"Don't just do something...."

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 2 23:38:31 UTC 2011

I just watched part of the 1951 Disney animated version of Alice in
Wonderland and it contains the quotation. There is a script available
at the following link, but it is not accurate. The line is wrongly
transcribed as "Don’t just do something standing":

Here is the corrected version according to my ears. (Typos and other
errors are possible.) After the scene with the walrus and the
carpenter Alice encounters the white rabbit and during the interaction
the rabbit delivers the target line:

Alice: Excuse me sir, but- but I’ve been trying to...
White Rabbit: Why, Mary Ann! What are you doing out here?
Alice: Mary Ann?
White Rabbit: Don’t just do something; stand there. ... No no! Go go!
Go get my gloves! I’m late!

The scene and the line are mentioned in an article titled "Greatest
Film Scenes and Moments" at the website filmsite.org.

Here is a close match in 1878 to an instance of the cliche that is
being humorously contorted:

Cite 1878, Aunt Betsy's Foresight by Mrs. Warren Creed, Page 8,
Remington and Co., London. (Google Books full view)

"Don't stand there, Jane, do something."



Jonathan Lighter wrote
> That's only one generation earlier, Ben!
> To repeat: Is the human mind even remotely that sluggish? Is the original
> statement
> actually another meme rather than the spontaneously recurring product of
> independent linguistic free will?

> On Mon, May 2, 2011 at 4:31 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu>wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>> Subject:      Re: "Don't just do something...."
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On Mon, May 2, 2011 at 3:23 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> >
>> > Surprisingly, even the most reductive version of the original statement
>> > ("Don't stand there. Do something.") only goes back to 1936 in GB:
>> >
>> >
>> http://books.google.com/books?id=3DLYcUAAAAIAAJ&q=3D%22don't+stand+there,+d=
>> >
>> o+something%22&dq=3D%22don't+stand+there,+do+something%22&hl=3Den&ei=3DOQK_=
>> >
>> TaTGLPDr0QGXtdXWBQ&sa=3DX&oi=3Dbook_result&ct=3Dresult&resnum=3D3&ved=3D0CD=
>> > QQ6AEwAjha
>> >
>> > I am sure this phenomenon (which I'm calling "no evidence of the
>> obvious")
>> > says as much about language and society as it may about linguistic
>> > documentation, but I hate to think what.
>> If it makes you feel any better, it also appears in Arthur Law's play
>> _The New Boy_ (published in 1904, staged in 1894):
>> http://books.google.com/books?id=P8QVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA63
>> --bgz
>> --
>> Ben Zimmer
>> http://benzimmer.com/
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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