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OnWords: Have vs. Get


Advertisers like to remind us of all that we get when we buy their products. Feature-packed deals are, among other things, how we put up with the low quality and microsecond life cycles of the junk we buy.

But this word, “get,” has some interesting implications.

It’s not having a thing that’s important in consumer culture but getting it. Having and keeping are, after all, bad for business. The profit is in the purchase, so an emphasis on what you get is paramount.

Consequently, shopping is seen in the US as therapeutic, and having is hoarding and therefore pathological.

We’re even prone to yelling things like “Get it!” as encouraging words for those playing sports, as if the point of the thing was the getting—the moment of winning and not the winning per se.

And perhaps it is: getting an award is accompanies by ceremony and fanfare; having an old trophy lying around is kind of sad, a reminder of accolades long past.

I can’t help but think, though, that the way we use the word “get” underscores a deep discontent in American life, as if colonizing the land was not enough, as if contentment was some type of character flaw.