Discussion in 'English Only' started by Hela, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Hela Senior Member

    Tunisia - French
    Good morning,

    Is "He went to fetch the children from school" correct ?

    Thank you for your help.
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    It can be used and it would be understood, but "fetch" has a very strong connotation to some speakers of American English. It is seen as a command to a dog, primarily, by many people. In certain colloquial settings it's a common word, but I would tend to avoid it in favor of "pick up" or "get". "Fetch" can generate an instant negative reaction.

    You might want to read this previous thread on "fetch" in AE:


    Here is another thread on the subject:


    It is by no means universal, but I think, by the reaction it can get and the number of AE speakers who view the word this way, it makes it a less than desirable first choice.

    As always, if you have a question about an individual word it's a good idea to use the WRF dictionary at the top of the page. At the bottom of each definition page is a list of all threads that have the defined word in the title. Quite often this can answer your question. If it doesn't, please add your question to an existing thread rather than starting a new one.
  3. Hela Senior Member

    Tunisia - French
    Thank you James for the threads. That helps.
    Now, in Ripley under Water the author wrote: "He (Tom) thought he shouldleave the house at ten minutes before ten at the latest to fetch Ed Banbury." Do you see here any pejorative connotation?

    All the best
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Hela, there is nothing pejorative about this use of "fetch". For some reason that I've never figured out, many Americans think of "fetch" only in terms of throwing a ball or stick for a dog to "fetch" and return. I use this word all the time and have never had a negative reaction. As JamesM suggested, this seems to be an issue in AE but unless your target audience is primarily AE, I wouldn't worry about its use.
  5. Hela Senior Member

    Tunisia - French
    Thanks again James and Dim :)
  6. Phil-Olly Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    Fetch is a good word, because it encompasses not only the idea of "get", or "pick up", but also that of "bring back".

    Other words are less succinct.
  7. Hela Senior Member

    Tunisia - French
    So we can say (in BE at least) "to bring back / fetch / pick up / get (?) a child from school" but would it work the same for "airport"?
    We would "go and fetch / pick up somebody at the airport" but we wouldn't "bring back / get somebody from the airport", would we?

    Have a nice day.
  8. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    Hi Hela,
    I see no reason why we wouldn't.
    Once you overcome or ignore the AE implications of fetching, you can use any of these words and phrases, depending on the circumstances and on the intended meaning.

    I do think, though, that since fetch implies "bringing back" (as Phil_olly pointed out), you definitely fetch from not at.
  9. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    The act of picking up is momentary - the person gets into the car and the picking up is complete - so I would say I'll pick you up at the airport.

    (I agree that "fetch" requires "from" because it implies "bringing back".)
  10. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    Quite so, Sound_shift, but one does hear people say "I'll pick you up from school at four o'clock." I agree that it's not quite logical, but there you go.

    And if you can pick someone up from school, I guess you can pick him up from the airport as well.
  11. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    There may be a regional prejudice held by some AE speakers. In the eastern part of the country, fetch is used to mean retrieve, and that is not limited to dogs chasing balls and sticks. People fetch tools and other items, and at times fetch other people, all without fear of rabid prescriptive reactions. Fetch also describes the price something brings at auction.

    Try a search engine for "fetch the kids". Then remove the ".uk" entries. It's not a terribly common expression, but the numbers hardly support JamesM's warning. Knowing him to be a person of rectitude, you may want to think twice before saying 'fetch' about anything not canine when you are in California.

    I wonder if left coast people adjust the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme to avoid this verb? Maybe the kids west of the Rockies think Jack and Jill have four feet each. :eek:
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    :) It may be a regional thing in the U.S. I do know that I've heard people with southern U.S. accents use "fetch" with people and have seen no negative reaction by the people they were addressing.

    I still stick by my warning as being "warrantable", though, when you consider the population concentration of the western states, where I think many people would find this to be a demeaning word.

    I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. If you use it and find someone has a strong negative reaction to it, don't be surprised. ;)


    I'll avoid fetch on the west coast if you forswear sprouts when east of the Mississippi.


    Why does the water go down the bathtub drain from bottom to top on the West Coast?
  15. BE only:

    I would say that bring back is not really used for picking children from school. There is no reason why it shouldn't, and everybody would understand you, and it's correct; but I don't think it's said much, at least not in the areas when I lived and did the fetching. Fetch is fine, but again doesn't seem to be the word of choice here.

    If you are after natural usage, pick up and get are probably the safest choices. Collect is used in more formal context (eg in letters sent by the school), but is not very formal, so could be also said in normal speech.

    The airport one (though I am not a native!) I think requires a qualification. I think bring back implies return journey to the point of the original departure, so I would see it used only for picking up somebody who normally lives here (here=where the airport is located). Again, the natural words seem to me pick up and get, with collect perhaps a close third. Fetch is quite good here too, I'd say better than for school.
  16. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Your admonition is taken seriously, but it seems that there are exceptions in your geography too. You provided links to other threads on the topic. Here's a post from
    a member in Oregon in one of those linked threads:

  17. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Oh no. I agree. I lived in Idaho for a while... on purpose, even... and I don't think it would have been taken wrong there. As I think I said in a much earlier post, the more rural the setting, the less likely I'd be to expect a negative reaction.

    However, I would never use "fetch" in an office setting in Los Angeles unless said humorously with a mimicked accent of some kind or some other clue it was meant as a joke and I would definitely never use it when speaking to anyone that might be sensitive to the racist potential of a remark. It could easily be taken as a very condescending or demeaning remark here, in my opinion. I honestly don't think I'm blowing this out of proportion.
  18. Hela Senior Member

    Tunisia - French
    Let's recap then. In BE we say:

    to bring back someone from school (NOT the airport ?)
    to fetch someone from the airport / school (?)
    to pick up / get someone from / at (both ?) school / airport
    to collect someone at school (?)

    A thousand thanks
  19. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Ah well, that explains it then...;)
  20. I think I am seriously missing something here. I though the offensive US potential with fetch related to its common application to animals (dogs)? Why racist?
  21. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi Magda - have you read the first linked thread in JamesM's post 2?

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