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Did him in?

[ 2009-07-21 13:14]     字号 [] [] []  
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Did him in?Reader question:

In this sentence – Bork’s writings and rulings did him in politically – what does “did him in politically” mean?

My comments:

It means Bork’s political career was ruined by his writings and rulings.

To “do someone in” is the idiom in question here. It’s a slang term for killing someone, or making him fail, tired, etc.

In short, finished, done.

This term is British in origin, popularized no doubt by the hit Hollywood movie My Fair Lady (1964), which was adapted from the play Pygmalion (1913) by George Bernard Shaw.

In My Fair Lady, Freddy Eynsford-Hill fell in love with Eliza Doolittle, and hence also with her uneducated accent – “Rine in Spine” (Rain in Spain), for example.

Eliza told Freddy she believes that her aunt did not die from influenza, as she was led to believe, but was instead murdered by those who also stole the old woman’s straw hat that should have gone to herself (Eliza) for inheritance.

Eliza: Now what call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? And what become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? Somebody pinched it. And what I say is: Them as pinched it, done her in.

Freddy: Done her in? “Done her in,” did you say? Whatever does it mean?

Eliza: That’s the new small talk. “To do somebody in” means to kill them.

Freddy: But you surely don’t believe your aunt was killed?

Eliza: Do I not? Them she lived with would have killed her for a hatpin, let alone a hat.

Anyways, here are media examples:

1. This headline, from New York Daily News (June 29, 2009), suggests that Michael Jackson might have been killed by Demerol, an addictive pain-relieving drug:

Michael Jackson’s struggle with pain: Suspicion Demerol did him in.

2. This, from the Wall Street Journal (A Farewell to Harms, July 10, 2009) on what had failed Sarah Palin, the former US vice-presidential candidate who has announced that she would quit her post as governor of Alaska on July 26:

“The media did her in.” Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it’s arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It’s yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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