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To have someone's back means to "always be ready to defend or help someone."

So by extension, "we got each other's backs" is a way of saying that you and another person are both ready to defend and help one another in times of need.

What I want to know is whether "we got each other's backs" can be shortened to “we got each other” without changing the meaning.

The reason I wonder this is that "I got you” has the same meaning “I got your back.” Can this shortening be extended to the other phrase as well?

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  • Welcome to ELU. It's not clear what you want to know here. Do you mean "How does got your back become the whole body in got you?" or do you want a list of circumstances in which the expression might be used? The first seems trivial, the second is not suited to Stack Exchange's "best answer" model. If you edit your question to make it clearer, it may be able to be re-opened.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 7:00
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    "I got you" doesn't mean the same thing as "I got your back," as far as I know.
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 16:26
  • @alphabet - semantically it doesn't, technically it doesn't, but oftentimes it does in practice. As a younger speaker, I hear and use them as being synonymous, particularly when pronounced as "I gotch you." (as in: relax, bro, I gotch you. don't worry ) Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 16:34
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    @Heartspring "I got you" can sometimes mean "I got your back," but not always. "I'll pay for dinner." "No, I got you."
    – alphabet
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 16:45
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    "We've got each other" is often used to mean "We're romantically connected".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 0:46

1 Answer 1

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This expression does exist in pop culture, for instance a song by R&B artist Chaka Kahn:

Walkin' hand and hand
As only lovers can
You must understand
We've got each other
They can scream and fuss
It won't bother us
And that is because
We've got each other

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/chakakhan/wegoteachother.html

The meaning in these lyrics is both figurative and literal, but the figurative sense of “got your back” against adversity is present in the sense of supporting each other even though others “scream and fuss”

I don’t know to what extent it’s in common usage in AAVE in a purely figurative sense, but for what it’s worth, as a native English speaker (Canada/USA) I had no trouble parsing the meaning intended by “we got each other” and context would make the meaning evident.

The following link, for example, uses the term in reference to meetings designed for “young black men to come together” to support each other:

https://www.bgsu.edu/multicultural-affairs/resources/support-groups/we-got-each-other

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    but the figurative sense of “got your back” against adversity is certainly present You don't provide any evidence of this. Why is it impossible that only the literal meaning was intended? Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 18:03
  • Perhaps “certainly” is too strong, but the implication is that they have each other under adverse conditions, are therefore supporting each other (having each other’s back) despite others who “scream and fuss”
    – David F.
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 21:28
  • "We got each other" is also the punchline of the song "Two Lost Souls" from Damn Yankees (1958).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 8:17
  • Not necessarily. It can also mean we have each other. They do not have to actually defend each other against the "scream and fuss." It can just mean that since they are happy together, they do not let themselves be perturb by the outside.
    – Mary
    Commented Apr 26 at 1:18

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