Get The Can: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 22, 2023

The phrase "get the can" can have multiple meanings, literally and figuratively. The expression might mean being dismissed from a job or obtaining a container. It can hold different interpretations depending on the context.

In short:

  • "Get the can" could mean being fired from a job.
  • It can also simply refer to fetching a container or can.

What Does "Get the Can" Mean?

The phrase “get the can” can be a bit puzzling. It can mean getting dismissed from one's work, like the saying "get the boot." Alternatively, it can be taken straightforwardly: obtaining a can or container.

Let's dive into its core meanings and how it's used:

  • One popular use of "get the can" is when someone loses their job.
  • If you ask someone to "get the can from the kitchen," you are simply asking them to fetch a container.
  • In old movie-making, "can" refers to a film reel. So, someone might be asked to "get the can" if they needed a specific reel or film container.
  • Sometimes, it's used to mean getting a form of punishment, especially in older slang where "can" meant jail.

Where Does "Get the Can" Come From?

The term “canned,” meaning “fired” or “dismissed from a job,” appears to have originated in the early 20th century. The term “can” was used to mean “put up in cans” from 1860, and by 1905, it had evolved to mean "fire an employee." This could be related to the idea of being sealed away or preserved, much like food in a can. However, the exact origin of this usage is not clear. Remember that language evolves, and words can take on new meanings based on societal changes and trends. For example, in British English, “to get canned” has also been used to mean "to get very drunk." This shows how the same term can have different connotations in different cultures or contexts.

Historical Example

" I couldn't see how much gas I had in the other can when Mr. Graham and Mr. Nieman came to the building; didn't get the can full."

- Reports of Cases in Law and Equity Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa, 1936

10 Examples of "Get the Can" in Sentences

To give you a clearer idea about when to use this idiom, let's explore some examples from various scenarios:

  • When I inquired about the missed deadlines, they told me I might get the can if it happens again.
  • When you're done chopping wood, get the can to collect the wood chips.
  • Oh snap, after that major error in the presentation, I thought I would get the can.
  • When the soup was on sale, she told her brother to get the can before they ran out.
  • The rumor around the office was that if the project failed, the whole team would get the can.
  • She thought she would get the can after the mishap, but the boss understood.
  • Drive safely, and don't forget to get the can from the trunk when you arrive.
  • After several warnings for coming in late, she finally got the can.
  • After shrimping for only a month, John didn't meet the quota and had to get the can.
  • I'm sorry to hear that you didn't meet the sales target this quarter; I hope you don’t get the can.

Examples of "Get the Can" in Pop Culture

Though not as prevalent as some idioms, "get the can" has had its moments in pop culture, particularly in relation to job dismissal.

Let's explore some instances:

  • The song "Gamin' Time" by Aiden Dodge on Lyrics.com mentions, "Get the can of Pringles..."
  • The song "Crazy Ain't It (feat. Eazzy)" by Twist on JioSaavn includes the line, "I′mma get the can opened, matter 'fact, open up, okay."
  • A YouTube video titled "Bathroom Fiddler | POEM | Kids' Poems and Stories With Michael Rosen" contains a line that says, "I get the can of talcum powder I hold it in my hand I drop my..."
  • An article on Cracked.com humorously references a fictional scene involving a can, with the line, "Someone get the can of RAID!"

Other/Different Ways to Say "Get the Can"

Various other expressions convey a similar meaning to "get the can," especially in the context of job dismissal.

Here are some of them:

  • Get fired
  • Be let go
  • Get the boot
  • Get laid off
  • Get the sack
  • Be shown the door
  • Be given marching orders
  • Get pink-slipped
  • Be sent packing
  • Get axed

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Get the Can":

  • What does "get the can" mean?

"Get the can" literally refers to receiving or being given a can. However, figuratively, it often means to be dismissed from a job or to be fired.

  • How can I use "get the can" in a sentence?

When using it in a figurative sense related to employment, you might say: "Due to the weather disrupting multiple outdoor events, the event coordinator feared he'd get the can." If using it literally, you might say: "Please get the can of coffee to recycle."

  • Is "get the can" a common phrase in everyday language?

While "get the can" might be understood, particularly in the context of employment, it's not as common as other phrases like "get fired" or "get the boot."

  • Does it always refer to job dismissal?

While often used in the context of job dismissal, the phrase can also be used literally to refer to obtaining a can or container. Context is key in understanding its usage.

  • Can it be used in a positive way?

Typically, in the figurative sense related to employment, it carries a negative connotation. However, in its literal sense, there's no inherent positive or negative meaning.

  • How did the phrase originate?

The exact origins are unclear, but it's likely an evolution from phrases like "kick the can" or "get the boot," both of which have ties to dismissal or rejection.

  • Is it used globally?

While it might be understood in English-speaking countries, its recognition and use might vary. Phrases like "get sacked" or "get fired" are more universally understood.

  • Can it be used in formal contexts?

It's generally considered informal, especially when referring to job dismissal. In formal contexts, it's better to use more direct terms like "dismissed" or "terminated."

  • Are there other phrases with similar meanings?

Yes, phrases like "get the boot," "get sacked," "get laid off," and "get fired" all convey similar sentiments of job termination.

  • How can someone respond if they "get the can"?

It's natural to feel disappointed or upset. It's essential to stay calm, seek feedback if possible, and consider it an opportunity for growth or a new beginning in another job or field.

Final Thoughts About "Get the Can"

The phrase "get the can" primarily revolves around the theme of job dismissal, but it's essential to understand its context. Depending on the situation, it might have a literal meaning or convey the unfortunate event of job termination.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The idiom "get the can" is versatile, with literal and figurative meanings.
  • Context is crucial when interpreting this phrase. While it might mean job dismissal in one setting, it could refer to obtaining a can in another.
  • Using clear and direct language, especially in formal contexts, is always a good idea to avoid misunderstandings.

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