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In a Twin Peaks episode you can hear the following question: "So, Mr. Wheeler, what is it exactly you do do?". It seems to me quite weird. Is it correct? I suppose that the purpose of the second do isn't to emphasize something.

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    Welcome to EL&U. The sentence is fine; you can use do before most verbs to add emphasis, including do itself. See When can I "do, do" something?
    – choster
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 20:53
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    I haven't seen the episode, but I suspect that you're not showing emphasis in the way the actor delivered the line. My guess is that "Mr Wheeler" had said something to the effect of "I don't do that", and the actor delivering this line said it as "So, Mr Wheeler, what is it exactly that you do do?", in an effort to find out what Mr Wheeler does. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 20:54
  • @choster - not a duplicate IMO, but certainly relevant. Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 20:55
  • The speaker is being sarcastic, with a very heavy emphasis on the first do. The implication is that Mr. Wheeler doesn't do anything (e.g. work for a living).
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 21:07
  • You should bear in mind that “Twin Peaks” was quite weird, by design. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 4:38

2 Answers 2

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Asking 'what is it exactly you do do?

Is a way of differentiating from 'what you don't do'. (Or indeed, whether you do anything at all!)

Example:

'I am a plumber, but I don't fix pipes, water heaters or baths!'

Reply 'what is it exactly you do do?'

'Well I only do radiators actually. And only on Wednesdays. If I'm not busy!'

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"What do you do?" is an idiomatic way of asking "What is your occupation/job?"

And if a plumber is asked to paint a house he might reply "I don't do painting."

The other party might then reply "What do you do?" (Emphasis on the first "do".)

To which a reasonable reply might be "I'm a plumber."

"What is it exactly you do do?" might be the response if a person who had identified himself as a "painter" were asked to paint a house and replied "I don't paint houses." The implication is that the painter is somehow not of the profession his interrogator had assumed, so the interrogator wants more detail as to what exactly the painter does.

In such a case the painter might explain, "I'm an artist, I paint portraits."

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