatively recent, and comes from a brief infatuation with the French style of writing the suffix. I think it was seen as more elegant. I don’t know if that theory is correct, but I seem to remember reading something along those lines years ago. Whatever, I seem to be seeing the -ize spelling more often these days, so I think it will come to predominate.

  5. waltc says:

    Raymond Chandler, who I still think holds up as one of the great American writers (if you’ve never read him, start with “Farewell, My Lovely”), grew up as a Brit and came here in his 20s. He was knocked out by American English and says somewhere that he began writing just in order to play with it. At it’s best, American English itself plays with words and often does it with great wit in its freshly-coined slang, and, as you’ve just pointed out, with exhilarating economy.

    “Got” for “gotten” sounds “foreign” to me (almost like “in hospital” minus the good old American “the”) and if anyone said “He would have got something out of it” I’d peg him as a Brit. However, I was schooled to spell theater as theatre which American spellcheck often reminds me with a blinking red line is no longer acceptable.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Raymond Chandler is a great writer. For me he’s been one of those writers that I read and wonder how the heck he does it. Because it’s very, very good.

      So I dropped into our local library this afternoon, to see if they had Farewell My Lovely. They didn’t, but they have the Big Sleep somewhere in Herefordshire.

      I may have read it before. I know I read three or four of his books.30 or more years ago.

      I didn’t know he was born in England.

  6. I’ve always been plagued by a tendency to spell things in the British style, and I don’t think there’s any area where it’s more of a problem than with ise/ize. It’s gotten to the point where I simply don’t EVER know which spelling to use. I guess at one and if spell-check doesn’t flag it then I just charge ahead. If I had my druthers (now THERE’S a nice word!) I’d use ise almost exclusively. Ize almost always looks wrong to me.

    – MJM

    • margo says:

      If you wanted to be precise, you’d use -ize in words with Greek roots and -ise in words with French roots. Or you could use -ise all the time and be ‘correct’. Using -ize all the time doesn’t quite work, because of that group of words like ‘surprise’, ‘advertise’, etc whose ending hasn’t anything to do with either the Greek method (izein) or the French (ise). The most modern -ise/-ize words, coined by turning nouns into verbs (hospitalize, colonize, bastardize) – I think we are supposed to use the z way for them. Possibly because this turning of nouns into verbs is more of an American thing?

  7. margo says:

    Can anyone explain to me why in American movies I often hear something like this:
    ‘Got a light?’
    ‘Yeah, I do.’
    What’s this ‘do got’ all about? Why not ‘Yeah, I have’?
    (I’ve asked people this question before and never had a proper answer).

  8. You need to try “de-Englishing” German! However To me a “Handy” (mobile telephone), will ALWAYS be “tragbarer Fernsprechapparat”, and a “lap-top” = Klapprechner.

    What I can not STAND is the way some words are pronounced here; Pub becomes “Pab”, Punk = “Pank”, Buggy = Baggy”.

    WTFFFFF? I mean, it is not as if we do not HAVE the correct “u” sound!

    Also, many English words are used TOTALY out of context. For examples… na can not think of any off hand, but they stick out like a sore thumb when you hear them being used in a conversation.

    • Reinhold says:

      You mean they really say Pub and Punk in England? Not Pab and Pank?

      • Frank Davis says:

        Yes, we do. U as in up, luck, stuck, etc.

        But in the north of England the U is more like poob and poonk.

        Same with the letter A. In the south of England (where I live) words like bath or path are pronounced like lark or dark. But oop north they’re pronounced more like lack or back or math.

      • I presume you are being facetious? :-))


        I have not got a bloody CLUE where the German pronunciation comes from, unless they were all taught by a Bow bells Cockney, where there MAY be a bit of confussion…. To those of the “tone deaf” persuassion.

        • Reinhold says:

          I have not got a bloody CLUE where the German pronunciation comes from

          From school, I guess.

