[Ads-l] nouning of adjectives again

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 17 10:03:09 EDT 2016

That would seem to fit OED3's sense 28e for "do": "With adjective as
notional object: to (be able to) exhibit the behaviour described. Freq. in
negative constructions." Earliest cite given is from 1991 on Usenet: "I
don't do polite." But it resembles an earlier use of "do" listed in OED3
(sense 18b) with cites from Dickens and other 19th-century writers: "do the
[adjective]" (e.g., "amiable," "civil," "grand," "lazy," "polite"),
elliptical for "do the [adjective] thing." So perhaps Teddy could have
"done the dutiful," though that would've been a bit anachronistic in the
other direction.

On Tue, May 17, 2016 at 9:13 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> This one struck me as something of an anomaly--not necessarily an
> anachronism as much as wrong time, wrong man, wrong style, from Kate
> Atkinson's otherwise impeccably written _A God in Ruins_, a 2015 novel.
> The narration here, as in much of the book, is presented from the
> perspective of Edward (Teddy) Todd, an aging survivor of World War II at
> this stage of the story (which jumps around through most of the 20th
> century).  Here he is packing up his house in York in preparation for a
> move to a retirement cottage, calling up a memory of his time in the 1960s
> after his children are grown and his wife has died; the reminiscence itself
> is maybe 30 years later.
> He had stayed and plodded on, because something told him that this was the
> life that had to be lived out. And he liked York, liked his garden. He had
> friends, he belonged to a few clubs...A ramblers club, an ornithological
> group. He preferred solitary pursuits, and being a member of a group seemed
> rather dutiful, but he could do dutiful and somebody had to or the world
> would fall apart.
> p. 168
> Teddy is a traditionalist in the best sense, decent, old-fashioned, the
> opposite of trendy, and not, I would strongly maintain, a man who would
> have ever said or thought (even to himself) "I can do dutiful".

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list