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I came across the phrase “He got a kick out of doing Uncle Sam,” in the following sentence of Jeffery Archer’s novel, “Not a penny more, Not a penny less.”

“It amused him (Harvey Metcalfe, a billionaire who climbed up from a NYSE messengerboy) to do a little business in Europe at the same time, giving him the opportunity to make some more money for his Swiss bank account in Zurich. He did not need a Swiss account, but somehow he got a kick out of doing Uncle Sam.”

What does “Do Uncle Sam" mean? I don’t find the head of “Do Uncle Sam” in Google Search, or on Ngram.

Does “got a kick out of doing Uncle Sam” mean “excited in doing American dream business”?

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  • doing here seems to imply cheating. Then the rest of it makes sense.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 8:21

1 Answer 1

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I've got to admit I'm not 100% sure on this one, but I think Archer is using the verb to do in TheFreeDictionary's sense 12 (slang) To cheat; swindle. And Uncle Sam (US) is slang for America (the nation, government, people, military, etc.)

By stashing the money in a Swiss bank account (commonly understood to be untraceable by tax authorities), Metcalfe is cheating the American government of its rightful share (of tax which should be paid).

To get a kick out of something/doing something is another slang/informal usage meaning to enjoy doing something very much. The implication being that even though Metcalfe is a billionaire (who shouldn't actually need to chisel the government out of a bit of tax), he just likes doing it for "fun".

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  • @FumbleFingers.I didn’t know the usage of ‘do’ as 'cheat.’as a slang. Can I say ‘He did me, and took $10,000 away from me.’? Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 23:35
  • @Yoichi Oishi: You certainly could - we'll have you passing for a native English speaker in no time at this rate! There's a fairly well-known variant did me up like a kipper, which may just mean treated me badly/humiliated me rather than cheated me out of money/valuables, but I don't know the origin of that. Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 23:53
  • ...also note that "I'll do you!" doesn't mean "I'll cheat you!" - it means "I will beat you up" (as in "fight you and win decisively, leaving you badly injured"). Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 23:56
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    I was unfamiliar with the usage, ‘have sb. doing’, though I see ‘have stg. done,’ pretty often. Your comment had me relearn usage pattern of ‘have’. Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 8:30
  • @Yoichi Oishi: You'll have your work cut out learning every usage of the verb to have - there are a lot of idiomatic contexts for that one. Note that as far as I know, there aren't really many contexts where you can say you'll have sb. done [by sb. else]. But as you say, it's quite common to have stg. done [by sb.] And (you'll hate this!) "I'll have you!" is pretty much synonymous with "I'll do you!" in previous comment. You must sometimes wish the English (language) had never been born! :) Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 14:33

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