I was reading an article about a struggling postman where it quotes his solicitor explaining some trouble the postman was having:

Mr Arthur ... told the court: "He was assigned a number of different walks. (delivery rounds). He struggled with those and he didn't complete the work. He didn't place himself under the doctor, he just didn't manage.

The phrase place himself under the doctor doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Is it suggesting that he could have taken sick leave? Or a doctor could have written a letter on his behalf to explain the difficulties? Is the meaning anything to do with a medical doctor?

  • This postman could have gone to see his GP (doctor), and might have been treated for his problems and/or signed off work for some time. The quoted usage is fairly standard (in the UK, at least) - particularly in a legal context where the lawyer is suggesting his client wasn't really responsible for his actions. And was if anything "brave" for soldiering on without troubling his doctor. – FumbleFingers Apr 2 '12 at 16:19
  • @FumbleFingers so it's just saying that the postie could have sought medical help but didn't? The only thing troubling me is that I can't figure out how this is a line of defence, but I suppose the solicitor was just looking for a way to get the judge to be lenient. – Matt E. Эллен Apr 2 '12 at 17:09
  • Yes, I'm sure that's all it is. Obviously some people go to the doctor for trivial ailments, while others avoid going even when they've got potentially serious conditions - for various reasons. The lawyer just wants to cast his client as one of the latter, hoping the judge will see this as being down to "manly fortitude" or "error of judgement" - either of which may elicit leniency. His employers (Royal Mail) probably want him clapped in irons and incarcerated for life, since it's their reputation the guy is trashing. – FumbleFingers Apr 2 '12 at 17:35
  • There is a similar Scottish phrase, sitting under a minister, meaning attending that preacher's church. – Tim Lymington Apr 2 '12 at 17:49
  • @TimLymington: Sitting under a minister does actually mean exactly that, as the people sit in pews below the minister in his pulpit. – Andrew Leach Apr 2 '12 at 18:09

The phrase simply means placed himself in his doctor's care and does specifically refer to medical doctors, and particularly the General Practitioner who provides care as part of the National Health Service in Britain.

He didn't place himself under the doctor, he just didn't manage means "He didn't seek advice or medical treatment; he soldiered on and didn't cope."

I'm not qualified to say what the solicitor was actually driving at.


Maybe this is a Britishism. In America we would say "placed himself under the doctor's care", i.e. went to a doctor and followed the doctor's instructions. I've never heard it as just "placed himself under the doctor" -- unless he and the doctor have a romantic relationship.

  • It is (or used to be) a familiar expression in the UK, often a source of unintended humour - "she was in bed under the doctor..." – Kate Bunting Nov 2 '16 at 10:13

"place himself under the doctor" read it as - place himself "under the care of" or "under the authority of" the doctor.

The "under" comes from the delegating responsibility/authority to the doctor.

  • +1 since I cannot see why it was down voted to begin with. – user14070 Apr 2 '12 at 19:34
  • 1
    Indeed, the anonymous downvote was uncalled for – Matt E. Эллен Apr 2 '12 at 20:02

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