Speaking of Richard Henry Dana, at the end of his study, D. H. Lawrence states:

Dana lived his bit in two years, and drummed out the rest.

Could we say that "lived his bit" is akin to "sow (one's) wild oats"?

  • 3
    It means he was only truly alive for those 2 years. For his remaining years on Earth, he "phoned it in". Lived a mundane and unremarkable life. "Sow one's oats" is usually reserved for procreation or promiscuity, but if you want to take a broader reading of "lived life to its fullest, travelling and doing", then you could say it applies. But the reality is it's so associated with the sex meaning, people would probably misunderstand you if you used it that way.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 22:29
  • For reference the quote is from DH Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, Ch 9, online here: en.wikisource.org/wiki/Studies_in_Classic_American_Literature/…
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 23:13
  • It's another way of saying what today might be: did his thing
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


From the idiom do one's bit TFD

to make an individual contribution toward an overall effort.


bit: small part of something. TFD

As in:

Dana lived his bit ( the short but most 'contributing' part of his life) in two years, and drummed out the rest.

I do not sense sexuality in this sense of the use of 'bit'.

  • "Sow one's wild oats" usually has a sexual element but not always (unless lexicographers are being modest): Cambridge "has a period of his life when he does a lot of exciting things and has a lot of sexual relationships", Collins "behave in a rather uncontrolled way, especially by having a lot of sexual relationships." Although this makes the question hard to interpret.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 14:18

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