Got or Gotten?

Editing requires compromise between editor and writer. Editing shouldn’t occur in one direction, but I’ll likely talk about that another time. The point is edits should be open for discussion, so it may be a surprise to hear me say there’s one word I’ve always insisted not appear in my work. That word is gotten.

In the USA and Canada, gotten is the past participle of got (some say it’s also the past participle of get, but it’s more complicated).

In the UK got is the past participle of get. UK dictionaries list gotten as North American and Archaic.

To put it another way and further explain, the past tense of get is got, but in British English, got is also the past participle. In American English, it depends on the situation. Though it’s a little hard for me to get my head around (seems unnecessarily convoluted), it depends on whether the circumstances are ‘static’ meaning possessing or needing, or ‘dynamic’ meaning acquiring or becoming.

So one might say, I got a new dog, but equally, I’ve gotten a new dog. In both cases, a Brit would simply use got.

Both versions are ancient, but the simple got has been the accepted use for so long in the UK most people don’t know gotten ever existed or even does. For a long time when younger if I came across gotten in a book, I assumed the writer was using slang, particularly when the word formed part of speech. To be fair, for someone who had never come across the word in an English lesson, and for which it sounded so jarring, it’s not an implausible assumption to make.

There are plenty of words which become part of the British language, and I don’t mean those we’ve imported from the United States, particularly by watching an influx of American television shows. Many words in many languages originate from other sources, and even form the basis of words we know today. Many of these enrich our vocabulary, but gotten has never worked for me. Neither does scarf (as in scarf down food — in the UK we would say to scoff down food).

So, why do I dislike gotten so much, especially as it’s one of those words creeping back into the English language? Language everywhere has always been pliable. New words form; equally words drop out of usage. Gotten ‘to my ear’ sounds lazy (and I stress only what I hear, not in criticism of its use elsewhere), because it sounds like slang. Simple as. Also, the UK use is far simpler. But more than that I’ve written mostly English characters based in the UK (or in space and yes, some fantasy settings), but for those contemporary works, I know most British characters wouldn’t use the word, so it makes no sense for it to appear in the narrative. I would argue the same in the scarf/scoff example. If I were writing an American character, I would equally insist on word appropriate language.

Update September 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Been out and about for the first time in almost 2 years. At long last visited relatives, and shortly after we spent a week in the Tamar Valley, Cornwall. We mostly walked around gardens and did our best to stay away from people. Morning and evening we enjoyed the view. Because of needing to book and limited entry numbers, health issues, and the weather, we weren’t able to do all we might usually have done, but it was a much appreciated break. Maybe more on that another time.

FILM/TV:
Watched Hausen, a strange dystopian German drama that I would say fits dark fiction rather than horror. The building is as much a character as any of the people, maybe the lead of this slightly surreal reflection of tenement life. The dark gloop that infests the outrageously tall block of flats seems to be a manifestation of the bleakness in some lives. It’s overlong and a little slow, but worth a watch if you like this type of genre… but ‘only’ if it’s your type of programme.

Sticking to the dark/horror themes, we’re watching Brand New Cherry Flavor, a Netflix original that’s as bizarre as it is interesting.

We want to watch No One Get Out Alive asap — more on that below in Reading.

READING:
This month I read a couple of ebooks that were so odd and somewhat distasteful, I’m not giving them air time. The subjects were peculiar and both could have done with editing. Lesson learned I shouldn’t always listen to group recommendations.

Watchers, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me, and I must start by saying that it’s possible but surprising the author was not aware back in 1987 that human chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but I would hope any reprints of this book would have the scenes where Travis feeds the dog such treats removed. There’s also a flippant remark about washing the dog almost ‘too much’. Dogs should not be washed more than once or twice a year because it upsets the balance of oils in their coats. Short lesson aside, maybe it’s a sign of changing times, but although I remember enjoying this book the first time around, a protagonist who indulges in shooting any living thing for ‘fun’, even if it is a snake, seems a strange choice, although Travis becomes a good lead, with Nora perhaps more so. Of course, the star of this book is the retriever. Again, one has to wonder if some parts of this book work today — putting out a cover story about a medical research dog having gone astray now might have as many people looking for the dog to hide it as to hand it in. The book also has the ultimate antagonist (more than one), which is to be as pitied as feared. Though a great thriller, this speaks to anyone who has loved a dog, has had to show the greatest loyalty in return by being there in times of heartbreak. This remains one of Koontz’s more famous novels with a following of dog lovers everywhere. Touched me as much now as it did when first read.

Quite Ugly One Morning, Christopher Brookmyre
I have to admit some of the Scottish colloquiums escaped me, though I got the gist. This humorous thriller set in the shady world of the NHS is so perfectly plausible and entertaining, it’s almost a must-read. I loved the character of Parablaine and would definitely read more work by Brookmyre if not for my to-be-read mountain. Highly recommend.

Day Shift, Charlaine Harris
We learn more about the strange community living in Midnight in this book, with Manfred especially facing threats from outside which endangers them all, including the peculiar reopening of an old hotel. This is a fun fantasy, and while I enjoyed much of Harris’s work, I think I like this series most of all. Although it’s not the fastest pace, this makes for comfortable reading with characters interesting enough to capture attention. They all have strengths (some supernatural), and yet very human weaknesses. We particularly learn more about Olivia’s past, the Rev’s nature, and Joe and Chuy in this one. There’s one more book, which is a relief considering my to-be-read mountain. Yet another part of me is sorry there’s only one more to go. Not every plot point is perfect, but the characters carry this through.

The Great Mordecai Moustache Mystery, Kyril Bonfiglioli
Although I dithered whether to read this one, it’s the novel which features the disagreement over Mordecai’s moustache, so I went ahead. A little disappointed Jock didn’t have more time on the pages, and though this book finished well (completed after Bonfiglioli’s death) I could tell the difference; something about parts of this feels like an easier read than previous books. Either the reader gets the Mordecai dry humour and appreciates it, or doesn’t. I can see it’s not for everyone. Reminiscent of many a classic and a blend of many. Incidentally, the film took a little from all the books to create a mash-up.

No One Gets Out Alive, Adam Nevill
I would plough through Adam Nevill’s work if not for my to-be-read mountain and the fact that would leave me waiting for him to write more books to devour. In anticipation of the upcoming Netflix adaptation, I wanted to read the novel first. This is a horror story of two worlds, urban despair and cruelty wrapped up with supernatural dread and distress, and it’s difficult to know which contains the most terror. The story also takes a necessary tangent towards the end that piles on more anxiety, questioning the main character’s sanity. Much of the story is relentless, and now I’m waiting for the husband to finish the book before we watch the film… which I’m sure will be nowhere near as good as the reading experience. So far this is my read of the year.

WRITING:
I’m halfway through the first round of edits on a work in progress, which I confess I should have finished long before now. I feel catching Covid a few weeks ago sucked away not only my imagination but motivation.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x