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I heard this exchange from Friends (an American TV show):

... ...

A: They do you.

B: Do me?

... ...

(Unfortunately, I don't know the episode number.)

The context is that A is B's assistant and she is trying to give B (a boss) some feedback about how B's team members think of him. I figure "They do you" here means they imitate him, such as his behavior, the words he said, the way he speaks, and etc.

Am I getting it right? Is it a common usage?

32

Yes, to "do someone" can mean to impersonate them (wiktionary sense 16). That would be a reasonable interpretation given the context.

If this is from Friends (as indicated in a comment), the actual exchange goes:

Phoebe ... Yeah, yeah, they even do you!
Chandler They do me!?
Phoebe Y'know like, ok, um... {imitating Chandler's voice} Could that report be any later(?)
Chandler I don't sound like that.
Ross&Joey Yeah you do.

It's clear that "They do you" means "imitate" in this exchange. But also note how Chandler asks for confirmation of what Phoebe means. Phoebe is an "oddball character" who sometimes speaks in a slightly strange way.

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    Here's a video of the actor Tom Hiddleston (who plays the character "Loki" in the Marvel movies) doing actor Owen Wilson (who has a distinctive acting style) doing Loki. – Andrew Jul 20 '18 at 15:42
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    "Do The Mario!" is another example. – Dan M. Jul 20 '18 at 15:44
  • To Brits to 'do' meaning to humorously impersonate is common. When I was 18 I had an Irish girlfriend and she let slip to her parents that I "did" Ian Paisley. When I went to meet them, Grandpa had been specially invited to hear me do my impression. – Michael Harvey Jul 20 '18 at 17:10
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    @DanM. That's an entirely different usage of "do". To "do The Mario" is to perform a dance called "The Mario", not to perform an impression of Mario. It so happens that the dance is imitative of 8-bit Mario's movements, but that's irrelevant. When doing "The Hustle" or the "The Mashed Potato", you're not imitating a hustle or mashed potatoes (that last one would be a rather boring dance). – Nuclear Hoagie Jul 20 '18 at 18:28
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    @MichaelHarvey It's common among Americans too, in context. See e.g. "They do me?" from the Friends episode "The One with the Ick Factor" (starting around 0:52). – choster Jul 21 '18 at 0:03
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In this particular context your interpretation seems to be correct. Saying that you can "do someone" could mean that you can imitate them. However, the vast majority of time this is a euphemism for sex, specifically having sex with that person (the person you're "doing"). I haven't seen the episode in question, but this double meaning could be adding to humor in that scene.

In general, I would recommend avoiding using this phrase if you're not referring to sex and you're not 1000% sure of it's context, as you're very likely to be misinterpreted in a very bad way.

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    +1 for "avoid this phrase". It's problematic and inappropriate even if you're a native speaker unless you're in a situation where the sexual meaning is intended and not hostile to the person you're talking about "doing" and others present, because your audience can always infer that you meant it to have a double meaning. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Jul 20 '18 at 19:06
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    I'm not sure I agree that it usually refers to sex, but it's often enough that the warnings apply. – Shawn V. Wilson Jul 20 '18 at 22:17
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    @nmg49 " the vast majority of time this is a euphemism for sex" - the vast majority of some people's time, maybe, but 'do' is one of those kind of versatile verbs, you know? – Michael Harvey Jul 20 '18 at 22:18
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    @MichaelHarvey I may have overstated that a bit. I just wanted to give a strong warning because this page is targeting English learners, and I can imagine how that phrase could be innocently misused by someone learning the language. While I'm a native English speaker, I've made this mistake while learning other languages and it can get really awkward. – nmg49 Jul 21 '18 at 21:34
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    Here's a great example of this double meaning: during an episode of the Graham Norton show, Emily Blunt was asked to do one line of Tom Cruise. She did it, and then decided it was his turn to imitate her, so she turned to him and said: "Do me!". At first he looked taken aback, but then he burst into laughter (like everyone else, including Emily Blunt herself), exactly because of its sexual meaning. – Fabio says Reinstate Monica Dec 9 '18 at 3:15
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It's used in that way, but generally only in a context where the subject of imitation is already part of the context of the conversation. If someone is doing imitations, and you say "do Donald Trump," it would be clear, but outside that context it could mean numerous things. In general, "do" can be used as a generic verb if the verb is already the subject of the conversation (for example, if someone is drawing pictures, "do a tree" would be easily interpreted as a request for a tree drawing).

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4

That particular context seems strange to me, but as others have said, to "do someone" is pretty context-sensitive.

To "do someone in" is to kill them
"Do me next!" is a request that the recipient perform whatever action they're performing on the speaker after they finish. "I'd do her" is to comment that you'd have sex with a person. It doesn't have to be sex, but that's the usual context.

The general thread is that it's a one-way interaction. An action performed upon a person, with or without their response or permission.

In your context, it's shorthand for saying "they do (impressions of) you", it's not exactly a normal way of expressing that though.

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    Barbers used to say "I'll do you now, sir" when I was young, and they neither intended to kill me or have sex with me. – Michael Harvey Jul 20 '18 at 22:19
  • Ruadhan2300 - "it's not exactly a normal way of expressing that though." It's a very common and widely understood way of expressing the idea in Britain. There was a UK TV series, 'Who Do You Do?' in the 1970s which consisted of impression sketches by various artists. The genre is very popular here. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Do_You_Do%3F – Michael Harvey Jul 21 '18 at 8:18
  • I'm a brit too :) I've heard the phrasing before, but it's not generally used without context as is the case in the original example. Actually as James K showed, in-context the listener didn't understand and had to have it clarified, kinda proving my point. – Ruadhan2300 Jul 23 '18 at 8:56
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The question has already been answered, but just to give more examples: the word "do" is used in that sense repeatedly in this video of Rob Brydon doing impressions on the British comedy show "Would I Lie To You?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2vUs_btP4g

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2

I don't know the context but last time I heard it in a TV show, they used it to say something on the lines of 'get rid of', 'kill' or 'expose'. It could also mean both 'imitate' and 'have sex with', according to Google.

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    In the 1989 movie Batman, when Batman seizes the Joker, the villain's henchman holds a gun to Commissioner Gordon's head and yells "Let him go or I'll do Gordon!" – Shawn V. Wilson Jul 20 '18 at 22:19

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