Today’s Word of the Day: get down

Today's Word of the Day: get down

Happy Word of the Day Wednesday! Today’s Word of the Day is brought to you by James.

get down: /gɛt daʊn/

“Ah, the Word of the Day: my favorite type of EC blog entry. How I love building up my English vocabulary, one word at a time. But wait. . . . Hold it. Slow down. Hang on just a minute there, Teacher James! ‘Get down’? Isn’t that two words, not one? What are you up to? James, are you changing the rules of the Word of the Day?”

Dear astute reader, thank you for your interest and concern, but I hope and believe I am sticking to the rules of the Word of the Day and that, in fact, “get down” is a single word. It’s a word that looks like two very simple, familiar words—words so simple and familiar that you probably do not remember a time before you knew them—but in every way that matters, it’s a distinct word, separate in meaning from both “get” and “down.”

You probably know many words like this. No matter whether you think of them as phrasal verbs, think of them as multiword verbs, or never think of them at all, you almost certainly run into them all the time. (You’ve come across several of them already in this blog post: “build up,” “hang on,” “run into”—any others?)

What are the different ways to use “get down”? Try these on for size:

1. Johnny, what are you doing on top of the table? Get down!
2. My Frisbee is stuck in that spruce tree. How will I ever get it down?
3. The medicine tasted horrible. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get it down, so I added a spoonful of honey.
4. Talking to her gets me down. She’s so negative about everything that afterwards I start to feel depressed too.
5. When Bob Dylan hears a new song in his head, a full melody complete with lyrics, he rushes home to get it down on paper as soon as he can.
6. Introductions took several minutes, but once the meeting began, everyone got down to business and we solved the problem.
7. The music at the club was so popular that there were folks lining up outside just to get down.

These seven sentences each use “get down” in a different sense: 1) lower your position, 2) remove from above, 3) swallow something, 4) make depressed, 5) express in writing, 6) start doing something, and 7) dance or shimmy.

So what’s my point? What am I getting at? Simply this: don’t ignore the little words! You might be tempted to jot down only the long, impressive-looking words like “unmellifluously” or “splendiferousness,” but remember that seemingly simple combinations like “get down” are much more likely to be used by native speakers in both writing and speech, so they are more useful to you as a student. These words usually have not just one or two meanings, but often three, four, five, six, or seven separate, commonly used meanings that every native speaker uses without thinking.
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