14

Left Ear (who is an explosives expert, but deaf in his right ear) : Okay, party people, here's the status. It's an anti-scaling fence. It's hardened, electro-plated steel. Yeah, I'm gonna have to paint that up with some nitromin.

Charlie: Security on the property?

Left Ear: Got an armed guard here. Little rent-a-cop, with a 9mm on his hip. But that booth, security booth look prime for a chemical grenade.

Lyle: Nitromin, chemical grenades, that stuff is pretty hard to come by.

Left Ear: Yeah, Lyle, it's a bear market...Sh*t. This dude got dogs. I don't do dogs. I had a real bad experience, man.

Charlie: What happened?

Left Ear: I had a bad experience. Da*n it. I'm deaf!

-- The Italian Job 2003

This scene occurs when Left Ear stays in his car surveilling Steve's house with professional binoculars.

I guess do here means deal with/handle. I checked the dictionaries but couldn't find any entries for this usage. Is this informal? Any other verbs which could be used to replace it?

Can you please give me a few more examples to help me gain a better understanding of it?

  • The OED lists the following sense (7b) colloq. To provide or offer (meals, a product, etc.) commercially. – Hugh Dec 7 '14 at 4:54
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    @Hugh - I don't think that's quite the right usage in this context, Left Ear is not saying that he doesn't provide dogs as a service, but that he doesn't want to deal with being chased down by attack dogs. – Johnny Dec 7 '14 at 5:50
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    @Johnny He does not provide the service of handling dogs! – Volker Siegel Dec 7 '14 at 10:02
  • @VolkerSiegel Johnny is correct. He's not refusing to provide the service of handling dogs, he's saying "if dogs are involved, I won't be". It's a stricter restriction than just being unwilling to deal with the dogs; if there are any dogs at all, he will not participate. – Esoteric Screen Name Dec 7 '14 at 12:52
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    I'll add that "I don't do XXXXX" could also mean "I don't like XXXXX, at all". For example, a person who loves dogs might say "I don't do cats", meaning they don't like cats. – Chris Cirefice Dec 7 '14 at 21:08
17

The locution "I don't do X" means "I consider X to be not a part of my job description". That is, I am not willing to do X.

"I don't do windows" said the cleaning lady. (see miltonaut's reference to Mrs Doubtfire)

So he's saying, in effect, "I have my particular set of skills and I'm willing to use them on jobs. But dealing with dogs isn't in the job description."

9

Very common, usually informal.

There's a scene in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire when Sally Fields' character is interviewing housekeepers. One of the candidates is listing all the things she doesn't do. I don't remember the exact list, but it's something like: I don't do windows. I don't do diapers. I don't do pets. I don't do laundry. I don't do sports. I don't do homework... The housekeeper doesn't deal with/handle any of those things.

There's a movie from the 1980s starring Christina Applegate, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. Her brother and his friends take the dirty dishes to the roof and use them for shooting targets. When they finish, the brother says, "The dishes are done, man!"

Actually, we use "do" with most household chores: do the laundry, do the dishes, do the cleaning, do the chores. Or you can do you hair, do your nails, do your shopping. The deal with/handle definition comes from these uses.

  • 1
    +1. I don't do windows is almost an idiom in and of itself. – J.R. Dec 7 '14 at 0:52
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    I feel like you should establish the meaning before giving more examples; seems clearer. Also, I'm not sure I buy that this usage is specific to household chores. "I don't do dogs," itself, has nothing to do with them, for example. – KRyan Dec 7 '14 at 4:27
2

I think the tricky part is not the verb "do" but the noun "dogs." Usually English speakers use the word "dogs" to refer to friendly canine companions, as you would expect. However, this is "job lingo." The men in the Italian Job work in the same industry, crime. Each industry usually develops its own shorthand, because "I don't do jobs that require me to work around unfriendly guard dogs," is just too long. All of the men in the scene understand the context, so "I don't do dogs" is sufficient.

(As TRomano pointed out, "I don't do windows" is a similar phrasing. As would be the equally strange looking "I don't do simulations" in Engineering "job lingo.")

For a native English speaker, we might not automatically know what "I don't do dogs" means, but from the rest of the conversation, we would figure it out fast enough to keep up with the pace of the dialogue.

  • 3
    I disagree with your initial sentence. The meaning of dogs is a lot easier to figure out than do, which is one of the most versatile words in the English language and the word being used unconventionally in this context. Your presumption that non-native speakers can easily discern the meaning is misplaced as well. If they're relatively fluent, sure, but someone with only a conversational grasp of the language (and I think the OP has a very good grasp of English but still asked this question) could very easily fail to comprehend the meaning. – Esoteric Screen Name Dec 7 '14 at 13:01
2

DO (verb)

Oxford English Dictionary

  1. trans. To deal with, do things to, perform actions on (in a prescribed, customary, or necessary way: the nature of the action being usually inferable from the object or subject).

Thus, Left Ear is saying that he doesn't "deal with" (handle) guard dogs. So your guess was spot on.

Sub-definition 16a contains the "I don't do windows" sense:

16a. To do work upon or at, repair, prepare, clean, wash, keep in order, etc.; to decorate, furnish.

Examples include

1883 Leisure Hour 84/1 The Chinaman who usually ‘does’ my room.

1913 Pop. Mech. Dec. 857/2 To stand at the sink while ‘doing’ the dishes.

...

1

I choose not to take on work where dogs are involved.

  • as in I don't do cloud, I don't do C#, I don't do Wintel.....

Verbing wierds words - Calvin and Hobbes.

As for the dishes being done - "done for" as in we're done/boned/stuffed/rooted etc.

"We're boned" - Bender.

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    Half of your answer is unrelated examples and the relevant portion repeats what other answers already said, minus supporting explanations. – Esoteric Screen Name Dec 7 '14 at 13:03
  • That will happen for contemporaneous answers, particularly across time zones. Traditionally in British English, the usage goes back some time but the expression tends to arise out of demarcation statements made by tradespeople said to be working at "arm's length" during a "duties" interview. – mckenzm Dec 8 '14 at 18:14
0

I think the most accurate interpretation of "do" here, is "function". As in, what a thing "does", is its function or one of its functions.

In this phrasing, the word is often meant to deliver humor. Normally a person does not just begin enumerating things they will not do, so it constructs an implied question as though the listener has asked "What do you do?" The phrase then delivers the dry response "Not THAT." Or perhaps it asks "Will you do this?" and responds "No." All this in a single brief statement that often provides some humorous comedic timing for the listener.

Another reason for the humor here is the flat refusal. By intentionally skewering the English language with this extreme brevity, we are being told that the matter is closed and further discussion is not welcome. In the scene in question, this is meant to convey the extreme distaste Left Ear has for dogs after a previous incident. (cut scene to the "dog event", and foreshadow the likely upcoming incident for Left Ear and these dogs)

Here, we know the function/activity in question has something to do with dogs, and we have to deduce the rest. Obviously the required task would be to handle the issue of the guard dogs relative to the overall crime plan (perhaps by sedating or distracting them).

I only partially agree with some of the posts here that say it specifically refers to job description. I think the comment "Not in my job description!" by Left Ear would have delivered different humor.

  • 1
    +1 for being the first to mention that this wording is often chosen for humorous effect. If one of my co-workers asks me to photocopy a letter, I could say, "Sorry, I don't make photocopies for other people," or I could say, "Sorry, I don't do photocopies." The latter is pretty much the same refusal of the request, but with a more lighthearted and humorous touch. – J.R. Dec 7 '14 at 11:08

protected by Esoteric Screen Name Dec 8 '14 at 0:23

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