Q&A: What’s the GO?

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, it's all systems GO…

Q: Hi AWC, how’s it going?
A: Good thanks. We’re busy with new and existing courses to help writers to achiev—- Ahhh, um. Why are there people everywhere here?
Q: Yeah, I was going to say. Found them loitering outside. Turns out our Q&A is a good hiding place for Pokémons, and this new Pokémon Go app has them coming from all around.
A: Oh, well that explains it.
Q: What’s that famous saying? “Build a Pokémon app, and they will come…”
A: Not quite. But surely we can’t talk about Pokémon this week. It’ll look a bit strange in a few months when the fad has worn out and someone stumbles upon our column in the archives.
Q: Good point. Oh, but they’re so cute. What’s the name of the yellow one pictured above that likes to peek at you?
A: Pikachu?
Q: Ah yes.
A: Actually, steering this sinking ship towards grammar for a moment, we see “peak” (highest point) and “peek” (quick look) mixed up a lot. Especially in “sneak peak” – this is incorrect and should be “sneak peek”.
Q: What if the mountain climber doesn’t want anyone to know that she climbed all the way to the top?
A: Okay, sure, that would indeed be a “sneak peak”!
Q: Excellent. So, in honour of this Pokémon Go craze sweeping the globe, I thought we could actually discuss the word “go”.
A: Let’s get going then. It’s primarily a verb, assigned to first/second person views and plurals (e.g. “I go”, “you go”, “they go” and “Go-go dancers go” etc).
Q: So what’s the go with using it as a noun?
A: This is an informal thing and primarily happens outside the US – places like Australia, New Zealand, Britain etc. So we’d say that we can’t wait to “have a go” at something (a turn) or that we’ll give something “a go” (an attempt).
Q: Americans don’t use it as a noun? Go figure!
A: Yes, “go figure” is one they DO say though – a kind of confused disbelief at something.
Q: And “goes”?
A: That has a specific job – present tense, third person singular. So “Sam goes to the gym” or “the weights machine goes all the way up to 200kg”.
Q: And in conversation? Kylie Mole style?
A: Yes good point. The verb forms “go” and “goes” here in Australia evolved in the 1970s-80s to also mean “say”. So we had the Kylie Mole character in the late 1980s saying “she goes, she goes” etc.
Q: But wh–
A: We d—
Q: No, you go.
A: Thanks. Casual conversation may be okay, but we don’t recommend using “go” or “goes” as replacements for “say” and “said” when writing.
Q: Any other forms of “go” hiding anywhere?
A: It can be used as an adjective – like in “all systems go”.
Q: Nice. So, from the get-go, I’ve wondered about how “go” pairs with prepositions a lot.
A: First, “get-go” (meaning “the very beginning”) originated in America too. As for partners in crime, “go/goes” does love teaming up with prepositions such as “with” (“Eliza’s hat goes with everything”) or “on” (“the hat goes on my head”), “in”, “off”, “through” etc.
Q: Sounds like that’s Eliza’s “go-to” hat.
A: “Go-to” is another American combo, meaning a person or thing that is a reliable source. You could say our weekly Q&A chats are your go-to source of grammar knowledge.
Q: Nah, I’d never say that…
A: “Go/goes” also teams up with adjectives. So you’d “go crazy” thinking that you’re going to “go bald” some day. Or you’d have an animal that “goes wild”.
Q: I’m always worried about that when I go camping.
A: Wild animals?
Q: No. Going bald. I wish I had Eliza’s hat that goes with everything… Just one final thing.
A: Go ahead.
Q: You have a Vaporeon right behind you. A very rare Pokémon!
A: Okay, there's a few hundred people heading this way. It’s time to go.

Do you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore this year? Email it to us today!

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