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Let's do lunch.

The Random House Unabridged offers 57 definitions for the word "do," but are we still overdoing it?

I had just started to do my taxes when my old friend Fred called. He had moved into town and looked up my number. We exchanged fiveyear resumes and agreed we'd have to get together. Fred said, "Give me a call, and we'll do lunch."

I said okay, but I wasn't sure what I was getting into. The word do worried me.

"If I do lunch," I asked my wife, "does that mean I have to do dishes?"

"Please do," she said. She agreed to do the salad.

I explained that Fred hadn't said "have lunch" or "eat lunch." His "Let's do lunch" had made it sound like a major production, a bit of a chore. As the house-cleaning service people say, "We don,t do windows."

My wife didn't know how "have lunch" or "eat lunch" had slipped into "do lunch," but she was sure it was connected with duty.

"It just means work to me," she said. "You do lunch in the kitchen, but you eat lunch at the table."

I knew the "do duty" sound-alike wasn't enough to build a dictionary on, but it had possibilities. The word do even has overtones of "The Charge of the Light Brigade": "Theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die."

My wife traced it from the world of Sassoon. She put "do lunch" in a class with "do your hair" and "do your nails."

"Maybe 'do lunch' came out of the drug culture," I said, "as in 'do drugs.'"

"Perhaps what Fred has in mind is a power lunch," my wife said. "Didn't he used to be a corporation executive?"

Not being of the corporate world, I've never done a power lunch. I suppose it's a matter of do lunch unto them before they do lunch unto you. My dad always used to say, "What can I do you for?"

I imagined Lady Macbeth planning lunch. It seemed to me if it were done when 'tis done, then 't were well it were done lightly. Surely a friendly lunch wasn't anything to make a big to-do over.

We looked into the big Random House unabridged and found 57 definitions for do. None of those 57 varieties quite explains "do lunch."

And the dictionary doesn't do right by do. The word certainly isn't limited to 57 definitions. It often stands for almost any other verb in the language, so it has thousands of meanings. Do this, do that, do as I say. Of course, the more definitions a word has, the less it means.

"Sometimes," my wife said, "it means so much more than we're aware of meaning when we say it." She remembered saying, "I do."

With an emphatic do we try to make people think we mean what we say, as in "We do have to go now" or "I do see your point."

Mostly the word means perform, as in "do a good turn" or "do the hokey pokey" or "do wonders."

"Or it means suffice," my wife said, "as in 'That will do' or 'A little dab'll do ya. '"

"It's a swear word," I said. "Hand on the book, we solemnly swear 'I do.'" It occurred to me that the courts do justice, and convicts do time.

"Guess I'll call Fred and tell him I can't do lunch until I'm sure what do means."

"Speaking of do," my wife said, "Why don't we do Europe next summer?" "Let's do," I said.

After that I went back to the tax returns to see whether I could do the IRS for some refund. Instead, it looks as if I may have to do windows. And as for Europe, I'm afraid my wife will have to ... do without.
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Title Annotation:humor
Author:Smith, Wen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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