I read this on the Stack Overflow blog:

Computer security is always evolving. Passwords are “what you know.” Smart cards are “what you have.” We decided to ask “how you do you.

Is the phrase in bold a grammatically correct one?

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    Related note: Tomorrow is April 1st, which in many countries is celebrated as "April Fool's Day" with pranks and jokes. Google does something every year, such as their announcement in 2004 of a new office opening on the Moon, I too thought this was a serious SO announcement until I saw "Dance Dance Authentication".
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 15:54
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    Your comment makes this story more clear because lot of things in that article sound weird to me. Thank you Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 15:57
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    "Do you" is a common informal expression that usually means "do your thing" or "do something for yourself".
    – jchook
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 18:44
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    I do me just fine. Thank you. And you? :-) Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


Yes and no: it is meaningful, but you have to interpret it in a very specific way.

The context is about the difference between
-something you know (for example, a password)
-something you have (for example, a key)
-something you are (that is, you yourself!)

The article starts by mentioning how we deal with how you prove something you know or something you have. "How you do you" is being used as a kind of shorthand for "how you prove something that you are."

It would be much clearer if it were punctuated differently, like

We decided to ask how you do "you".

because when they say "you" they really mean "perform the action of proving that you are who you say you are."

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    I understand what you mean. I thought they did typo while writing that post. Thank you very much for the clarification. Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 14:28
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    @BillalBEGUERADJ note that a native speaker would have to read it a few times to understand what they meant to say. The quotes stangdon added around the second "you" significantly help.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 15:47
  • @Andrew Yes, I read it as "how do you do" the first three times. I thought SO was just trying to be friendlier.
    – 1006a
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 16:15
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    Of course, I note that "you do you" is millennial-speak for "just be yourself", so maybe I shouldn't have been so confused.
    – 1006a
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 16:19
  • Yeah, it definitely has the meaning @1006a suggests.
    – user230
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 4:40

I agree with the first part of stangdon's answer:

The context is about the difference between

  • something you know (for example, a password)
  • something you have (for example, a key)

I have a slightly different take on the "how you do you" part, though; I interpret that to mean that there is some kind of security mechanism based on

  • how you behave

I believe this is meant to fall under the umbrella of behavior-based security.

In actual cyber security systems, a system might analyze the speed of your typing to detect whether or not it's actually you logged into the system, or pay attention to what actions you perform once you get in.

Since this new system is going to be rolled out on April Fool's Day, however, I'm convinced it's part of an elaborate SE joke.

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    "As part of our efforts to improve accessibility site-wide, the launch of Dance Dance Authentication also includes the implementation of Blink Blink Authentication and Sing Sing Authentication." - yeah, I'm pretty sure this is a joke...
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 15:50
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    @stangdon SHHHHH! You're not supposed to tell!
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 19:27

"How do you do" is an idiom, in the narrowest sense of the word denoting a canned phrase with an assigned meaning. It's grammatical the same way "good bye" is grammatical.


We decided to ask “how you do you.”

is questionable. The problem is semantic. Namely, "how do you do" is not a question. It doesn't expect a reply. It isn't something you can ask. It's a situational phrase used when people are introduced. Therefore, it is not a suitable complement for the verb "to ask".

The verb "to ask" requires a complement which refers to a question. Either a piece of quoted speech that is, grammatically, a question, or some kind of wh-clause: a clause headed by who, what, where, how, ...


We decided to ask, "how are you?"

We decided to ask him how he was.

We decided to ask him where he was going.

Since "how do you do" is something you say, but isn't a question, it can be used as a complement of "to say":

The delegates shook hands and each said to the other, "how do you do".

We can turn it into a noun:

Everyone entered the meeting room and the expected barrage of introductions and how-do-you-dos ensued.

Of course "how do you do" is also a fragment of the the correct phrase structure "how do you do {complement}", where the {complement} is some sort of action or activity:

We decided to ask them, "how do you do your taxes, if you aren't keeping proper records of your business activity?"

Though in English we have all kinds of ways to elide (leave out, omit) words and phrases from sentences when they are understood from context, the complement of a "how do you do {complement}" clause cannot be elided.

We cannot say:

  • I told him how I do my taxes and then I asked him, "how do you do?"

A complement is required for the second do, such as:

... I asked him, "how do you do yours?"

This is tricky because we have so many ways to do elision of words. For example, "John loves Mary, and she him". "She him" is a complete, grammatical sentence in which the verb is "loves". I know you don't see it there, but please believe me! However, if we take out the conjunction "and", it is no longer grammatical: "John Loves Mary; *she him." See? Tricky.

  • Really great answer because it is detailed and simplified. Thank you very much Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 20:33

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