12

I've been watching a TV show called Two and a Half Men and there's a part where Allan says to Charlie:

Why what'd you do?

and Charlie replies

I did Rose.

I've researched this and found that the word "did" here means "have sex", so basically he meant:

I had sex with Rose

But my doubt is why was the word "did" used to represent the "sex act"? What is the origin of that usage?

Link to the video: YouTube (the timestamp is 0:11)

15
  • 14
    It would probably be a more interesting question to ask what verbs can't be used to refer to the sex act, because it seems pretty much any can. Some obviously relate to penetration or other aspects of the sex act (hit, nail, boink, lay, sleep with...), but a lot are very common verbs with numerous meanings (do, have, take, etc). It's probable that many of these uses arise multiple times, quite independently, through processes of metaphor and/or euphemism.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 16:00
  • 8
    worth noting that this euphemism is extremely common cross-linguistically
    – Tristan
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 14:37
  • 9
    Humans are extremely prolific in creating euphemisms for sex. Consider the biblical sense of "know". In fact, I think with appropriate context and intonation, practically any verb could be used. Even nonsense: "I galorphed your sister last night."
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 15:51
  • 5
    One of the most interesting things about learning (a small amount of Chinese) is learning what idioms and euphemisms are really universal. For example, just as in English, Chinese gan (干) means both "do" and "fuck". Amusingly the same character (with a different pronounciation) also means "dry" as in dried fruit, leading to some horrifically mis-translated signage in grocery stores.
    – The Photon
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 16:36
  • 1
    I'm not sure, so not giving an answer, but my thought is that it's a shortening of "I did the deed with her", where "the deed" is a euphemism for the sex act.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 17:16

3 Answers 3

16

OED mentions Shakespeare in its first citation.

1594 W. Shakespeare Titus Andronicus iv. ii. 76 Chiron. Thou hast vndone our mother. Aron. Villaine I haue done thy mother.

It also surmises “probably arising from wordplay on undo v. 8b; cf. also undo v. 8d.”

undo v.
8b. To destroy in respect of means or position; to ruin. (first citation 1390)
8d. To ruin by seducing.

So it appears that undo in Shakespeare’s play had the meaning of “destroy in respect of position; ruin by seducing” and he created a ribald pun.

2
  • 15
    Part of me wonders is subsequent uses of the phrase really derive from the early one in this case, or if this is an expression that has been reinvented independently on multiple occasions without references to prior usage.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 15:39
  • Is there any connection between 'done' and 'die/dead/death' in this context (from the do-ee's PoV)? I have seen variants of 'No more! I am done.' and an Eng Lit. teacher was very keen to have us know what 'Oh, I die!' meant in Brontë's Wuthering Heights.
    – mcalex
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 4:03
10

Green’s Dictionary of Slang has a few early usage examples from the 16th century. The sense appears to be an extension of the meaning of “do” in the sense of “attack”:

do verb:

  1. to attack, literal or figurative

(a) (also do with) of a man, to copulate with a woman; occas. vice versa.

c.1534 Bourchier Huon of Burdeux I 155: She is myn owne, therefore I wyll do with her at my pleasure.

c.1566 [UK] Harman Caveat for Common Cursetours in Viles & Furnivall (1907) 72: This goodman [...] lay down by her, and straight would have had to do with her.

1573 [UK] ‘Cambridg Libell’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 336: Tom Allen rides woynge, / [...] / Some say he hath been Doynge.

3
  • 3
    Do with [someone] seems slightly different to just do [someone] though. The latter certainly seems cruder! I think Shakespeare may well have been first into print with do [someone].
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 10:40
  • @AndrewLeach - maybe, anyway the sense of do in that respect does certainly predates Shakespeare. Moreover, as a sense of “attack” the expression is also crude, as far as I understand.
    – Gio
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 10:43
  • >>'occas. vice versa' :-D
    – mcalex
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 3:53
0

There is a somewhat ambiguous case of the phrasal form in the Wycliffe Bible. A very x-rated Ezekiel 23 plays its puns with some ten verses that use the same stem, with similar verbs, for kinds of sexual, or post-sexual handlings. The objects differ, sometimes the breasts for example. But when the female character takes the place of direct object (23:29), Wycliffe translates: "and thei schulen do with thee in hatrede".

The Hebrew is used today similarly to English: sexually (slang) with this direct preposition, very common for other actions when with other ones. This text hints at the original meanings of "handle, squeeze, push". But I'd guess the slang was recently borrowed from another language.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.