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I came across the phrase, ‘got yourself a deal’ being introduced as a vulgar American English by a character in Jeffery Archer’s, fiction “The Fourth Estate.”

In the scene Keith Townsend, Australian press mogul is trying to acquire stock shares of a leading British daily newspaper from Margaret Sherwood who is one of three co-owners of the press and an ardent wish-to-be novelist, Mrs. Sherwood says to Townsend:

“After some considerable thought,” she said, “I have come to a decision.” Keith held his breath.

“If you have both contracts ready for me to sign by ten o’clock tomorrow morning, then you have, to use that vulgar American expression, ‘got yourself a deal.’”

Keith beamed at her. - ib. P453.

I consulted Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, Oxford online English dictionaries, none of which registers ‘got yourself a deal,’ as an idiom.

Although I was able to find the following definitions of “You got yourself a deal” in two English language sites, I don’t know how much I can trust them:

  1. Agreed! We will do business together! - gymglish

  2. A reply to an obvious question. This is a reference to the short movie "Don't Sleep."

    Example: Eddie: Are you playing the drums? Makeo: You got yourself a deal! – Urban dictionary.

Google Ngram shows that the phrase first emerged around /in 1955 and its usage has been on the sharp rise.

Then questions:

  1. What is the exact meaning of “You got yourself a deal"? Why 'yourself' is needed”? What's wrong with simply saying "You got a deal!'"?
  2. Under what kind of occasions is this phrase usable?
  3. Is this American slang, not used in Britain, Australia and Canada?
  4. Is it a “vulgar expression” as Mrs. Sherwood describes?
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6  
It's quite common in the U.S.. It's used as a means of ending a negotiation session, where one party decides to accept the last offer that was extended. "How much for this antique table?" "$300." "Would you take $250?" "You got yourself a deal!" There's nothing "vulgar" about it; I'd call it more idiomatic than vulgar, but I can see how a pedant might consider it improper slang. –  J.R. Jun 22 '13 at 21:01
1  
Was Mrs. Sherwood seen elsewhere in the book as a snob? During a certain period in Australia, anything not properly "British" was considered "vulgar" by the (self-appointed) upper crust. –  GEdgar Jul 2 '13 at 12:23
    
GEdgar.I can't tell whether Margaret Sherwood is described as a snob or not in the nobel. But she is portrayed as a widow who inherited a fortune from her late husband who co-owned a leading British newspaper. She craves for publishing a fiction dealing with struggles of American political leaders. She leads a luxurious life in classy apartment in Manhattan. She pretended to ignore Keith Townsend, a Media empire mogul at every morning, lunch and dinner table when they joined in the Queen Elisabeth cruise, simply because Townsend is Australian. –  Yoichi Oishi Jul 4 '13 at 17:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is a pretty common expression in the US. A more formal/"proper" way of saying the same thing would be: "We have a deal."

A few things that make it slang/idiomatic:

  • Using 'you' instead of 'we', even though a deal is typically an arrangement between two or more people.
  • Using 'You got' instead of the more formal: You have got, or You have.
  • The extra 'yourself', which is just redundant and I presume used for emphasis.

I would not call it "vulgar" because there's really nothing inherently offensive about the phrase. Unless one is offended by the less-than-stellar grammar :)

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5  
Vulgar is not really 'offensive'; more "base. common and popular". –  TimLymington Jun 22 '13 at 22:02
3  
@Tim: that's the older meaning of 'vulgar'. Currently it means 'offensive' –  Mitch Jun 22 '13 at 22:46
    
I'm not sure how common it is in the UK, but we would certainly understand it, and it may well be used at times in the manner described. I wouldn't think it at all offensive. Also, I've never come across Yoichi's second meaning. –  TrevorD Jun 22 '13 at 23:18
2  
@Mitch: I am sure the word is used differently in different places, but an elderly, rich lady in a book written by a member of the House of Lords is likely to use 'common' more than 'offensive' (and to regard it as less forgiveable). –  TimLymington Jun 23 '13 at 8:58

I consider the use of "yourself" here to be both emphatic (which I consider to be its primary purpose) and literal. View the literal version this way: "You have obtained for yourself a deal." In other words, "you" as the agent of negotiation have secured a deal on behalf of yourself. It may seem a bit redundant, but after all, one can negotiate a deal on behalf of someone else.

I would assert that it is certainly not considered vulgar, in the usual sense in which most people use the term. Any individual might consider it so, but I would be willing to suggest that Archer is actually trying to make a point about Mrs. Sherwood's character, much more than about the phrase itself. I feel, however, that he is warping "vulgar" into a usage that may not be quite accurate. Would a person of her breeding and position actually feel that the phrase is vulgar? I don't think so, but this is just my gut feeling. Perhaps she would call it "colorful." Or perhaps "crude." Or maybe she really feels it's vulgar, but again, the point of the passage in the book is more about her opinion of the phrase than it is about what most people think.

One last point: "You got yourself a deal" used as a response to "are you playing the drums?" looks a little strange, unless we interpret the question as not really a question, but in fact a form of insistence that Makeo should play the drums ("Well? I need you to play the drums on Saturday, so are you playing the drums or not?"), and Makeo is finally agreeing to do so.

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Questions 1-3 have been answered thoroughly by the previous posters - and I agree with them so I won't unnecessarily repeat what they've correctly said.

On the question of vulgarity, however: it is wrong to say the meaning of "vulgar" is currently limited to the offensive, i.e. insults. The primary meaning of vulgarity, as given in the majority of dictionaries available online (and therefore the whole world) is:

adjective /ˈvəlgər/ 

Lacking sophistication or good taste; unrefined - the vulgar trappings of wealth

With the secondary meaning being:

Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude - a vulgar joke

and the third meaning being:

Characteristic of or belonging to the masses

I could certainly easily understand what you meant there by "vulgar". The context made it clear that it meant "of the people; of the lower classes" rather than "crass and offensive". So yes, anyone would be right to declare that style of speaking "vulgar", though they will undoubtedly confuse people who aren't used to the broader meaning of the word. But it is still correct.

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