There’s a new kid on the block and he’s a bully. Yes, the language police report that “bring” is muscling in on “take,” and ask you to keep a watchful eye in your neighbourhood for this intruder.
I’ve only heard about this new kid—he avoids me as not worth his trouble. That’s hardly surprising. After all, at my advanced age, I still take things with me from here to there. If I were under 30, or maybe even under 40, I’d be bringing things from here to there.
My use of bring and take varies with my point of reference, marking me as an old-fashioned speaker. Last month, for example, I took some boxes up to the receptionist in my temporary office, but my younger colleague brought one there. I admit that I talked about bringing a pie with me to a friend’s house, but only because I was on the phone, adopting her point of reference.
Sure, I’ll bring a pie with me.
Otherwise, I’d have taken that dratted pie with me, I swear. And I never, ever, ask someone to bring a folder to someone at the other end of the office, when what I mean is to carry it from here to there.
“Yikes,” I hear you thinking. “This woman should get a life. Does this matter at all?”
Nope. Not if what you mean is: Does this hinder communication? Whether you bring or take, your meaning is clear.
What it is, though, is interesting. The language changes: that’s evident when we read something by Jane Austen or Shakespeare or Chaucer. But it’s kinda cool to be in the midst of a change, able to watch it happening. Today, the changing usage of bring and take gives us such an opportunity.
My dictionary gives 20 distinct meanings for take. It’s an amazingly versatile verb, forming many idiomatic expressions. Some might even call it a tad unfocused. You can take sick; take the dog for a walk; take a hike; take a queen in chess; take comfort; take someone at their word; take a risk, an oath or a bow; take one day at a time; take tricks in bridge; take action; eat take-out; and take away, back, down, in, off, on, out, over, up and after. But unless you’re 50 or better, you pretty much can’t take it with you anymore.
With so many uses for take, maybe it’s just overworked and in need of a rest. Since language is as unpredictable as the people who use it, maybe this substitution of bring for take won’t stop with the one meaning—that of “causing to come or go with one”—but will gradually overtake the other uses as well.
I’m going to bring the bull by the horns and bring a chance here, as ABBA recommended, and say, “Yes. Keep your eye on the idioms.” Even if we brought care in how we speak, I’m betting that bring will gradually bring charge of most English expressions that today use take. If you bring sick over this you can bring to your bed, but it won’t help. The train has left the station.
You might as well bring a load off, or bring a break, or even bring five—there’s no point in bringing a position against this impending change. There’s even less point in bringing the Lord’s name in vain. Just “Bring it easy,” as the Eagles sang, or should have. Once native speakers bring to a new mode of expression, it’s impossible to stop the momentum.
Don’t bring it to heart. Don’t bring cover. Don’t even bring others to task over it. Instead, bring a good look at what really matters in life. Start by bringing a deep breath and then carry on with your normal activities: bring the kids to school tomorrow, bring someone out to the ballgame, bring a vacation with your family. You can also continue to bring pride in your work, and bring pity on those who are less fortunate.
You can tell me to bring a flying leap if you want to, or otherwise bring issue with my prediction, but I’ve brought my best shot here. And, certainly, I admit that I haven’t really brought complete account of other influences on the language. Maybe schools will start insisting that kids bring more English classes, or maybe the fashion for ‘bring’ will bring a sudden swerve to the right.
Or maybe, just maybe, take will fight back, finding unsuspected depths of resistance, bringing after bring in this regard. So far, all the substitution has been one-way: bring for take. But maybe take will start to encroach on bring’s turf. We can’t bring it for granted that this won’t happen. After all the adjustments we’ve had to make, wouldn’t that just bring the cake?
You probably can’t take yourself to believe it to be possible, but it could be that the vagaries of the language will take it about. And wouldn’t that be enough to make you take up your lunch?