          See Frank’s explanation:

          U as in up, luck, stuck, etc.

          That’s our “a”.
          And if you go to Google’s translator, enter “pub” and click the little speaker symbol, a voice says … “Pab”! :-)

        • XX Reinhold says:
          October 12, 2012 at 11:15 pm
          From school, I guess. XX

          Chicken and egg. Where did THEY get it from? As I say, it is not as if we do not HAVE the correct sound. Tun, Mutter, Butter, Bus, usw, z.B.

          XX And if you go to Google’s translator, enter “pub” and click the little speaker symbol, a voice says … “Pab”! :-) XX

          Aye, well Google is full of shit as well, then. :-))

          And re Google, refer back to my first question here, “where did the schools get it from?” Because the teachers there were learning their English LONG before Google was even thought of.

          Strange. Of course “Pub” is not a word I would personaly use any way. Kneipe is the word they are looking for, not some pathetic English word which they can not even pronounce correctly. :-))))

        • Reinhold says:

          Of course “Pub” is not a word I would personaly use any way.

          Neither would I.

          Kneipe is the word

          Sounds much to Prussian to me ;-) – I’d prefer Boazn.

        • XX Reinhold says:
          October 13, 2012 at 7:50 pm
          Of course “Pub” is not a word I would personaly use any way.
          Neither would I.
          Kneipe is the word
          Sounds much to Prussian to me ;-) XX

          KLAR DOCH!

          Saupreuße und stolz darauf!! :-]

          (The “reply” seems to have given up half way doen the thread. Hopefully this appears in the right place)

  9. Linguists suggest that changes in language are almost always driven by – well – laziness – or the desire for brevity. While our spelling, standardised by Johnson, is freaky – we do have a knack of keeping words short, especially in an emergency. How much more efficient to shout for a lifejacket than a brassière de sauvetage, how much easier to stay STOP instead of ARRETTEZ VOUS. In the latter case English was adopted in France for road signs, even when we were still using the more authoritative HALT.
    Many Americanisms are suitably punchy and expressive to be welcomed by us, but I will never, never, never say “train station”.

  10. Barry Homan says:

    Frank, while we’re at it, I have a question. I noticed this while watching the old tv series “All Creatures…”. In one episode I heard one of the characters using the old pronouns thee, thou, and thy – it was his natural way of talking, and this series was set in pre-war Britain.

    Are there still people around in the UK who still use these archaic pronouns?

    Someone told me that as recently as 30 years ago, you could still find old rural folk in some backwood-portions of New England, ones who still used thou and thee in their normal speech. Don’t know if it’s true.

    • Aye. In Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire.

      • margo says:

        Oh arr, down yere they do say ‘Owst thee bin, then?’ for ‘How have you been?’
        (Only the old Somerset country folk, really).
        Furor Teutonicus, another thing I’ve often wondered – can you tell me why German grammar has a neuter word for ‘madchen’, a female young person? Does it do it for all diminutives?

        • Barry Homan says:

          I can answer that. Yes, add the diminutive suffixes -chen or -lein (Fräulein), or sometimes -le (as heard in Swabia) and it automatically becomes a neutral noun – always, even if the root-noun is feminine or masculine in nature.

        • Aye. Das Mädchen, Das Weibe (Old woman or “hag”), das Kind (whether Male or Female), das Hundchen, etc. And what Barry Homan said.

          The REASON…. na. When there was a REASON it would be easier to learn, but there IS a kind of logic to it. You would have to ask someone with a degree in “Germanistik” though. The sceince behing language is a world of its own.

          One I DO know is “das Weib”. A woman no longer of child bearing age. Therfore, logically “Asexual”, therfore “das”.

          I suppose, and it is not “scientific” that with “-chen”, it is presumed that they are PRE-sexual, and a similar rule applies.

        • margo says:

          Thanks, Furor T and Barry, for those answers!

        • Reinhold says:

          One I DO know is “das Weib”. A woman no longer of child bearing age.

