Posted by: Jack Henry | July 14, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Any takers?

Dear Editrix,

Here’s a stray linguistic thought: Why do we “take” a shower or “take” a bath? We could “go into,” or “have,” or “get,” or “use,” etc. Why “take”?

San Diego Stray

Dear Stray,

My first thought is that we take a shower (or a bath) so that we smell good and don’t scare away our friends. But of course, I jest. This is a huge topic. One article I read said that take is the tenth most common verb in English. I did a search for idioms involving the word take, because I thought I might get some clues about the different ways the word is used. I found almost 400 idioms! I did not have the heart or the time to look at them all, but I did include a few of them further below.

Before I get to those, though, here is the definition of take from Merriam-Webster:

take (verb)
to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control by force or stratagem: to seize or capture physically

And a few details and select idioms from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Late Old English tacan "to take, seize," from a Scandinavian source (such as Old Norse taka "take, grasp, lay hold," past tense tok, past participle tekinn; Swedish ta, past participle tagit), from Proto-Germanic *takan- (source also of Middle Low German tacken, Middle Dutch taken, Gothic tekan "to touch"), from Germanic root *tak- "to take," of uncertain origin, perhaps originally meaning "to touch.”

OED calls take "one of the elemental words of the language;" take up alone has 55 varieties of meaning in that dictionary’s 2nd print edition. Basic sense is "to lay hold of," which evolved to "accept, receive" (as in take my advice) c. 1200; "absorb" (take a punch) c. 1200; "choose, select" (take the high road) late 13c.; "to make, obtain" (take a shower) late 14c.; "to become affected by" (take sick) c. 1300.

Take five is 1929, from the approximate time it takes to smoke a cigarette. Take it easy first recorded 1880; take the plunge "act decisively" is from 1876; take the rap "accept (undeserved) punishment" is from 1930. Phrase take it or leave it is recorded from 1897. To take it out on (someone or something) "vent one’s anger on other than what caused it" is by 1840

Now here are a few idioms I selected. If you want to take a look at more, you can visit The Free Dictionary’s idiom page for take here.

  1. take a backseat (to become less important than something or someone else)
  2. take a dirt nap (die and be buried)
  3. take a dive (boxing – pretend to be knocked out: soccer – “to fall to the ground and make a very ostentatious display that one is in pain and anguish after making contact with an opposing player”: stock market – suddenly become lower in value)
  4. take a fancy to (to like someone; develop a fondness for)
  5. take after (resemble a close, older relative)
  6. take care of (be responsible for: to deal with something: to tip someone: to kill someone)
  7. take down a notch (humble someone)
  8. take it easy (good-bye, be careful: treat someone carefully: calm down)
  9. take off (leave)
  10. take one’s hat off to (express admiration)

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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