Take and Have
© 16 Jul 2012 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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The subtle implication of invisible words.


I was sitting in Priesthood meeting in London last week when someone used the phrase “‍find a missionary experience.‍” My brain, trained to teach, immediately supplied the information “‍native English speakers would have said ‘‍have‍’ instead of ‘‍find‍’.‍” I immediately judged that this tidbit was not worth sharing verbally and then gave it some thought in its own right. Why “‍have‍”? “‍Find‍” is certainly more proactive. Are opportunities to share the Plan of Happiness things that just sort of happen to us, or are they things we can seek out? And what about other words? Would “‍take‍” work instead of “‍have‍”?

I have long been annoyed by what I perceived as an excessive use of “‍take a.‍” Most of the time those two words appear together they can be removed without changing meaning: “‍take a nap‍” means the same thing as “‍nap‍”, for example, and “‍take a bath‍” can be rendered “‍bathe‍” with equal meaning. But now I had cause to second-guess this attribution of extraneity.

Consider naps. It is common to hear “‍I’m going to take a nap‍” but also “‍I had a nap.‍” The compliment (“‍I’m going to have a nap‍” and “‍I took a nap‍”) are used, as are “‍I’m going to nap‍” and “‍I napped‍”, but each connotes something slightly different. Taking a nap is an act of personal will, but the quality of the particular nap we have often feels imposed on us. Napping doesn’t suggest either of these, being one of several possible states of idleness rather than either a choice or an event.

In this context it is interesting to think about what is implied by phrases like “‍have a missionary experience‍”, “‍have a fit‍”, and “‍have an idea‍”. Why do we word these to appear external to our own choices? Why isn’t “‍take thought‍” the precursor to “‍have an idea‍”? Why do we “‍take courage‍” but we only “‍have‍” things like faith and hope?

In addition to all of these particular questions, I also have a single larger wonder. Clearly vocabulary impacts perception and perception informs vocabulary. Is the use of “‍take‍” and “‍have‍” more influenced by or perception of choice than our perception of choice is influenced by the use of “‍take‍” and “‍have‍”?

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