          Hey, where did you get this from?
          Weib has nothing to do with childbearing. It’s really strange that it’s a neutral noun, but Weib was once used exactly as Frau today (in the sense of woman or wife).

          as for Mädchen, if I may add something:

          What’s curious somehow is the fact that Mädchen is a diminutive from a word that doesn’t exist. In you omit the -chen, one should think that there may be a Mäd (or a Mad, because an a mostly turns to an ä because of the -chen suffix), being a big girl or a woman. But there is none.
          Mädchen comes from Mägdchen which once meant a little Magd, and a Magd today is a maidservant but in former times was a virgin.

        • XX One I DO know is “das Weib”. A woman no longer of child bearing age.

          Hey, where did you get this from?
          Weib has nothing to do with childbearing. It’s really strange that it’s a neutral noun, but Weib was once used exactly as Frau today (in the sense of woman or wife).XX

          Where I got it from was my German history Proffessor in Edinburgh, who was also Proffesssor of Germanistiks.

          Weib = Frau. Gut.
          You could also take it as “A married woman” is “out of play” sozusagen. Therefore is, like a locked room, useless for purpose. Therfore “das”.

          An UN-married woman, ie Fräulein, became “Weib” by virtue of her being to old to marry, and, therfore, to all intents and purposes, the same as the married woman “out of play”, and considered to be (those days) “beyond child bearing age”. Therfore also “das.”

          It was a long time back….well 15+ years, and a good couple of nights in “The blind poet” at the back of Buccleuch Square, so memory as to EXACT argument is cloudy. But that was basically most of it.

    • jay says:

      I’ve certainly heard in rural Scotland someone using the archaic, “thrice”

  11. harleyrider1978 says:

    Takes his 8th grade vocabulary and runs………………..

  12. RdM says:

    So… what’s been striking me as absolutely appalling and irritating, over months and more, of listening to radio interviews of supposed intellectuals scientists public service personae and almost anybody, it seems, is the very way I began this sentence…

    Has anyone else noticed this increasing, to me really aggravating, new usage of “So … ” as a preliminary word in answer to Almost Any Question ???

    Years ago, perhaps it might have been “Um … ” or “Ah … ”
    The first might have indicated a pause for thought, but possibly implied some uncertainty, even vacillation – signs of weakness? – but “Ah… ” as a precursor utterance; – fairly neutral?

    or “Well … ”
    again a pause to gather a response in answer, better than “Um … ” preceding equivocation?

    Now, I so often hear this increasing, almost seemingly in condescension – except that it usually sounds so thoughtless! – usage of “So”, in a grammatically meaningless context, as a Leading Word… as in the first sentence above!

    So I want to know:
    Whence-forth has it arisen? Where’s it come from? How come??

    How? (mindless imitation now, but what, or whose, influence, inserted it, I wonder… ?)

    I ask so that I might gain further insights…

    (Ya reckon? ;=}) )

    ~ R

    [ search on: usage of “So” ]
    [little new there!]

    • Fredrik Eich says:

      I have noticed more people beginning sentences with the word ‘So …’ (especially scientists on TV ) but I have noticed fewer people starting sentences with the word ‘Basically …’. Which would seem even more of a time water if it were not for that the amount of time taken seems to be the same. I would guess it is just a way of indicating to listeners that you are about to respond while you gather your thoughts together along with “um” and “er”.

      • Of course if you’re an intellectual type, you’ll start off with something like, “Fundamentally,” rather than “Basically,”

        Or perhaps, “In light of the fundaments of the preceding discourse and its philosophically extended ramifications, I’d like to proffer my conclusion that…”

        • Barry Homan says:

          Why use one word when you can use twenty? Who remembers Bernard Cribbins in that episode of Fawlty Towers, when Basil thought he was a hotel inspector?

