A: Remember, we don't have to deliver every last inch of the man, Brian

B: You got a good point there, Ronnie

A: Lend me your knife.

B: Should I take a nap while I'm doing all this waiting?

A: I'm at the bone, all right? There we go. Have you ever seen anything so pretty in your whole life?

-- Sin City 2005

The scary scene occurs when A is cutting the dead man's head off while B is complaining of A's inefficiency.

I'm wondering if doing all this waiting is an idiom. Can I use having all this waiting or taking all this waiting instead?

Besides, why at the bone? I know he is saying his knife has reached the bone. Why is at used? I would use to the bone or on the bone. Is it the same at as in at home or at school?


No, doing all this waiting is not an idiom, but the construction is unusual in American English (the dialect of the movie, though the characters in question supposedly speak British English, as they're Irish). The men in this scene have been hired to quickly deliver proof that the man they're cutting up is dead, and B is sarcastically implying that performing the act of waiting has become a necessary step in this process when they ought not to be waiting at all. He's expressing his impatience with A.

All this waiting is an action being performed here, and B quips that he could be doing something else at the same time (taking a nap). It is not correct to use having or taking in place of doing here, because we use doing in the general case of performing an action. We don't take a wait or have waits, because waiting is not something that we frequently describe as being possessed, gained or received.

Here's an example. Imagine a man working in an office, filling out reports. He's extremely busy and behind schedule. There's a huge pile of papers on his desk. His coworker, who also has a lot to do, comes in and asks the man to cover for him while he goes out to run an errand. The man looks up and says incredulously:

You want me to take all your calls while I'm doing all this paperwork?

He takes (i.e. receives) calls, but does (fills out or completes) paperwork.

In the case of at the bone, A is describing the progress of his knife through the corpse's neck. It has arrived at the bone. To the bone marks the bone as the knife's destination, which it isn't. On the bone suggests a more lengthy action than is the case here. The intent is to cut through the bone quickly, not let the knife rest on it. If he had said I'm cutting on the bone, it would mean his knife is striking the bone but not effectively or efficaciously going through it, so it won't be cut apart any time soon.

  • 1
    By the same token, I remember we can use "have a swim", which I think is not a thing which be possessed.
    – Kinzle B
    Jun 13 '14 at 1:24
  • You're absolutely right that the possession guidelines don't cover every case. The same sense for swim applies to run, rest or nap. Here take and have express intention (take does so more strongly) to cause oneself (but not someone else; you don't give a swim) to undergo a significant change in state (becoming quickly moving, asleep or underwater) for some expressed purpose (fitness, pleasure or becoming rested). Really though, the most correct answer is, somewhat unfortunately, this is just how we do it; English is funny like that. Jun 13 '14 at 1:51
  • Additionally, these are discrete activities; they have clear beginnings and endings, and are relatively short. You might say we metaphorically "possess" or "acquire" the states they represent or, less metaphorically, their effects on us (which generally last significantly longer than the activity itself). Jun 13 '14 at 2:04
  • Your guideline is fine. At least I don't have to learn by rote. Thx!
    – Kinzle B
    Jun 13 '14 at 2:23

There's nothing specifically idiomatic about doing all this waiting. It's actually two pretty stock expressions, [doing][all this X]. The doing part is the stock 'light' do, a sort of generic verb or pro-verb.

What are you doing?
I'm doing a lot of nothing.
I'm doing whatever strikes my fancy.

So, No, you can't substitute have or take - they're too specific, and they don't form ordinary idiomatic expressions with waiting.

The all this X part is an expression of annoyance - it implies that there is a great deal more X than you care for. X is very often a gerund.

What are we going to do with all this ugly carpet?
I'm tired of all this arguing.
All this shilly-shallying is getting us nowhere.

And at would be in the sense I've arrived at the bone. He is reporting his progress.

  • Can I use on, meaning "touching"?
    – Kinzle B
    Jun 13 '14 at 0:43
  • 1
    @ZhanlongZheng Esoteric Screen Name addresses that question very nicely. Jun 13 '14 at 0:47
  • Why did you employ present simple tense in "E.S.N addresses that question very nicely"? It's not in a story-telling or explanatory context. I would expect "E.S.N addressed that question very nicely".
    – Kinzle B
    Sep 4 '16 at 10:52
  • @KinzleB I am citing a text that is still "present" to our eyes. This is conventional in my field, LitCrit: unless we are explicitly placing a work in historical context, we cast quotations from Shakespeare or Virginia Wolf or other critics in the present tense. Sep 4 '16 at 12:17

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