The phrase to "do one" — essentially an insult meaning to "do a disappearing act" (if the Urban Dictionary's definitions* are anything to go by) — seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Where did it come from? Is there any particular usage of it (such as by a celebrity or on a TV show) that led to it gaining traction?

*warning: some of the definitions contain expletives

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    Urban Dictionary is an interesting window into the way a few young Americans talk, but not to be relied on as a guide to English usage. – Tim Lymington Apr 3 '13 at 14:51
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    @TimLymington True - but there are plenty of other examples of this phrase being used. I asked the question because I was about to use it myself, and started wondering where it came from. It's definitely colloquial/slangy in nature, not for general use as you rightly say. – Waggers Apr 3 '13 at 14:56
  • possible duplicate of What did "your mom did a number on you" mean in Seinfeld?. I was pretty boggled when I tried to do a Google search for do a number using Google Chrome (apparently the search engine though I was going to search for do a barrel roll). Those guys are weird. – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '13 at 17:30
  • @FumbleFingers Searching for "do one" didn't get me very far either! – Waggers Apr 4 '13 at 10:31
  • It's from the Manchester scene back in the late 80's. "on one"(related to the drug ecstacy), "in one"(in a mood), "do one"(go away)..... you can even hear Shaun Ryder (Manchester band Happy Mondays)sing this on the song "Do it better" from 1988. – user148228 Nov 19 '15 at 20:22

The OED says it's chiefly and originally Liverpool and Lancashire slang and compares it to do a bunk and do a runner. Their earliest citation is the Liverpool soap opera Brookside from 1990:

Look just do one, will y' Sinbad!


It's obviously "do a runner" shortened, and it's particularly prevalent in the Armed Forces. It doesn't only mean "sod off" - it also means "run!"

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