Usage note: the phrasal verb “get through to”

1. Get through to denotes communication, but its originating metaphor connotes forcing, piercing, penetrating. To get through to is one way of communicating; to be gotten through to is another. The difference is a bloody matter of the difference between prey and predator.

2. The communication channel of getting through to is fear. In fear of being gotten through to, some people calm their pounding hearts by remembering that they believe in their gun and their Bible. Others choose to mask their susceptibility to communication behind deflecting layers of irony. The warehouse full of Basquiats, check; the Russian passport, check.

3. Getting through to can also be thought of as a speech act like voting or naming: a way of doing things with words. Under the control of speech-act technologists like Frank Luntz and Roger Ailes, language is a symbol system used by the people with the Basquiats to get through to people whose symbols are at pre-ironic stages of development.

R. H. Beck, "Preparing for the trail," Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, Photoshopped.
R. H. Beck, “Preparing for the trail,” Galapagos Islands, 1903. Library of Congress, Photoshopped.

Between “the” and “grand Pooh-Bahs,” a pause long enough to say “Fox News” on the inhale

John Stossel, Fox News, May 18, 2012. Click to play.


I changed the channel, but the sound of that analysis was still affecting me. I picked up my copy of the Chronicle, held it to the mirror beside my face, and checked. No, there couldn’t be any doubt. Mr. Stossel was entirely right: I am grand.

So thanks for everything on Fox News, Roger Ailes! Have a Pooh-Bah song!