Q: My question is about the ubiquitous “I got this,” as in the title of Jennifer Hudson’s memoir. I thought this was a fairly recent usage, but I’ve heard it used on two different current TV shows set in the ’80s. When did this expression come into the language?
A: Jennifer Hudson, a Grammy Award-winning singer and Academy Award-winning actress, uses those words in the title of a 2011 song as well as her 2012 memoir.
The construction “I got this” is often used (as Hudson uses it) in a slangy, idiomatic way to mean “I can take care of this” or “I have this under control.”
Strictly speaking, “I got this” is a past-tense construction (as in “I got a new car last spring”). The technically correct form in reference to the present would be either “I’ve got this” or “I have this.”
But let’s not get technical about idiomatic English. Baseball outfielders, for example, aren’t stopping to check their grammar as they run to catch a fly ball (“I got it!”).
We can’t find any scholarly discussion of the history of “I got this” used in the sense Jennifer Hudson is using it, so we can’t give you a lot of exact citations from the 1980s.
But we did find a few close examples in Google Book searches, including this exchange from Nam, an oral history of the Vietnam War that was published in 1983:
“ ‘This one is mine.’
“ ‘Nah, I got this one. You got the last one.’ ”
Of course, there’s a difference between “I got this,” which refers to a general situation, and the more specific “I got this one,” which refers to a particular object. But they’re close.
We’ll end with a few lines from Hudson’s song:
(I got this)
Ain’t no stopping me, come on, follow me if you feel the need
(I got this)
Better believe I got this, believe I got this
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