"can I get a..."

Seán Fitzpatrick grendel.jjf at VERIZON.NET
Mon Jun 5 05:14:22 UTC 2006

This is a very common and completely unexceptionable way to order,
especially in informal settings, such as a diner, fast-food place, or snack
bar.  A variant is "Can I have a ...".   Sometimes, of course, especially in
places with no obvious menu, the question is a true interrogative.
I can't imagine what your derisive compatriots were thinking of, unless they
were making some sort of bring/take-like distinction.  I should think that
if being on the customer side of the counter precluded getting anything,
then business would dry up pretty quick, at least in America.

What would be the properly British expression?

Seán Fitzpatrick
[H'mm.  Brits disdain Americanisms, but we are rather taken with
Britishisms.  Perhaps it's time to put UK tags on the embargo list, along
with French wines and cheeses.  I think I'll start with "at the end of the

I haven't read anything on the subject, but in New York City another
variation is, "Let me have the five-piece chicken" or "Let me get the
Double Whopper." It comes out, "lemme," of course.

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at worldnewyork.org

The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English (May 2006, McGraw-Hill)

On Jun 4, 2006, at 07:34, Lynne Murphy wrote:

> Can anyone tell me if anything's been written about "can I get a" as a
> request form, as in "Can I get a double decaf cappuccino?"?
> It's one of those things that's derided here as Americanism--with two
> Englishmen I've talked to saying that it sounds like the customer
> is asking
> to come to the other side of the counter and make themselves a coffee.
> It's stereotypically associated with Starbucks culture and revival
> meetings
> ("Can I get a witness?" "Can I get an 'amen'?")--both pretty American
> institutions.
> I ask because I've just started a blog about US/UK dialectal
> differences
> that I run into on a daily basis.  If you're interested, it's at:
> http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com
> tata,
> Lynne
> Dr M Lynne Murphy
> Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
> Arts B133
> University of Sussex
> Brighton BN1 9QN
> phone: +44-(0)1273-678844
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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