Don’t Overdo “Do”

By Maeve Maddox

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Walking past a bank the other day I noticed a sign that said

We do loans.

I’ve known for some time that some people “do lunch,” but I missed the transition from “making loans” to “doing loans.”

This usage of all-purpose “do” in a multitude of expressions is nothing new in English.

Ask Bessie to do the flowers for church.

Mr. Ping does our garden.

The stable boys do the horses.

When is the painter going to do this room?

I plan to do the room in red and gold.

“I can do you now, Sir,” said the barber.

Even the word “do-able” which sounds so modern and breezy to my ear has been around since 1449.

c1449 PECOCK Repr. I. vii. 37 A lawe..which is doable and not oonli knoweable. (OED)

No doubt about it–“do” is a handy word that serves us well.

Professional writers, however, may want to add “do” to their list of words to cull in a final revision. Hair and flowers may be arranged, gardens tended, and rooms decorated. And banks make loans. (At least, they’re supposed to.)

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9 Responses to “Don’t Overdo “Do””

  • Natalie

    Totally agree, however in this economy, it is hard to find a bank actually doing loans — so putting that in the marquee makes sense!

  • John Roach

    You should also keep the sexual connotations in mind before using it in reference to people.

    Just sayin’.

  • Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    Proper grammar is the rule in my home, which is why the kids have devised the following taunt to me: “Mom! I do betterer grammar than you!” to which I’ll respond, “Hah! I speak much more gooder!”

    Nerds that we are, we all laugh. 🙂 Barbara

  • Capt. Carl

    Did “Daily Writing Tips” just end a sentence with a preposition?
    It was the last sentence: “At least, they’re supposed to.”

  • David in San Antonio

    I remember the rich (to me) wife of a fellow grad student, way-back-when, announcing at a party that she and Mike would be “doing Europe” that summer. Obviously, that usage stuck with me, because that was in the ’60s.

    And along the same lines as what Barbara wrote, my then 10-year-old daughter and I had the same sort of game. I would say, “I done that good,” and she would say, “No, you did that well, Daddy!” And we would laugh.

  • Maeve

    Capt. Carl,
    Actually, I would have no qualms about ending a sentence with a preposition, but what I’ve done here is use an elliptical construction.

    “At least, they’re supposed to [make loans].”


  • Endora

    ‘We do loans’ – a reproachful term usage implicates insensibly to the actual activity being performed. Do what with loans? You may say, “we provide loans to those in preference of complete financial support,” or “we issue loans to holders of acceptable credit references”. It seems semi-finished with a 3 word line! Loan schemes would be absolutely thrown to anonymity.

  • JC Hewitt

    Why not “banks lend?”

  • Kathy

    Be careful though of the setting. In british speak everyone says
    “hiya, want to do lunch?”

    Language that is annoying or inappropriate in one culture may be essential/ commonplace in another!

    Check your setting!

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