‘I’m good’. ‘Who said you weren’t?!’

So many people object to ‘I’m good, thanks’ in reply to questions like: ‘Would you like chocolate on top?’ (of your cappuccino). It means, of course, that you don’t want the chocolate.

I’m not sure if people who object to this also object to answers like ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m OK, thanks’. Maybe it’s just because this usage is new(ish). Maybe they don’t like the change in meaning of a good old-fashioned word like ‘good’, meaning ‘acting in a good moral way, kind, virtuous’.

Is it American? they ask, suspiciously

Well, yes, I think ‘I’m good’ in this usage probably is imported from American English. Personally, I don’t see any harm in it. The language changes as and when we collectively need it to change, and no-one can stop it. And of course, American English is a major influence on the English we Brits speak.

‘Your email has gotten a lot simpler and sleeker’ – BT website

Having said that, I do hate gotten, as in the headline above, seen recently on a BT – yes, as in British Telecom – website somewhere. If it had said ‘Your email has got a lot simpler and sleeker’ instead, I wouldn’t have had that frisson of annoyance…

Before you all write in and say that ‘gotten’ actually comes from Old English, let me say ‘I know!’ but nevertheless it fell out of use in common British parlance for several centuries, only making a comeback recently, due to American influence. ‘Gotten’ has always been used in this way in American English, deriving from the English that the Pilgrim Fathers took with them to America in the seventeenth century.

Have/get/grab

We used to say, in the UK, ‘Can I have a … (something to eat or drink)?’ Maybe, if we were being specially careful, we’d even say ‘May I have a … (whatever it was)’.

But now, especially in casual spoken English, in our many coffee shops and burger places, most people will ask ‘Can I get a latte/quarterpounder, etc.’ It may be that we think we sound less formal, yet in a way still very polite.

Another of my pet hates is ‘grab’ as in ‘Do you want to grab a coffee?’ instead of ‘Do you want to have a coffee?’ ‘Grab’ – it seems to me – is losing its meaning of ‘take hold of roughly or quickly’, and being substituted for ‘have’ or ‘take’. As in ‘Do you need that chair? Do you mind if I grab it?’

Feel free to comment on this comments section of this blog if you disagree – or agree!

4 thoughts on “‘I’m good’. ‘Who said you weren’t?!’

  1. I’m really enjoying your blog Della and pleased that we seem to agree on most of the – what I would call – misuses of the English language. I also cannot stand the use of ‘grab’ instead of have or take, as in “grab your leaflet here now”. It is so aggressive and unnecessary. I guess some advertising whizz-kid thought it would impart a sense of urgency into it.
    Another of my pet hates is – would of, should of instead of ‘have’. Keep up the good work 😀😀

  2. i cannot persuade my son that ‘would of’ is wrong. Actually, the predictive text on my phone seems to convert a mistake TO ‘would of’….Grrr.

  3. Della, I love reading your blog. I never commented before because your qualifier is ‘if you disagree’ and as a non-native speaker I wouldn’t dare to disagree with an expert like YOU! I have to say I hated ‘I’m good’ as an answer to ‘how are you’ when I first relocated to America. Nowadays it’s just a natural response and the ‘correct’ one ‘I’m well’ may cause my interlocutor to suffer a heart attack.
    And, BTW, how does one even use ‘would of’, ‘should of in a sentence?

  4. Thanks, Danuta. I should change the ‘if you disagree’ qualifier… People in the UK increasingly say things like ‘I would of gone if I could of afforded it.’ That’s instead of ‘I would’ve gone if I could’ve afforded it.’ They are kind of making the contraction ‘would’ve’ into a full word in their minds, I suspect.

    Of course, a HIGHLY proficient non-native speaker of English such as yourself would never make that mistake. I am a little worried that my blog only deals with British native-speaker errors, after spending so long in the ELT world, but I plan to say something about that in a future blog! Thanks for following the blog.

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