from the get-go / git-go

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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from the get-go / git-go

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:34 pm

The following appeared in Google News the other day:
<2009 “A federal appeals court reinstated the insider trading conviction of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio . . . Former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid . . . said he never doubted the conviction would be reinstated. ‘It's exactly as it should have been from the get-go,’ he said.”—AP Online, 25 February>
I can recall a time when GET-GO was new and shiny and somewhat of a novelty, although I didn’t like it much, even back then. But, in the intervening years it seems to have become more than overripe – it’s intended cuteness worn thin – and has descended into cliché of the somewhat nauseating variety, at least IMHO. In fact, you’d have to pay me to say it! (>:)

Anyway, I thought I’d see what I could find.


THE GIT-GO (also THE GET-GO) [1960s and still in use] (Originally U.S. Black): The beginning, especially in the phrase from the git-go, from the beginning. [from Standard English get going].


GET-GO / GIT-GO U.S. colloquial (originally in African-American usage) noun: The outset; the very beginning. Chiefly in from the get-go. [perhaps after to get going] [[Note the ‘perhaps’ versus Cassell’s certainty]]

TO GET GOING: To begin; to start talking, acting, etc., vigorously; to get into full swing; to ‘get a move on’. Also transitive, to start; to render (someone) excited, talkative, etc. See also to get cracking.

Chapman’s Dictionary of American English says that the expression is “Perhaps based on from the word go [[rather than the above ‘get going’]], found by 1883.” Note the weasel-dating (using ‘by’) gave Chapman a comfort cushion of 50 years (see 1833 first-in-print quote below).


FROM THE WORD GO: From the beginning. Go here is the indication that it is time to begin a race. This seemingly modern colloquialism originated in nineteenth-century America. Davy Crockett used it in Narrative of the Life of Davy Crockett (1833) [[see quotes below]]. A newer equivalent is from the get-go, which originated in black English in the 1960s and is on its way to clichédom.

Quotes for FROM THE WORD GO:
<1833 “I was plaguy well pleased with her from the word go.”—The Life and Adventures of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee, autobiography, page 59>

<1850 “It was whip and spur from the word go. His style and manner reminded one very much of Maryland's most distinguished orator, . . .”—John Randolph of Roanoke by F. W. Thomas, page 48>

<1863 “. . . he was in jolly good humor from the word ‘go’ to the dropping of the anchor.”— New York Times, 24 June>

<1885 “He was a drag and a brake on me from the word Go”—The Rise of Silas Lapham (1891) by W. D. Howells, I. page 82>

<1934 “I lost him from the word Go.”—Experiment in Autobiography by H. G. Wells, I. v. page 211>

<1937 “People will hate them from the word Go!”—Star Begotten by H. G. Wells, vii. page 135>

<1963 “It was wrong from the word ‘go’ to put in a limitation such as 60.”—The Times (London), 24 January, page 6/6>
Quotes for GET GOING:
<1897 “He is really fine when he gets going on the Church of England.”—The Pollock-Holmes Letters (1942) by Oliver Wendell Holmes (the younger), I. page 77>

<1898 “David is not only living, but appears almost no older than when we first knew him, and still just as likely to ‘git goin'’ on occasion.”—David Harum: A Story of American Life by E. N. Wescott, page 391>

<1920 “She kidded him along, and got him going.”—Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, xxviii. page 326>

<1932 “She's rather a character, you know, when you get her going.”—Peking Picnic by ‘A. Bridge,’ iv. page 38>

<1956 “If this task is as important as you men say . . . we must get going.” Ibid. “To get the Hanford plant going.”—Atomic Quest by A. H. Compton, i. page 8; iii. page 189>

<1962 “Joe [[ Kennedy – Jack’s father]] made his children stay on their toes. He would bear down on them and tell them, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’”—Honey Fitz by J. H. Cutler, xx>
Quotes for FROM THE GET-GO / GIT-GO:
<1966 “I knew Dick and Jane was full of crap from the get go.”—T. Cade in Negro Digest, February, page 59/2>

<1968 “Most of these kids are disorganized from the git-go.”—Washington Post, Times Herald, 24 March, page D1>

<1970 “I was ‘spicious from the ‘get go. ’ (suspicious)”—American Speech, Aphaeresis in Rapid Speech, Vol. 45, No. 1/2, (Spring - Summer), page 73>

<1978 “A dangerous paranoid pain-in-the-ass Cop God from the git-go.”—Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring), page 23>

<1983 “. . . there was no understanding from the get-go.”— MELUS, Vol. 10, No. 1, Ethnic Literature and Music, (Spring), page 76>

<1989 “You come in wrong from the git-go.”—Why Me? (electronic text) by S. Davis et al, xxi. page 253>

< 2002 “Right from the get-go we seemed to just naturally hit it off.”—Dreamwatch, September, page 72/1>

<2005 “. . . executives must make smart decisions about risk from the get-go. Derivatives help in two ways. They help managers to know the value -- and potential changes in value -- of those risk positions, and they make it easier to shed the risks they don't want and take on those they do.”—New York Times,19 June> [[Yes. Derivatives have done us proud!]]

<2008 “. . . many of the people who've now defaulted on their mortgages had some inkling the loan might be unaffordable right from the get-go.”—Newsweek, 6 October>
(quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)

Ken G – February 28, 2009

Re: from the get-go / git-go

Post by Tony Farg » Mon Mar 02, 2009 4:47 pm

Interesting. I've never ever heard the phrase before. It may be a cliche in the US, but I don't think it has crossed the water yet.

Re: from the get-go / git-go

Post by Shelley » Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:23 pm

Tony Farg, if it hasn't by now it probably never will. I've always associated this phrase with the rural south or rural west. Definitely regional . . . You don't hear it in my neighborhood much (Times Square, NYC), unless it's a tourist speaking.

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