This is a one-off post, if you will pardon the expression, because as far as I know, this usage appears in only one American publication. Backing up a bit, I am referring the the past participle form of the verb to get, which in British English is got and in American English is gotten. So, for example, we would say, “By that time I had gotten angry”; they, “got angry.” (This shouldn’t be confused with the very American “got” used to mean “have,” e.g.,”I got plenty of nuthin’.”) The distinction had appeared as early as 1908, when (as quoted in Garner’s Modern American English), a writer in Blackwood’s Magazine observed:
“America need not boast the use of ‘gotten.’ The termination, which suggests either wilful archaism or useless slang, adds nothing of sense or sound to the word. It is like a piece of dead wood in a tree, and is better lopped off.”
The American magazine I referred to earlier is The New Yorker. Among its several stylistic peculiarities (spelling the word “marvellous,” putting an umlaut over the second o in “cooperate”) is an insistence on this “got.” The normally very sharp Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage claims that “English speakers in North America seem to use both got and gotten in a way that is almost freely variable.” However, of the four sources the book cites for got, four (Calvin Trillin, Alexander Woollcott, Peter Taylor, and John Cheever) are New Yorker writers, with Russell Lynes the only outlier.
The New Yorker seems to have developed its affection for got early. Its online archives gives examples from the early 1930s, including a James Thurber Talk of the Town piece from 1931:
“An African novelist was supposed to speak at the Women’s Club of Maplewood, New Jersey, and the girls were all excited. He didn’t show up, and two days later they discovered he had got into a fist fight with a plasterer in a speakeasy and had landed in jail instead.”
That was one thing in the speakeasy era, but the usage seems seriously weird today. However, one comes upon it nearly every week in the magazine, including, very recently, a Lawrence Wright article from February 14, 2011: “When she was a young child, her stepfather had got the family involved with Scientology.”
This affectation bugs me so much that I started a Facebook group called “Get the New Yorker to Use ‘Gotten’ Instead of ‘Got.'” Call me crazy, but 135 people have joined, including some actual New Yorker writers, one being none other than Lawrence Wright. I guess he is trying to effect change from within. Good luck, Lawrence!