Authors note: this is my first response to the weekly writing challenge! YAY! when I saw this week’s prompt, this was the first thing that came to mind….
The biggest fight my boyfriend and I ever had was about the difference between the words bring and take. I found out later that to all types of English- excluding American English, the type I speak- You bring something to a place you already are, but take something to where you are going.
But if you’re American, like me, bring and take can be used interchangeably; they mean exactly the same thing. The supposed difference between them is still confusing for me; to write this piece, I had to look it up to make sure I didn’t have it backwards. I had never heard of this distinction until one encounter with my boyfriend escalated into what might be called the battle of the lunch pails.
We had been eating dinner, a spicy Indian dish he had prepared from one of his mother’s recipes. He is a great cook, especially when preparing the cuisine of his native land, and so I raved the curry’s praises.
When we were both stuffed, I pointed at the golden gravy leftover in the pan. “I’ll just wrap up some chapatti and bring this to work tomorrow.”
He smiled, as though deciding whether to air the thought currently running behind his eyeballs. “Take. You’re going to take it to work.”
“What?” I said, not quite understanding.
“You take something when you’re going someplace, and bring it if you’re already there,” he replied hesitantly. After seeing the look on my face, he probably wished he had kept this thought to himself.
I think the reason I got so pissed off was that I was caught completely unawares. If I had said, “I’m not feeling very good,” and he had told me to use the adverb, well, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and called him a language maven. But a difference between bring and take? I’m no country bumpkin, I read more books in a year than many do in their entire lives. Was it really possible that I had never heard of such a thing?
What followed was a few minutes of heated debate that quickly escalated into me retreating into the bedroom with a quick slam of the door. How dare he? I was the one who had been speaking English since I was in diapers; I was getting a degree in Linguistics, for Chrissakes. Shouldn’t I get the final say on what was proper English?
The worst part was that it smacked of something that might be true. I did a Google search on my phone, and my worst fears were confirmed. I read down the page, and found a passage that said these differences were not observed in most dialects of American English. This did little to quell my despair. To explain this caveat I would first have to admit he was right, and the horrible converse, that I was wrong.
I lay fuming on the bed, recalling his every grammatical mistake from the past three years that I had ever let fly past my ears without comment. Like his habit of using isn’t it? As a fixed question tag, even when the subject of a sentence was plural. This produced sentences like, “They are very good at singing, isn’t it?” I planned how I would seek my revenge in the future.
After a few minutes, he opened the door and came to lie next to me in bed. Seeing the glowing screen of my phone, he asked smugly, “What did it say?”
I glare at him. “It doesn’t apply to American English,” I say, but the words sound to me like defeat. He laughs, and I add, “I am never letting you make an English mistake ever again.”
“Ok, ammu,” he says, knowing I am just bluffing. He kisses my cheek, and I let him.