Hawaii Pacific Review: HPR 2012 Book Reviews

Getting Get: The Glossary of a Wild Verb
By: Richard Balthazar

AuthorHouse Press, 2006
ISBN: 1-4259-2999-0
Reviewed by: Joshua Allsbrook

Get ready and get set to get a clue on the English Language’s most versatile verb: Get! Richard Balthazar has somehow managed to write an intelligent, amusing, and interesting seventy-eight page book on a three letter word that really has “no inherent meaning”  (1). Intended as a handbook for those learning English as a second language, Balthazar tries to examine and break down this complicated verb to garner a better understanding for a word that can only be defined by contexts into which it’s plugged.

Balthazar explains that though this word may be easy for us “native speakers” to understand because of its frequent use, the complexities of this verb in both its formal and non-formal uses will utterly stump those who are trying to learn our language. This is because we use this verb to signal “an enormously wide range of actions, attitudes, emotions, intentions, and implications” (2) and also use it in ambiguous and dependent ways.

The book is, in actuality, a glossary and is created in a way where we are on a Safari looking for the Get in a jungle of grammar. Balthazar calls this book his “Glossfari” as we join him, searching for this “wild verb” in its different grammatical habitats. Get is first broken down by its relation in history and its basic meaning then followed by the different tenses and parts of it such as:

Infinitive to get
Present 
get
Gerund getting
Past  
got
Participle
gotten

But then we finally see it: GET!

It’s in its imperative form. It’s a command and has a simple and specific meaning. Balthazar shows that this particular and basic Get means to: Leave! or Go Away! and explains how it is used and in what context. He does this as if he is a Safari Guide explaining why a particular monkey is special from other monkeys, how this particular Get is special from the rest. He continues this throughout the whole book, finding magic behind every one of Get’s meanings and uses with a passion not unlike those found in wildlife biologists Jeff Corwin or the late Steve Irwin.

In its first habitat, Get is seen hanging around some nouns in it’s aggressive form, meaning it’s simple command form such as Get the door or Get the lights. Balthazar then proceeds to make his way into thicker and more fastidious habitats where these commands become a little more complicated by adding other SOMEONEs or SOMETHINGs to these phrases followed by ACTIONS (verbs) and/or the QUALITIES of them (adjectives for nouns and adverbs for verbs). Balthazar explains that the combinations of these additives determine the meaning of the specific Get associated with the sentence or phrase. But some combinations can be “dangerous” if used wrongly or if too many elements are added which then completely changes the intended meaning of the sentence or phrase. For example get off (of something) is totally different than get off (with someone).

Throughout our “Glossfari,” we occasionally hit snags where Balthazar has alerts, much like those found in Dummies books. Mostly, they refer to Idioms where his explanation of a particular Get would be contradicting. For instance, our first Get! means Leave! or Go Away! but he explains in this particular alert that the phrase Get out of here! is a form of disbelief and is not actually saying it’s literal meaning. Balthazar structured this book, much like Dummies books, in such a way where it breaks down every aspect of this word and makes it really easy to learn all the different usages of the Get. From its simplistic commands to its surprisingly complex and propositional phrases, this familiar three-lettered word has been completely redefined and rediscovered for even a native speaker like me.

 Balthazar did an amusing and excellent job in communicating the complexities and the ambiguities of Get to those native speakers who never knew they existed and also to those, such as English as a second language students, who knew they existed but didn’t know how. Who knew a small three-lettered word would have such lengthy interpretations? This is such an entertaining read, I offer only the following advice: GET IT!