      • RdM says:

        Hmm, I think “Basically…” (and “Fundamentally… “, below) are however perfect entrees to a succinct (or basic or fundamental!) answer to a question that, especially to the answerer at least, may have many and complex ramifications or levels of detail that there just may not be time to go in to. Or, a basic or fundamental answer picthed at the perceived level of the questioners understanding.

        A similar case might be made for “Briefly… ” or “In short… “

    • Frank Davis says:

      When I’m puzzling over mathematical problems (as I have been a lot recently), I quite often write things like X = a.b.c _ d.e.f and then on the next line write so Y = blah di blah. “So” implies that one is drawing logical conclusions. “Therefore” is the same, and even has its own symbol – 3 dots arranged as a triangle . ‘ .

      So if someone starts a sentence with “so”, it suggests that they are following on logically from something deduced previously. It would be rather annoying, of course, if they weren’t being logical at all..

      • RdM says:

        So if someone starts a sentence with “so”, it suggests that they are following on logically from something deduced previously. It would be rather annoying, of course, if they weren’t being logical at all.

        Exactly! Which is why it’s so aggravating; it almost never is!

        Often even in the first answer in an interview, and every one afterward – usually where merely information description or greater detail is sought, or an opportunity for elaboration is offered.

        It sounds slightly condescending as well as being grammatically meaningless, and entirely redundant.

        “How does this process work?”
        “So… we just take the raw product and … [etc.]”

    • jay says:

      God, you’ve just hit on my number one pet hate! Hear it all the time and to me it sounds bizarre. I think we’d once have used “Well, ….”. It’s completely wrong as if the speaker is continuing a sentence after interruption. Don’t know how it’s come about but I wish they’d bloody well stop it.

    • Reinhold says:

      It’s not very likely, but that “So” could be an import from German.
      In German, you can begin any sentence with a delaying “Also, …” – and it means nothing else but the English So (or Thus, in certain contexts, but never Too).

      • RdM says:

        You mean “Too” in the sense of “As well”?

        To me, a sentence beginning with “Also” is adding a point, another detail, something related, extra information on a subject under discussion, whether in solo discourse or in conversational response to something someone else just contributed.

        I can’t see how that relates to correct usage of “so”. (various acceptable usages)

        “So” can certainly mean the same as “Thus”; Frank’s ‘logical’ point above exactly.

        But “As well” comes very close to “also”, as well as “too” …

        Ah! I see, perhaps; – of course one would not begin a sentence with “too”…
        (in any introductory or delaying sense, anyway!)
        Too bad! Too good? Too much ;-)


        As for the import; sometimes I even wonder if unfriendly “influence agents” are ever introducing increasingly dumb and nonsensical memes into the Wests main language.
        Beyond even Orwellian “Newspeak” … “smokefree” and all that…

        Of course, I do but jest! ;=}) …

        • Reinhold says:

          You mean “Too” in the sense of “As well”?

          Yes, but …

          … I meant the German word “also”, not the English one. And the German “also” doesn’t mean “as well” but “so” in English.

          In the German language, people use this (German) Also (you would write it “ullsoh”, I think) quite often to begin a sentence. It compares very much to the English “Well …” but doesn’t have the same meaning – at the beginning of a sentence it’s even meaningless, you could just as well say Er or Hm or something like that.

          I could imagine that German (or Austrian or Swiss) students are coming to an anglophone country, someone asks them a question, they first have to gather the words for the answer, and before that they ask themselves “What’s our ‘also’ in English?? – ah, I know, it’s ‘so'”, so the say “so”. :-)

          And the students from other contries hear it and think: Wow, that’s cool, that’s new, that sounds modern, next time I’ll do it this way, too.

      • On many occassions, it also used similarly to “Therefore.” Don’t ask for example right now. But I will find some…LATER. I must sleep a bit before work. :-))

  13. Very interesting about the -ise and -ize endings, and in line with what I kind of thought the situation might be (except for the French roots part — that was something I’d never heard before!)

