AOL’s “You’ve got mail!”—let’s change it . . .

31 Jan

I recently found the comment below on a web site that promotes proper use of the English language. I visited both sites, the one from whence the comment came as well as the one that received it. As do all such sites (including mine), both have flaws. I believe that perfection in any endeavor is desirable and should be sought, but I concede that perfection is impossible. One can always find, via the nitpicking process, something to cite and criticize, albeit constructively, as is this posting. The site commented on is seriously flawed, but I am pleased to give the teacher’s site an overall rating of excellent, simply because it is superior to many others of that ilk.

First a disclaimer: I must state, with all seriousness aside, that the following diatribe is presented in an effort to change something that is probably unchangeable. Any attempt to effect that change is comparable to a situation in which an unstoppable moving object collides with an unmovable stationary object—nothing will change.

This is the comment that prompted my posting:

escher dax Says:

January 2, 2010 at 5:47 am

Glad to have found your site! As a teacher, I’m always looking for examples of what not to do. I’ve got you bookmarked now — very useful site!

dax (

Oh, please, tell me it isn’t so—I’ve got you bookmarked now?

And you are a teacher!

Long, long ago in the first one-third of the past century, in a time shrouded in the mists of antiquity, in a time during which the first six links in the chain of education were called grammar school, I was taught (forcibly) that the verb to have does not require a helper.

It accomplishes its task admirably without one iota of assistance.

I realize that I am swimming upstream in my quest to help others understand that simple statement—nay, what I am doing is hissing—oops, I believe I misspelled that word—into the wind, an act that accomplishes nothing more than soiling my clothing.

I am struggling to resign myself to accept the almost universal misuse of the verb to have,” the use of which distorts my vision and sears my hearing, but I’m having difficulty accepting it. I realize that my struggle, my battle to restore law and order to the proper use of that verb, is probably futile.

My enemies in this battle are legion.

They include such worthies as AOL (America On Line). The exclamation You’ve got mail! has resounded loudly and clearly ever since the inception of AOL—that erroneous use of the verb to have has corrupted several generations of English-speaking listeners and is still counting. The same erroneous use is reflected in the speech of our nation’s mayors, governors, senators, representatives, our president, in speech used in the hallowed halls of our ivy league institutions and even in the speech used by persons of tremendous intellect (none of the afore mentioned persons qualify for that distinction).

How can one possibly win over such an opponent as AOL? I realize that the company is presently on the ropes, but it has shown resilience in the past and will probably survive. I have little hope that it will ever change its trademark signature—You’ve got mail!

I can’t do this alone—I need help, so I am calling on our nation’s English-speaking population (including bilingual persons) for assistance. Let’s use the power of our numbers to effect this change. Let’s work to correct AOL’s misuse of the verb to have from You’ve got mail! to You have mail!

If we are successful in our efforts, its proper use may not spread rapidly but it would be a good start.

Let’s use the concentrated power of our millions. Let’s contact AOL and threaten to cancel our membership. Let’s bring pressure to bear on family members. Let’s contact our local friends and neighbors, our e-mail recipients, our Facebook friends, our senators, our representatives, the members of the Supreme Court and our president—in fine, let’s contact everyone that is subjected to the improper use of the verb to have (and that’s everyone), and specifically to the notice that, You’ve got mail!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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5 responses to “AOL’s “You’ve got mail!”—let’s change it . . .

  1. absurdoldbird

    June 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

    You’ve got AOL? Oh no!!

    I’m used to ‘to have’ and ‘got’ together, having been born and lived in cockney areas of London. What I still don’t like is the use of ‘I am looking to’ in the place of ‘I want’ and many other verbs.

    We live in a changing world.

    • thekingoftexas

      June 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      Hi, Val—I’ve had AOL since 1992 and apparently we are inseparable. When AOL finally goes, and it eventually will, I’ll probably go out of business. I use it for e-mail only. I cut my teeth on it in the beginning and no other system gives me the same satisfaction. I run as fast and as far away as I can get from anything and everything that looks, smells and acts like MS-DOS.

      You’re right, of course, about us living in a changing world, and in most instances I am able to go with the flow, but not for e-mail—I’ll stick with AOL until the bitter end!

      Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment.

    • thekingoftexas

      June 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      You’re right about us living in a changing world—I’m not averse to change per se, but some things are changing a bit too fast to suit my taste—the changes, for example, that are being made in my country by a Democrat president and a Democrat controlled Congress.

      You may, from time to time encounter some expressions of my feelings on various postings, but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously. In political matters I am, in the words of the bard, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

      I realize that to a great degree change is inevitable, and in most cases I tend to go with the flow. However, some changes I will resist to the last breath. Using a helping verb with the verb “to have” is one of those I will continue to resist!

      Thanks for the visit, and thanks for the comment.

  2. absurdoldbird

    June 29, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I’m grinning (a bit) at your anxiety over having a democrat president/goverment. If I’d been an American, I’d have voted in Obama in a flash. Yet, here in the UK, I was very happy to help vote out our Socialist government.

    • thekingoftexas

      June 30, 2010 at 4:22 am

      My anxiety over having a democrat president/government has subsided to a dull ache, one bordering on resignation—not from everything, of course, only from the political fray. I take solace in the fact that I did not help vote him/them in—I searched in vain for an opportunity to vote “None of the above” but that option was not offered, so I held my vote in abeyance—I’m waiting for better times and brighter candidates. I briefly considered offering myself as a write-in candidate but the electronic machines did not offer that option either.

      I’m pleased that you folks voted your socialist government out, and I’m proud of you for contributing to the outing. Thanks for the visit, and thanks for the comment.


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