We all have a list of words that make us react irrationally when they are used, as we see it, improperly. For all I know, "improperly" may be high on yours. I have carefully avoided using "inappropriately" here, which I'm aware is a word that is beginning to irk many. One word which is heading to the top of my list is "grab".
"To grab", of course, is a perfectly decent, venerable and useful word. It has a primary meaning of "to grasp or seize suddenly and roughly". It also has a figurative sense, as in "to obtain or get (something) quickly or opportunistically", and it is here the trouble starts. People have long been grabbing something to eat before doing something else, or grabbing an opportunity to speak to someone. The use of "grab" lends a feeling of vigour and spontaneity to what is generally a fairly mundane act. To a large extent, that is the whole point of figurative language in everyday use.
But increasingly "grab" is becoming a synonym for "to get", "to buy", or "to take advantage of". Every day, I am urged by advertisers to grab some of this Great Deal or some of that Amazing Bargain as it goes by, as if shopping were a slightly hysterical, competitive game for the street-wise and sharp-elbowed, and not simply a question of forking over the required amount of cash. I'm sure if you did actually "grab" his latest pizza offering, Mr. Domino would call the police pretty sharpish.
But then I'm 60 years old, and still wince whenever the youngster in front of me in the queue asks the nice lady behind the coffee counter "Er, can I get a latte to go?" No "please", no "thank you", no hint of a smile. Just wrong in so many ways... Of course you can have a latte, kid, but the nice lady will have to get it for you, and then only if you ask her politely. And no grabbing!