You can get “get”, if you really try…

The strange and many meanings of the word “get”: Watching a movie on TV the other night, the plot involved someone saying something very true to someone who was not in the mood to listen to it, so the words  “get out!” got yelled out on the screen. Then some building fire ensued and this time what was uttered was “get Fluffy (the dog) and get out!!”. Nothing strange there, one would think. Unfortunately, with the linguistic mind turned on, rather than paying attention to the unfolding drama on the flickering screen, what I noticed was the peculiarity of the English language, as illustrated by these common “get <something>!” exuberances. “Get  out” seems to make no sense, when compared to “get Fluffy”. You “get” Fluffy the dog by catching the dog, -but how do you “get” or catch an “out”??… In the TV-drama, I think the disgruntled husband was a suspect regarding starting the fire that endangered Fluffy, but I really can’t tell you much more than that 🙂 The English word “Get” is generally understood to mean “acquire” or “bring”, especially when followed by a noun, like in

get a hammer
get Fluffy
get some money

Since the implied motion of the get-events above is towards me, so to speak (by getting the hammer, Fluffy or money I bring them towards me), it struck me as odd that “get out!” then means exactly the opposite, getting away from something or someone. I didn’t quite get it… Ha ha. The explanation is that “get” has this other very peculiar meaning or usage in English when followed by a adverb or an adjective: then it means “bring yourself into the state of being <adverb or adjective>: Very clever, that three letters G, E and T can replace all that!:

Get wealthy => Bring yourself into the state of being wealthy
Get happy ==> Bring yourself into the state of being happy
Get going ==> Bring yourself into the state of being in motion
Get out   ==> Bring yourself into the state of being OUT(side)

-and just when it all starts making logical sense, no language would be a human language if there weren’t a few exceptions*: *Actually there are many, many more. See Post Scriptum below.

Get lucky ==> Go have sex! Unless you’re on your way to Las Vegas, then indeed “bring yourself into the state of being lucky”
Get off ==> Slang: Finish having sex, orgasm.
Get it ==>    Understand
Get with it ==> Follow a trend
Get-go   ==> From the beginning
Get down  ==> In modern English: Get happy. Which strangely enough is the exact opposite of being down (and depressed).

And picking from the movie idea that inspired this post, if James Bond chased a villain named Out, then “Get Out” would mean “Bring her/him here”, while “Get out” (without the capitalization) would send Mr. Bond in the opposite direction… I can’t wait to see this idea brought out in the next Bond movie (all right reserved)… James Bond might have a thoughtful moment pondering: “Which Out, did Q mean?? Do I go right or go left now? Do I go in or do I go out?”… Ah, forGET it… 🙂

—————————————————————————————————– Post Scriptum (August 7, 2014): According to The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word “get”, it seems that I only scratched the surface in my blog regarding the multiple uses and varied meanings of “get”. There must be at least 30 more different meanings of “get”… Interestingly, from the Oxford Dictionary::

Usage of get
The verb get is in the top five of the most common verbs in the English language. Nevertheless, there is still a feeling that almost any use containing get is somewhat informal. No general informal label has been applied to this dictionary entry, but in formal writing it is worth bearing this reservation in mind.

Origins of get
Origins of the word: “Middle English: from Old Norse geta ‘obtain, beget, guess’; related to Old English gietan (in begietan ‘beget’, forgietan ‘forget’), from an Indo-European root shared by Latin praeda ‘booty, prey’, praehendere ‘get hold of, seize’, and Greek khandanein ‘hold, contain, be able’. Jimmy Cliff english-getout you-got-99-on-test-why-you-not-get-100-get-out Slade Get with it AnimalsWeGotta SATISFACTION

To withdraw and to lift. In Danish it’s the same word

In an earlier posting I wrote about how the verb “Charge” in English is synonymous with “adding to” when we are talking about a car battery, but means the opposite, “taking from”, when we are talking about a credit card. Danish has its own quirky word with two similarly polar opposite meanings, depending on context. The word is “at hæve”.

When talking about a bank account, “hæve” means “to withdraw”:

“I withdrew $200 from my checking account” ==> “Jeg hævede 200 USD fra min checkkonto”.

But when talking about a limit or limitation, “hæve” means “to raise” or “to lift”:

“We must raise the minimum wage by $2/hour” ==> “Vi bør hæve minimumslønnen med 2 USD per time”

So, then of course it gets very tricky if the English sentence at hand involves BOTH a bank account and a limitation:

“Your account has a negative balance. Raise your account balance (to zero or any positive amount)” . If translated as “Din konto har en negativ saldo. Hæv din saldo (til nul eller et positivt beløb)” it could be misunderstood in Danish (particularly without the words in parenthesis) as leading to the illogical conclusion that you should withdraw more money from your account, which is already overdrawn.

Probably better to translate into Danish with one of the unambigous synonyms for “increase:” (“øg” or “løft”), such as: ” Din konto har en negativ saldo. Øg din saldo (til nul eller et positivt beløb)”.

And this idea of “withdrawing money to raise money” reminds me of the following bar trick (it helps if some alcohol has been consumed):
“Hey, may I borrow two dollars from you?”, “Sure!”, “Great, but I only need one right now. I may need the second one later, OK?”, “OK”
Little later…
“Hey can I have the dollar back that I lent you?”, “What are you talking about?”, “The dollar that you borrowed from me…”, “Oh that one… Listen, remember I wanted to borrow TWO dollars from you?”, “Yeah…”, “So, you only gave me one, so I owe you one, and you still owe me one, right?”, “Yeah, I guess…, “So, if I owe you one and you owe me one, we are even, right?!” , “I guess…”, “Now buy me a drink!…” 🙂

Charging a battery adds to it, but charging an account takes from it

Here’s another English word that can mean the exactly opposite depending on the context:
“We will charge your account” means “we will take money from your account”.
“We will charge your battery”, on the other hand, means that we will add some juice to your battery.
In Danish there are two different words for this: “opkræve” is what we do to your money and “oplade” is what we do to your battery. If you enter “charge the account” into Google Translate you will get the incorrect word.

If something HAS value it is expensive, if it IS a great value, it is cheap. Hmmm…

The English sentence “Our product is a great value” (meaning: is a bargain), gets translated to “Vores produkt har stor værdi” (Our product is worth a lot, i.e. more or less: is expensive), which makes me notice how we some times in English use a word totally opposite of its original meaning.
The current slang use of “sick” as meaning  something GOOD comes to mind, or “downhill from here”, which is good if you’re on a bicycle, but bad if you’re turning 50 years old.
There are more examples of such words, which can mean the exactly opposite depending on context, at