    Re archaic “thee” “thou” etc, Furor is correct: their use is most common among the Amish (a Quaker-Like rather fundamentalist religious group in Pennsylvania) and some Quakerly leaning folks throughout the northeastern US. Somewhere along the way I picked up a strong habit of addressing females in polite form of “m’lady” or “milady” and I’m really not sure just where that came from — probably from reading too many medievally oriented fantasy novels or playing computer games set in medieval times combined with a natural tendency to be polite. My usage has occasionally caused a raised eyebrow in a rough ‘n tumble bar. :>

    Thrice is usually used only for alliterative purposes, e.g., “I say it once, twice, thrice! In the Name of All that’s Holy: Begone Glantzan, back to thy sulfurish pits!!” :>

    The do/got thing is an interesting question. It almost seems a bit “gangsterish” from mob lingo of the Prohibtion era. “Do you have the money? Yeah, I got it boss!” but there’s a medical tinge as well: “Does she have the plague? Yeah, she’s got it.” Some of the other uses are also odd: “I’ve gotten poor (or crotchety, or pedantic, or just plain lazy) over the years.” for “I’ve become rich (etc.) over the years.” And there’s “He got (received) what he deserved”, “He’s got no brains”, “The car got washed”

    Hmm… Ever see the commercial asking “Got milk?” “Have milk?” wouldn’t mean quite the same thing: it could be asking the person if they’d like milk.

    In our own area of concern, I think we’ve also seen the conscious political changing of language: the “Passive” or “Involuntary” smoking is classic of course, but one I’ve seen more recently is the mixup of “smoking ” and “exposure to tobacco smoke.” The outstanding example of the latter popped up in the formal title (and attendant news stories about) some study published a couple of years ago about pregnant women “exposed to tobacco smoke” and the “harm” to the fetuses — when the study was actually about the effect of smoking on fetal development.

    Of course any or all of the preceding is better than such abominations as…

    “Banging on about the smoking ban…”



    • Marie says:

      “Banging on” is a colloquialism. This is, in some ways, a catch all term that illustrates the transitory nature of common usage. This is not easy to explain to someone who has English as a second language. Added to the fact that there are now 4 recognised forms of English, teaching any aspect of the language has become a minefield. Are we discussing British English, US English, International English or Sub-Continent English? I have some difficulty explaining the differences between good US English and good UK English to Norwegians (both are very fine literary languages). I do a lot of proof reading and editing of scientific articles. Norwegians are taught British English at school and exposed, largely, to American English in films, music and on television. They cannot tell the difference. Apparently neither can you.

    • margo says:

      It was the DO I was on about, not the ‘got’: ‘Have you got a light?’ ‘Yes, I do’. It’s that DO I don’t get. Maybe Harleyrider knows about it? One of you Americans surely does.

      • garyk30 says:

        ‘Have you got a light?’ ……‘Yes, I do’.

        Means: Yes, I do have a light.
        ‘Have a light’ is implied.

        People have gotten into this terrible habit of leaving off words that are implied.

        Such a pair of phrases displays poor grammar and manners.
        The question should go like this:
        “If you have a lighter; please, may I use it?”
        “”Yes, I have a lighter and yes you may use it.”

        Civility and good grammar seem to have ‘got’ out of fashion. :)

        I imagine our Rose would love being a part of this discussion.

  14. Frank Davis says:

    Another curious difference between US and English usage is a tendency for Americans to drop words like street or avenue. There’s an example of it in Lana Del Rey’s Burning Desire, when she refers to “Hollywood and Vine” and she probably means Hollywood boulevard and Vine (street?) in LA.

    I had a Canadian girlfriend once who did the same. She’d phone and say, “I’ll meet you on Whiteladies and Park” and it would take me a long time to mentally add “road” and “street” to those two names to figure out where she meant. I don’t think anyone in London would know what it meant to meet “on Regent and Oxford”.

