I gotta be me

I heard Sammy Davis Jr. sing “I Gotta Be Me” the other day. (It’s a great record, by the way.) That phrase “gotta” (for “got to”) is fine for Sammy to sing or for us to say to our pals. It doesn’t work in writing very well.

Many writers avoid “got.” It’s just not a very pretty word. You can easily substitute “I have to be me.” (I know, that doesn’t fit well in song lyrics, but we are talking about something else.) You can also substitute for “got” in other uses, too. For example, instead of Ryan got a package in the mail, you could write Ryan received a package in the mail.

I personally don’t like the constructions “have got” or “has got.” Usage experts don’t ban those combinations, but it seems to me that, in most instances, you can drop the “got.” Instead of writing, Caroline has got three Spada purses, you can write Caroline has three Spada purses. But I am willing to concede that this is just my preference.

Of course, if you and some like-minded folks are standing outside a government building demanding that a bureaucrat or politician be relieved of his or her duties, you most certainly will want to say, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, So-and-so has got to go!”

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.