I don’t know how this perverse little phrase was born. It has always struck a dissonant chord in my perception of language, although this is probably due to a personal grudge I have harbored since early childhood, when I thought it was a single word, “usta.” Life was so much simpler then. Eventually I learned that it was two words, “used” and “to,” which if you think about it, when put together, make absolutely no damn sense.
Stop and think about the different usages of the phrase “used to.” It is most often employed as a synonym for “previously” or “in the past” – “I used to love Bea Arthur,” or “crack whoring is not what it used to be.” Another, altogether different, definition is “accustomed to” – “Abe Vigoda is still alive, get used to it” or “I just need to get used to all these fistulas.”
But “use” is a word of utility; to use something or put something to good use – “I will use this coat hanger to perform an emergency tracheotomy” or “I should use a sterlizing agent to prevent infection.” To use something is perhaps to handle something, so to “get used” to something makes as much as sense as to “get handled.” Doesn’t that sound awful?
And did I mention that, for as much as I love the English language in all it multifarious permutations, it is truly deficient in that it only has one word for “love”? That’s what we get for leaving our linguistic development in the hands of Limeys and Jerrys.