Submitted by jeremiah on September 10, 2009

Fetch Referring to People?

A friend has issue with the use of “fetch” used to mean “go get someone.” She referred to its association with having a dog “fetch” something as being offensive: “it is not okay to use a word commonly known for a dog retrieving a bone to refer to a human being - period.” And also hinted its use as being inappropriate in a professional/office setting.

The definition i have says: “go for and then bring back (someone or something)” and says nothing at all about it being a dog trick. Also interesting that someone is listed before something.

What do you say?

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I think that's perfectly fine. People just wind up making the wrong assumptions of words by only hearing them in certain contexts. My father once had issue with me using the word 'titular' in reference to Hamlet in the eponymous play, thinking that titular referred to the title of a person, not a work. Your friend just has assumptions that fetch goes with dogs and that dogs are less than people, therefore fetch shouldn't apply to people.

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It's not an issue of definition. You don't go around calling happy people gay just for the sake of Webster's.

Tell people to "go fetch" in your daily dealings with them.. and see how they respond.

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There is nothing inherently canine in the word "fetch." Jack and Jill certainly had no problem with it (the word itself wasn't the cause of their clumsiness). Yes, you can tell a dog to fetch, and also to sit. Shall we therefore leave all our human guests standing?

The word "fetch" is used in some regions more than in others. In northern areas of the US it is rarely heard in the sense of to "go or come after and bring or take back" (Merriam-Webster), while in the south it is not uncommon. A careful speaker will keep this in mind. And "fetch" can have a demanding tone–it is, after all, a command–unless joined to the word "please." Not a bad idea in a business or office setting, and not just for "fetch." Even so, if you are in a non-fetching region, an alternative word like "get" might be more pleasing.

As for "someone" being cited before "something" in your definition, might that not just be alphabetization?

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@Glynn, i think it is about the definition. The "go fetch" you issue to a dog is not the only meaning or usage of the word. And to clarify, the original argument was with using the word fetch in reference to going to get <em>someone</em>, not telling people to go get something.

@Douglas, some good points. I did wonder about the alphabetical order.

I think the distinction here is whether or not it's used as a command (implying to a lesser being or someone inferior) [as Glynn put it: tell people to "go fetch"]. Of course if you order anyone to do something with a condescending tone, it's gonna sound negative or insulting regardless of the words being used.

"Go make me some coffee!"
vs
"So I don't need to fetch Stephen from the airport tomorrow?"

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@jeremiah first.. the reason you brought it up, is because of your friend's statement that addressed a boss saying "go fetch" someone.

the meaning does not change at all whether using go fetch for a dog or human.. in both cases it's a command.
a change in meaning would be to say, something like.. "that woman is fetching" meaning she's foine.

regardless if it's someone or something, it is still not a well received command in most settings

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Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen.

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Glynn, bosses give "commands" all the time. Actually, non-bosses give commands all the time. What exactly is it about "fetch" that would make it ill-received? If your boss said "Go fetch Bill and Jane so we can discuss the Forbin project", that's no different than "Go get Bill and Jane so we can discuss the Forbin project." If he or she said "please" first, would that make it better received? In the two examples, "fetch" and "get" are virtually interchangeable.

Jeremiah, if your friend finds "fetch" to be referring primarily to dogs, perhaps it's simply because the word is not in frequent use except as a dog command. I don't hear "fetch" used often. Personally, when I do hear it, it sounds a bit archaic to me (but not offensive or dog-like at all).

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Possibly regional, given the division, but yes, in the South where I am, we "fetch" people all the time and think nothing of it. There may be areas where it's seen as, or used in, a belittling way, but it's not inherent in the definition.

Apparently, a lot of people, including myself, forget that their individual experiences may not reflect the entire truth of the matter.

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Porsche, I know what the definition of fetch is and I know that bosses give commands.

Yes, saying "please" before "fetch" would make it better received... but so would putting garnish and ketchup on a plate of horse manure.

It's not what you say. Its how you say it.

I'm sure there are plenty of settings where the word can be used with no harm.

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Glynn, I suspect a plate of horse manure might actually be more poorly received if it were embellished with garnish and ketchup.
I agree with everything else, though.

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I was transplanted here in southern Iowa more than two decades ago from regions only slightly north of here (also within Iowa) where I spent another couple decades before that. I am still amazed at the differences that exist in language and culture barely an hour south of the land of my origin. I sometimes feel as though I've been dropped into the Deep South.

As a result of living in this rural area, I have picked up a number of (what seem to me like) southern expressions and usages. In my previous life, I don't remember ever hearing or using the verb "to fetch" (except in Jack and Jill); nowadays, however, I use it almost exclusively in place of "to get and bring back". No one seems to think a thing of it -- probably because they all use it too.

To my mind there are absolutely no inherent negative connotations to using "fetch" in place of "go get". Sure, it could be said in an offensive way, just as "go get" could. But if a person were to take offense at merely being innocently asked to "fetch" someone or something, we would all chuckle to ourselves and probably realize they come from a region where "fetch" is only used as a canine command.

It is something akin to "lit" and "of an evening" -- a pair of words/phrases that I had not experienced until I moved here. If someone slips on the ice here in Southern Iowa it is not uncommon to hear them say they "lit on their backside." If I'm trying to set an appointment with a person who works during the day, they might suggest I try paying them a visit "of an evening." Both of these seem regional to me. So does the use of "fetch" in place of "go get".

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Scyllacat, I like your response. I have lived most of my life in the South, and I enjoy using Southernisms from time to time, especially in the company of my Northern friends, who find my nonsense amusing. I will definitely fetch someone, especially if it is Momma, Bubba, or Skunk. Generally, I will carry them to the Stop'n'Shop. (That one always cracked me up; I never really used "carry" to mean drive someone or escort them, and it used to annoy me when my cousins would say that. I usually answered, "You carried Peanut over to the laundry-mat? Are your arms tired now? He's a biggun, after all." Then, finally, there's "in the floor." My cuz Jeff always says he's laying in the floor, rather than lying on the floor. Cracks me on up everlast time.

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I am also fond of using an opening parenthesis but not a closing one, as you can see. (Y'know, this has all reminded me that I need to lighten up a bit.

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the sense of a word also depends upon the way of using the word.........i mean to say that the word itself doesn't have any fault........it also depends upon how people use it

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