[Ads-l] _do one of these numbers_ "a phrase that precedes the miming of an action"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 11 07:59:35 UTC 2019

Perhaps this phrase (coupled with an action) is derived from the show
business term "number" referring to a routine in a performance. Here
is a citation in 1957 that contains the statement: "We did a number
like Flanagan and Allen do." After delivering this statement the
speaker mimicked part of the routine.

Date: June 6, 1957
Newspaper: Journal Every Evening (The News Journal)
Newspaper Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Article: Theatre-in-Round Will Stick, 'Hellzapoppin ' Comic Predicts
Author: Haynes Johnson
Quote Page 33, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
"Well, we get there and Flanagan and Allen are sitting in the third
row. So later in the show Chick and I dress up like Flanagan and Allen
and come out and do a number. And Flanagan and Allen come up and join
us. They loved it.

"We did a number like Flanagan and Allen do. You know, like this:
'Underneath the A-A-A-R-C-H-E-S, dum de dum de dum. . ." Ole cocked
his eyebrows, tapped his feet lightly, and hummed. "It went over
[End excerpt]

The Oxford English Dictionary has "number" with the two senses below
in the domain of show business. But the OED suggests that "number"
usually has a modifying word when used in the theatrical domain. An
action of imitation could act as a non-verbal modifier.

[Begin excerpts from OED]
number, n.
5. a. An item in a programme of (musical) entertainment; (sometimes)
spec. each more or less distinct section of an opera, oratorio, etc.
Also (more generally): any song or tune.
1865   tr. L. Spohr Autobiogr. I. 72   I now expected that..all those
‘Numbers’ in which Titus has to sing, would be omitted.
1874   Catholic World Sept. 787   The director of the music
should..sacrifice even the most admirable musical numbers to the
exigencies of the ceremonial.

5. b. Chiefly with modifying word: (a part of) a theatrical or other
performance; a routine, a turn.
1908   K. McGaffey Sorrows of Show Girl ii. 30   I've got to roll my
hoop and do a shopping number.
1939   J. B. Priestley Johnson over Jordan 67   And now, friends, a
new novelty act, the first time here, and I know it will be a socko
[End excerpts from OED]


On Mon, Sep 9, 2019 at 2:19 AM Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> I mentioned the existence of this feature of BE some pre-Google years ago.
> As is the case with a plethora of words and phrases peculiar to BE, I could
> provide no documentation of this turn of phrase. But, given enough time,
> documentation of almost anything can be found in Google.
> Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff
> https://books.google.com › books
> Walter Dean Myers - 1988 - ‎Juvenile Fiction - Unpaginated
> Binky'll _do one of these numbers_, man. Bipp! Bipp! Bop-a rop-DOP! And the
> cat'll be knocked out, that's what's going to happen.” Sam was hopping
> around and throwing punches at an imaginary person.
> "We could do one of these numbers." He got up and started dancing.
> Final Things: A Novel of Suspense
> https://books.google.com › books
> Virgil Thompson - 2002 - ‎Fiction  - Page 263
> "You'd _do one of these numbers_.” He shows me, darts his eyes. “People
> can't help it, what they do when they lie."
> Forget the headlines: Here are 5 fundamental facts about ...
> https://freespeech.org › stories ›
> forget-the-headlines-here-are-5-fundamen...
> Nov 14, 2013 - I _did one of these numbers_, like Michelle from Destiny's
> Child: photo destinys-child-michelle-lol-o_zps3a9619be.gif.
> Hanzo's damage just made me laugh - General Discussion - Overwatch ...
> https://us.forums.blizzard.com › overwatch › hanzos-damage-just-made-me-l...
> Aug 14, 2018 - 8 posts - ‎4 authors
> I watched what happened as Hanzo headshot me, _did one of these numbers_
>  :face_with_raised_eyebrow: [sic] and went to his hero page on the
> Overwatch wiki.
> Wild video shows turkey crashing into truck windshield on I-75 ...
> www.fox13news.com › news › local-news › wild-video-shows-turkey-cras...
> Feb 28, 2019 - "It was attempting to land, I thought, and then it just _did
> one of these numbers_. Whoop. Boom!" Gerken said.
> Ancella Bickley Collection Highlights African ... - WVU Libraries
> https://news.lib.wvu.edu › 2019/05/14 ›
> ancella-bickley-collection-highlig...
> May 14, 2019 - And all of a sudden, she thought about who I was, and she
> _did one of these numbers_ [dropped her arms and jumped back over from her].
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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