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Gotten and Got

I just read a long treatment of gotten and got. To me it seems that they are words with slightly different functions. I use them for different things, though they are almost interchangeable. Gotten has a feeling of past-ness or over-ness, or maybe completion. Got is more descriptive of  something ongoing.

Apparently gotten is peculiarly American. (Do Canadians use it? Not sure.)

Some people say that it is an ugly sound. I, myself like it.

But more importantly, somebody said it 'pulls them out of the story.' If it shatters belief, I don't want that. 

So what do you all think?

Should I not use it in fiction? Is it jarring? Does it shout 'US-ian here' when you want to forget there is an author at all, and to just believe?


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)
To me, "gotten" is particularly characteristic of US English. I don't think I would expect a UK English writer to use the term unless it was in a US context.

Should I not use it in fiction? Is it jarring? Does it shout 'US-ian here'
Hmmm... tricky one. Yes and no :} I guess it does signify that the author is US-ian (nice term :) but that doesn't necessarily make it jarring, particularly if I already know that the author is from the US. I have never consciously noticed you using the term, though I am sure you have, probably because I already know you are US-ian and it just fits with the flow of your writing, which always reads beautifully anyway :)
Sep. 20th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
If it fits with the flow, that is what matters. I will stop thinking about it. I have come up with a complex system of fictional justification anyway--See below.

And I believe it is contemporary for Marlowe and Kyd. So they are fine.
Sep. 21st, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
What I want to know is whether I can say "forgotten" instead of "forgot!" Because I did a "gotten" search on my novel, and it came up with about five "forgotten"s.
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
I'm sure that you're pretty safe with "forgotten" what ever the context! :)
Sep. 20th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
It's very commonly used in Scottish dialect, at least in my part of Scotland (east central - local dialects vary hugely across our small country, LOL) so I find it neither jarring nor an especially noticeable 'Americanism'.

I do recognise that it's not English English or 'proper' English as it would've been called back in my schooldays, although like many words in Scots/Scottish regional dialects, it's actually an older form that's gone out of use south of the border but survived, at least in colloquial usage, here. So I guess if you're writing historical fiction, perhaps it's arguably more authentic to use 'gotten'.
Sep. 20th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
I suppose I could figure out when it passed out of 'proper English.' My understanding, (obv. incomplete,) is that the whole hang up about accents and rhotic sounds, and words, got going post-Hornblower. (This is fortunate, it would have just been one more thing for him to worry about.)

Anyway, if it was passing out, I can always play that Horatio learned it from his father. Archie is Scottish anyway. If it held on in Scotland there is more of a possibility that he grabbed it from somebody there. I remember as a kid, hearing words I liked and very deliberately choosing to use them from then on. He may have done the same...
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
Interesting aside to eveiya's comment, older word forms survive in Scots and Scots dialects and also occur in American English, however they're less common where I come from which was originally a Gaelic speaking area. Although there's huge regional variation in Gaelic, the English spoken in the Gàidhealtachd is much more uniform, more like "proper" English because it was originally a secondary learned language. Which might got some way to explaining why "gotten" sounds less familiar to me than to other Scots from the central belt.

So Archie, having lowland Scottish roots, would quite likely have used gotten.

Or something ;)

Sep. 21st, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
I was thinking that he would have learned to speak sounding more or less like JB does, only with more rhotic, because the whole R dropping thing was just coming in.

But he would have heard people around the estate, when he was little. They would have been more local. So that opens lots of possible ways to go.
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
Yes I think Anteros is on to something. I don't think there is anything strange in using gotten but I'm technically not a native english speaker, my mother tongue is scots, which is similar to English but not quite the same. It's quite plausible that the historical Archie Kennedy would be the same.
Sep. 21st, 2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
Definitely! I agree with esmerelda_t! I can quite easily imagine Archie using gotten.

I am also quite convinced he would have learned to swear in several different dialects from people on the estate :P
Sep. 22nd, 2012 09:10 am (UTC)
Also from people on ship!
Sep. 27th, 2016 10:11 pm (UTC)
I love this thread. I studied some linguistics and history of the English language in college and loved it - the deep mysteries of the twists and convergences and evolution of varying threads of language and history. I have however, forgotten what rhotic is, if I ever knew, and I love having "friends" who do know.

I was intrigued in college to learn that, as a colony, American preserves some older words and pronunciations that have gone out of fashion in the motherland, and also makes common some words that were regionalisms in the Old World. Which is why we share some word usage with Scotland rather than England. But I don't remember the details. Sigh.

Edited at 2016-09-27 10:19 pm (UTC)
Sep. 20th, 2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
An interesting question, I'm sure I use both, for example I'd say, "I got this at the market" but, "It's gotten to that time of day again" Or at least I think I would, once you think about these things you're never too sure!
Sep. 20th, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
I never noticed it at all, and then suddenly realized that my own writing was full of it. So useful though... I think I will keep it.
Sep. 21st, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
I got it at the market = simple past, no participle
It's gotten to be...= is actually a present tense (it has gotten) and 'gotten' is the participle.
I like the 'old' participles' that US English holds onto "dove" for "dived" etc
but I do notice that many US speakers don't use gotten in all past participle contexts...and I can't explain it; but I'd say (with my US English writing hat on) that I've gotten used to using it
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
Or "I got the turnips at the store, but I dropped them, and now they've gotten all dusty." (As happened to me, today. I washed them...)
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember someone criticizing Naomi Novik (His Majesty's Dragon) for using it, the remark being that the word was a US-ism. Quite probably it is... other than as mentioned in the above comments. For grins I checked the dictionary. One we have doesn't even list it. The other says "gotten" is a variation of the past participle of "get." "Got" is said to be the past tense or the past participle of "get" as well.
I've never thought about it, but I suppose I use it when needed. I do think it would be hard to read about someone's "ill-got gain."
Sep. 21st, 2012 05:50 am (UTC)
UK English uses 'ill-gotten gain'
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:40 am (UTC)
It does. And be-gotten.

Gotten has been used in UK English (EM Forster uses it) but it had come to the point where it sounds wrong, even if it could have been used at the time, if that makes sense. Like a Georgian calling someone a punk would do (although it's perfectly valid). Easiest option? Avoid it, unless it's ill- or be-.
Sep. 21st, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
Over here, it just sounds normal. I never thought of it at all until this year. I will have to think on it.
Sep. 21st, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
Never really thought that it would be "ill-got." With a little more time I may have come up with better example.
Sep. 21st, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
"I ain't got no body" "I ain't gotten nobody?"

Just testing. I think we are okay!

btw, use whatever you feel comfortable with using.
Sep. 21st, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
I agree that "got" and "gotten" imply somewhat different tenses, even if they are placed and used in the phrase or sentence the same way. Sometimes the particular word just sounds right.

BTW, I checked to see if I'd used "gotten" in BEYOND THE OCEAN'S EDGE. A very few times it turns out, usually in reference to having taken in sail. ie. "sail was gotten in."
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yes. See above, turnips.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )