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Published: Monday, 11/23/2009

If you're looking to go, and you just got to, then take and go

OUR DISCUSSION a while back about the misuse of words prompted an e-mail from a woman who wondered about the ubiquitous use of the word "got." As in "Got the time?", "I got up early today," "I ain't got nobody," "I got yelled at," "I gotta go," and of course, "Gotcha!"

She wondered if we're all overdoing it. Well, I haven't got a clue. But I do know that if "I Got You Babe" is bad writing, Sonny Bono took a lot of money under false pretenses.

A reader named Dorothea offered her own pet peeve when it comes to abuse of the language. It's the words "looking to," as in "I'm looking to go to the store." I hate that one, too, along with a variation that really grinds my gears: "I'm going to take and go to work." Putting "take and" in front of another verb? Oh, the humanity.

Like Dorothea, I worry that our beautiful language will one day become little more than a sophisticated series of grunts and wheezes.

Dorothea also frets that she's becoming a curmudgeon and wonders what the female equivalent of curmudgeon would be. I don't think there is one. "Curmudgette"? No. All "ette" words - bachelorette and majorette are two - tend to diminish whatever they are describing and make it sound inferior to the root word, in this case bachelor and major. I'd stick with curmudgeon, Dorothea. And wear it proudly.

Another reader, Pat, said I should have included "whatever" in my list of misused and over-used words. Awesome, Pat. Can I call you Dude?

Finally, there's Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding, who wonders why the word "sex" is generally shunned in polite conversation and pretty much ignored in government. In its place, he laments, is the word "gender." Fill out a form and you're asked for your gender, not your sex.

He has a point. But do we really want to one day see a survey of elderly Americans "broken down by sex"?

I once knew a guy who was looking for something different for his bachelor party. He saw a billboard that said "Drink Canada Dry." So he and his buddies went to Toronto and darned near did.

Something I learned while looking up something else: The highest point in Ohio is still lower than the lowest point in Colorado. It sounds just wacky enough to be true. Sure enough, Colorado's lowest elevation, along the Arikaree River, is 3,315 feet above sea level. Ohio's highest point, in Campbell Hill, is 1,549 feet above sea level, which also happens to be lower than the lowest elevation in four other states: Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Maybe Ohio needs a new official state song: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

It's unlikely I'll ever own a race horse, but if it happens, I've got a name already picked out: Haulin' Oats. If you get the word play there, your taste in music is about as old as mine.

Should the government run health care? You can make an argument either way and just about everyone has an opinion. Perhaps the CEO of the Whole Foods Market chain wishes he'd kept his to himself. John P. Mackey offered as how it would be a big mistake for the feds to take over health care. I'm not saying he's right or wrong, but his strong stance didn't sit well with the folks who, after family, should matter the most: his customer base.

Whole Foods Market has carved out a special niche in the grocery industry by going green - Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, says the Web site - and catering to people who search out organic figs and buddha's hand and edamame and other exotic things you might not find at Wal-Mart. Many, if not most, of those folks fit - shall we say - a liberal stereotype, which means they might be more receptive to a government-administered program.

After Mr. Mackey's strong words in a Wall Street Journal column, they got upset. A "Boycott Whole Foods" group sprang to life on Facebook, and pickets showed up at selected market locations. You could almost hear the gnashing of teeth in the public relations department at Whole Foods headquarters in Austin.

Mr. Mackey went on the company blog to say his views were his own, not his firm's. But the Facebook group was quickly up to 22,000 members, many of whom vowed to shop somewhere else for their kiwi-mango juice and ginger roots.

This will pass, and Whole Foods Market will survive. But it should be a lesson learned, and it's worth repeating: In retail, if the customers ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Well, I gotta take and go.

Whatever.

Thomas Walton is retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.

Contact him at:

twalton@theblade.com



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