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In the recent feature film The Martian, Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, has to figure out a way to grow food on Mars when it's never been done before in order to survive until he can possibly be rescued, he says

In the face of overwhelming odds I'm only left with one option:
"I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this"

It's very clear from the context that he uses the idiom X the shit out of it to mean 'X it to an excessive degree'.

However, science is a noun but in this case is being used as a verb.

If a verb is used in the phrase, it's obvious:

Pound the shit out of this
Engineer the shit out of this
Flatten the shit out of this

Some other non-verbs that seem to work:

Orange the shit of this - (unofficial pastime at Syracuse University)
Caffeine the shit out of this - (add more than enough caffeine)

[NB: Apparently, if you can figure out a noun which does not work in verbing,
you should   IMMEDIATELY   buy a lottery ticket! ]

However, other non-verbs that don't seem to work:
>Bird the shit out of this  
Door the shit out of this  
Mud the shit out of this

Is there something special about the nouns that do work versus ones that don't?
Is there a specific name for it?

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Rule of thumb: Any English word can be pressed into service in any syntactic role. The only limiting factor is semantics.

Bird, for instance, has an established use as an intransitive verb meaning "engage in bird-watching".

While he was at Harvard, his passion for ornithology flourished; he birded with noted ornithologists Ludlow Griscom, William H. (Bill) Drury, Wendell Taber, Allan Cruickshank, Chandler Robbins, Charles Foster Batchelder and others in the Nuttall Ornithological Club. He met his future wife, Elizabeth Wasson (daughter of Isabel Bassett Wasson), who was also a birder, at the Audubon Nature Camp in Medomak, Maine in 1941. -source

That of course won't support the shit out of it, which has to be transitive; but bird might conceivably be extended to transitive use by speaking of birding a particular territory, meaning to thoroughly observe the bird population.

(It also seems that bird is coming to replace the verb birdie in golf; so you may someday encounter "he birded the shit out of the fifth hole".)

Door has an established use as a transitive verb, meaning "injure a cyclist by opening your car door as he passes".

A Staten Island Powerball winner might have to pay a chunk of his fortune to the cyclist he doored with his truck in Park Slope last month. - source

I see no reason why a deliberate and very harmful act of dooring might not be described as "dooring the shit out of a cyclist".

  • 9
    I had a great day at the zoo last week. My daughter and I birded the heck out of the aviary. (+1) – J.R. Feb 27 '16 at 0:18
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    Two excited bird-watchers arrive at a nature preserve at 4 am to beat the dawn. Birder 1: "You ready to find 30 species of warbler today!?" Birder 2: "Yeah, let's bird the shit out of this place!" For all its many, many flaws and idiosyncrasies, never doubt the flexibility of English. – Jason Patterson Feb 27 '16 at 2:44
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    +1 To all you ornithologists: Bird Is The Word, have edited my question. – Peter Feb 27 '16 at 12:31
  • @Peter I wonder if you know why your name and your comment with the song is hilarious. – Todd Wilcox Feb 28 '16 at 8:08
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It's very clear from the context what he means using the idiom the shit out of it to mean to an excessive degree.

However, science is a noun but in this case is being used as a verb.

Perhaps the bigger point here--from which some amount of humor is drawn--is specifically vagueness. Invoking science in this way which is so abstract is to deliberately make it sound like he has no idea what he's talking about.

If you ask an educated person for help with something and if they would know the answer, and they said: "Sure I can help, I spent four years at collej." it has some of the same ring. It's not necessarily that they don't know the answer--but sounding deliberately ignorant "makes it funny".

However, other nonverbs don't seem to work

Bird the shit out of this.

In the right context, it could work just as well.

Imagine you were watching a bizarre cartoon--like Rick and Morty (which someone mentioned in a comment yesterday somewhere). There is a character named "BirdPerson". The following dialogue could easily happen in some episode with that character:

(Giant earthworms land and are wreaking havoc on a town)

Morty: "The worms are killing everyone!  What are we going to do!"

Rick: "Gimme that phone..."

(Rick dials a number, Birdperson answers)

Birdperson: "What is it you require of Birdperson, Rick"

Rick: "Hey Birdperson.  There's like...a lot of worms here.  And 
     I figure that's your deal, right?  So we need you to come
     out here and like--uh--bird the shit out of them for us.  Okay?"

Again this plays off the vagueness. If someone is half-bird and half-person, and you're fighting giant alien earthworms--you don't actually know what they would do to fix the problem. (Is Birdperson going to kill them? Eat them? Shoot them with lasers?)

Rick doesn't know what it would be, neither does the audience. So it's funny for him to fumble and just suggest he "bird" them.

Some other non verbs that seem to work

Orange the shit of it - (colour something orange)

While discussing what works and what doesn't--as written that doesn't "work". One might say "I'm going orange the shit into this thing". Again likely drawing humor from mixing serious-sounding language with complete vagueness:

  • "I'm going to do something very intense, and very 'serious', I just don't know exactly how to phrase it yet because I haven't got an actual plan."
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This is a particular case of the (relatively recent) slang use of science as a transitive verb. To science something means "to do science on it", or to experiment with it and observe the results. Using what is normally a noun in this way isn't particular to the phrase the shit out of it, so in general you can't substitute other nouns here.

There is an entry on Urban Dictionary that illustrates this usage of science, although it should be taken with a grain of salt.

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