    • Barry Homan says:

      What kind of annoys me is the British way of using “our”

      “Is that our Ken, home from the grocer’s?”

      “Yes. that’s our Rita, she just married”

      Why the all-encompassing possessive tone?

      In America we say:
      “That’s Melvin, he’s me brudder-in-law and I hates him”

      • Frank Davis says:

        It really just indicates a family connection. “Our Ken” will be one of the family. Or maybe even one of the local community. It indicates ‘belonging’ rather than ‘possession’. One of us. Or as the Mafia say, “A friend of ours”.

      • XX “That’s Melvin, he’s me brudder-in-law and I hates him”XX

        That’s O.K. Every body hates Melvyn….didn’t know you were related….we ARE talking about the SAME Melvin?

        Or is the other one with a “y”….?

  15. margo says:

    Harley, you certainly are – we be all skolars, we smokers. It’s the ‘cognitive’ thing, I reckon, and that other thing Frank once pointed out about smoking appealing to thinkers and dreamers and opening the special little door in your brain (the one anti-smokers don’t even know exists).

    • Barry Homan says:

      Harley, I’m just a guy who studied a few languages and have lived in a few European nations. When Frank whips out his maths and his cancer-cell sciences, I feel like a 2nd grader being taught about Faust and Proust!

  16. smokingscot says:

    This one’ll help you upchuck!

    EU awarded Nobel Peace prize!!! For promoting blah blah… and human rights!!

  17. waltc says:

    “Farewell, My Lovely” is the best. Likely on Amazon in paperback, cheap. Big Sleep was his first and not the best. Next best, “The Little Sister” and there’s a good movie of it called “Marlowe” with James Garner who captures Marlowe a whole lot better than Bogart did.

    He wasn’t born in England. Moved there when he was 6 after his parents were divorced and his mother was forced to move in with her British sister. But enough arcana.

    Gary’s right. It’s tacitly “(Have you) got a light? So the answer is, “Yeah, I do (have one).: And, yes, it’s the American brevity at work. No need for Have you got a lighter or a match and if so may I use it?” OTOH, in the era where Stanton Glantz is a movie critic, any movie where anyone asked for a light would be automatically rated X unless, of course, they were asking for a flashlight.

  18. Thomson says:

    I should have made this comment a few days ago, but was feeling lazy – sorry! If a cell produces membrane (surface) at a constant rate and intracellular material (volume) at a constant rate, then that does not imply that area/volume is constant during the process of fission. Let dA/dt be the rate at which the cell produces ‘area’, A, and let this rate be constant, a, then we have the differential equation dA/dt = a, which has solution A = at + A0, where A0 is the area at time t = 0. Exactly the same process for constant rate of production of ‘volume’, V, yields V = vt + V0, where v is the constant rate of production of volume and V0 is the initial volume (at t = 0). Thus A/V = (at+A0)/(vt+V0), which is not constant in time, having the initial value A0/V0 and a limiting value (as t approaches infinity) of a/v, which could be very different from A0/V0.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thus A/V = (at+A0)/(vt+V0), which is not constant in time, having the initial value A0/V0 and a limiting value (as t approaches infinity) of a/v, which could be very different from A0/V0.

      That’s perfectly true. But when a/v = A0/V0 , (at+A0)/(vt+V0) = A0/V0.

      The cell can’t manufacture surface area and volume at any old constant rate. It has to do so in the ratio A0/v0.

      If that wasn’t clear, I’ll have to go back and make sure it is clear.

  19. smokervoter says:

    Why just a couple of days ago I used ‘got’ as a replacement for sexual conquest or better yet, ‘congress’.

    To wit I said: “I never stopped lusting after that older girl next door and I (sigh) never got her either.”

    Thanks again Captain Ranty. I’m using ‘had congress with’ in place of
    ‘hooked up with’ from here on. So much more dignified in my humble opinion.

    Hooking up is about the crudest term I’ve ever come across. Shame on ebonics-influenced young Americans.

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