LC Van Savage
Do You Need to Grab?
Two words. Do they make me crazy? No. Well, maybe a little. Am I a Great Wordsmith? No. Do I always use proper grammar and proper words? Not hardly. Do I have the right to stand in judgment of anyone on the planet for anything ever? Decidedly not. But we all can be driven nuts by the small stuff, isn’t that so? And I have lots of small stuff in my life.
Two words that make me especially edgy. I mean amongst a few hundred others that include LAR-nix and EK-setra and REAL-ittor and suppose-aBly and VUN-erable. But the two I always wish I could unhear are “grab” and “need.” No folks, I am so not perfect, but must we use those two words all the time?
Let’s start with “grab.” “Grab” is defined by a dictionary somewhere as:
1. grasp or seize suddenly and roughly: "she grabbed him by the shirt collar." “Grab” is a strong word meaning to reach out and clutch at something with ferocity – some passion.
For example, when we see an urn filled the great grannie’s ashes falling off the credenza, we grab for it. Lunge, you might also say. In this instance, “grab” is correct. To go into the kitchen to “grab” a beer from the refrigerator is not correct. We reach for it, we pick it up, we take hold of it. Do we open the refrigerator door, lean down and rip the beer out of the fridge? That would definitely be grabbing and perhaps a sign of alcohol addiction. Just sayin’.
However, people say things like “wait a second —I want to go into this candy store and grab some licorice.” Do they mean they’ll walk into the store, reach over and swipe a bunch of licorice sticks off the shelf? Maybe grab? Like hard? Kind of violently? Wouldn’t the store’s owner be alarmed if they did that? Furthermore, who would ever want to grab licorice anyway? Ugh. If any candy must be grabbed, it really should only be milk chocolate, but that’s another column.
I heard someone say yesterday that she was “gonna grab tickets to a show.” From whom will she grab them, and won’t maybe the grabee dislike having the tickets abruptly snatched away like that? Or “Let’s swing by Starbucks and grab a hot cocoa with whipped cream on top!” Isn’t grabbing a boiling hot drink just a little dangerous? Or “I may be a little late getting home. I’m stopping at the barber’s to grab a haircut.” Tell me, exactly how does one “grab” a haircut? Further, this could be seen as a barbarous assault. Sorry.
So can’t we stop grabbing everything and maybe try using other words, you know, like “picked up,” or “took” or “borrowed” or “bought” or “removed” or “reached for” or even simply “got”? “Grab” means something else entirely. Reserve that dramatic word for saving a drowning kitten or for when you see your great aunt’s diamond brooch disappearing down the drain. Then grab. Otherwise, use another word.
Now let’s talk about “need.” When did that word become the most popular word in the entire lexicon? “Need,” as defined by that same dictionary means:
1. require (something) because it is essential or very important:
2. expressing necessity or obligation: "need I say more?"
And yet we use the word incessantly; We need to sell our home. I need to get up early. I need to sneeze. We need to buy a new car. You need to stop doing that. You need to finish your homework. We need to fix that thing. You need to turn that down. You need to come home. I think you need to see someone.
Folks, can’t we ever think up another word to use? Are we so lazy that we must say “need” all the time, when we could just as easily say must, want to, should, would like to, have to, ought to, have a desire, yearn, wish I could, have got to, really have to, I’d better, might be best if you, sure could use, would just love, wish, require---OK, you’re getting my drift.
Am I guilty of misusing all those words? Count on it. I hear them coming from my mouth, I see them when I write, so I really can’t judge or feel all superior because I am so not. In fact, I sometimes worry that people who truly know our American language and how to use it properly are reading my column and cringing, and I know they are, and whomever is nodding at these words, I apologize for brutalizing the English language. Perhaps it’s way too late, but I sometimes think I need to grab a good grammar book and make an effort to learn.
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