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    #1

    What does 'do the civil' mean?

    We have to do the civil to him.

    Could I ask what the sentence above mean? 'We have to be polite, but in a formal way and not friendly to him'? This sentence is taken from Jespersen's ESSENTIALS OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR', in the chapter which deals with the article 'the', without any context.

    Last edited by joham; 27-Nov-2014 at 02:03.

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    Your understanding of "civil" is correct, but the sentence is not. "We have to be civil to him."

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    #3

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    I agree with MikeNewYork, but on the other hand your source is authoritative. I speculate that "We have to do the civil to him" is BrE dialect, perhaps Cockney.

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    #4

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    Otto Jespersen, 1860 - 1943, might not be the most authoritative source still on modern English idioms.
    The Grammar (1949) is downloadable as a historical curiosity from:
    http://arrow.latrobe.edu.au:8080/vit.../latrobe:34325

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    #5

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I speculate that "We have to do the civil to him" is BrE dialect, perhaps Cockney.
    It would work and I could imagine it being used, but I haven't heard it.

  4. probus's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    Here is an example of "do the civil" from 1823.

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=5t4K...ockney&f=false

    So probably it is archaic or even obsolete.

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    It appears that it was never common. Ngram.

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    #8

    Re: What does 'do the civil' mean?

    A question to Joham: Where did you find this phrase?

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