I seem to have seen these phrases:

to do science
to do due diligence

quite a bit in recent years, and they sound funny to me; I wonder whether this usage of "diligence" and "science" as direct objects of "do" is in fact new, or just a bit of ignorance on my part?

Assuming that these words have expanded their allowed functions in sentences, what is that expansion called (cf. "verbing" (probably not the technical term :))? Are there other examples? Is this a common occurrence?

  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/15473/… – z7sg Ѫ Apr 26 '11 at 21:16
  • What's new about "doing science"? The phrasing, I mean, not the discipline itself. Look how many people say "I can't do maths". And "due diligence" is a stock business phrase for a routine activity that's always been capable of being "done" or "performed". Both terms remain just nouns. – FumbleFingers Apr 27 '11 at 0:33
  • @FumbleFingers: Well, that's what I asked: is this new, or my ignorance? I'm looking for linguistic details, too, if you've got any; to say they're "just nouns" and therefore able to be the objects of "do" doesn't tell me much -- you don't "do" "question" or "finger" or "donut" (except as a sort of figure of speech, a contraction of language: "I don't do <category of concrete objects, e.g., "donuts">." --> "I am opposed to using these <objects> for their intended purpose [eating, in the case of "donuts"]."). – jscs Apr 27 '11 at 17:40
  • Well "do science" is close enough to "can't do maths" that it doesn't bother me, but I share your unease at "do due diligence". So do many others. That's why you often hear people say "perform" or "carry out" instead of "do", or they refer to the "due diligence stuff" or "process". In the end, you can "do" many things, but until you get used hearing it, any new noun tends to sound a bit odd. I remember when "doing drugs" was as nonconformist linguistically as socially. The mainstream spoke of taking drugs, never doing them. – FumbleFingers Apr 27 '11 at 23:58
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    I am completely with you on this, especially the "do due diligence" A little piece of me dies every time I hear someone use that phrase. I want to reply, "Don't worry, I'll do my persistence until it's done" – Kevin Oct 21 '11 at 14:23

I understand your confusion. How can you "do" an abstract noun?

But "doing" science is shorthand for doing scientific research. "Doing" due diligence is shorthand for performing a diligent analysis, an analysis with due diligence, of a company you propose to buy.

"Verbing" is a great strength and weakness of English. At its best, it is pithy, vigorous and descriptive. Shakespeare wrote of a dandy "spanieling" his way down the street. How good is that?

At its worst, "verbing" is bureaucratic and mind-numbing. The example that springs to mind is the Doonesbury comic strip parodying the turn of phrase of Secretary of State Alexander Haig. "We plan to scenario them rosily!" he said.

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  • Thanks for your answer; I like your examples of verbing! I hope you don't think I'm somehow "opposed" to verbing or other changes to the language; this question was mostly posed from curiosity about the mechanism or terminology for this particular linguistic expansion (if such existed). – jscs Apr 27 '11 at 17:41

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