I gotta go

The catch phrase of writer and performer Merle Kessler’s alter ego Ian Shoales, just a bit short of the more vernacular I’m outta here. That’s motion go. Then there’s elimination go, and an ambiguity between the two, as exploited by Calvin in this (recently re-cycled) Calvin and Hobbes strip:


In my 12/15/12 posting “Language play log”, notes on the dyspeptic “Ian Shoales” performing comedy routines under the heading I Gotta Go:


Then NOAD on motion go and elimination go:

verb go: 2 [no object] leave; depart: I really must go. … 11 [no object] informal use a toilet; urinate or defecate.

Then in my 11/10/10 posting “Enjoy the Go”, about the extraordinary indirection of elimination go, used in an ad campaign for Charmin brand toilet paper with the slogan “Enjoy the Go” (with a nouning of elimination go):

Ok, that’s the go of go to the bathroom/toilet/restroom/…, nouned and with the mention of toilet facilities elided (as in the plain verb go, used with similar meaning: “I need to go really bad”), so that go here means something like ‘going to the bathroom’, but without any explicit reference to toilet facilities.

Of course, go to the X in these uses is already doubly indirect: it’s a metonymic reference to defecation/urination, with the place reserved for such purposes standing in for the acts performed there (but now semantically detached from those places, so that it’s possible to say things like “The kid went to the bathroom in his pants”); and the various fillers for X are themselves originally euphemisms.

Or, if you’re Calvin, you might just have to get out of there, no bathrooms, real or figurative, involved.

One Response to “I gotta go”

  1. bebopple Says:

    In my work ‘metonymy’ came to signify the condition of Cagean “chance” – when another meaning, more poignant, or descriptive comes from the unintentional collision of disparate things – made meaningful by the viewer’s own mind. Later I realized that it does not have that quality at all. Do you have a suggestion?

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