Discussion:
to do something up brown
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Marius Hancu
2006-08-15 20:08:31 UTC
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Hello:

"to do something up brown"
seems to mean in the enclosed context
"do something properly."

Any idea about its origins?
It seems to be old-fashioned.

----
An orchestra with first-class musickers and a swell conductor--and I
believe we ought _to do the thing up brown_ and get one of the
highest-paid conductors on the market, providing he ain't a Hun--it
goes right into Beantown and New York and Washington; it plays at the
best theaters to the most cultured and moneyed people; it gives such
class-advertising as a town can get in no other way; and the guy who
is so short-sighted as to crab this orchestra proposition is passing
up the chance to impress the glorious name of Zenith on some big New
York millionaire that might--that might establish a branch factory
here!

Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
http://www.bartleby.com/162/21.html
-----

Thank you,
Marius Hancu
Donna Richoux
2006-08-15 20:33:25 UTC
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Post by Marius Hancu
"to do something up brown"
seems to mean in the enclosed context
"do something properly."
Any idea about its origins?
It seems to be old-fashioned.
----
An orchestra with first-class musickers and a swell conductor--and I
believe we ought _to do the thing up brown_ and get one of the
highest-paid conductors on the market, providing he ain't a Hun--it
goes right into Beantown and New York and Washington; it plays at the
best theaters to the most cultured and moneyed people; it gives such
class-advertising as a town can get in no other way; and the guy who
is so short-sighted as to crab this orchestra proposition is passing
up the chance to impress the glorious name of Zenith on some big New
York millionaire that might--that might establish a branch factory
here!
Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt
http://www.bartleby.com/162/21.html
-----
RHHDAS knows the origin of a similar phrase, but I'm not positive there
is a direct connection.

"To do brown" was recorded starting in 1824, according to Partridge DSUE
ed 5, meaning to swindle, victimze, trounce, or defeat thoroughly. The
victim was said to be "cooked" or "done brown" (as in, roasted) or
"dished." Most of the 19th century citations are "done brown" but one is
"done it up brown."

Yours is a separate meaning that overlaps in time: to do something
thoroughly, excellently, or perfectly. Citations start in 1843.
Sometimes it's "done up brown," or "done it brown," "did it up brown."
In 1873 it was described as "a very low phrase."

My guess is one did follow the other -- from the point of the criminal,
pulling off a successful swindle is to do it "thoroughly, excellently,
or perfectly." Then it lost the criminal element.

You're in luck -- explanations for slang phrases are hard to come by.
--
Best -- Donna Richoux
Marius Hancu
2006-08-15 20:48:11 UTC
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Post by Donna Richoux
RHHDAS knows the origin of a similar phrase, but I'm not positive there
is a direct connection.
"To do brown" was recorded starting in 1824, according to Partridge DSUE
ed 5, meaning to swindle, victimze, trounce, or defeat thoroughly.
Yes, I think "beat/defeat" corresponds to this other quotation:
------
One or two had edged forward but when they saw his determined air they
slunk back.

"Go on and fight him, Jack," said one. "This is your mix-up, not ours."

"You said you was going to do him up brown," put in another.

"Ain't I got the heartburn?" blustered the bully. "I can't do nuthin'
when I git that. Wait till I'm well; then I'll show him."

http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/lit/adventure/JoetheHotelBoy/chap18.html
-------

Thank you, Donna.
Marius Hancu
Donna Richoux
2006-08-15 20:59:13 UTC
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Post by Marius Hancu
Post by Donna Richoux
RHHDAS knows the origin of a similar phrase, but I'm not positive there
is a direct connection.
"To do brown" was recorded starting in 1824, according to Partridge DSUE
ed 5, meaning to swindle, victimze, trounce, or defeat thoroughly.
------
One or two had edged forward but when they saw his determined air they
slunk back.
"Go on and fight him, Jack," said one. "This is your mix-up, not ours."
"You said you was going to do him up brown," put in another.
"Ain't I got the heartburn?" blustered the bully. "I can't do nuthin'
when I git that. Wait till I'm well; then I'll show him."
http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/lit/adventure/JoetheHotelBo
y/chap18.html

The phrase "cook his goose" comes to mind.
--
Best -- Donna Richoux
j***@yahoo.com
2006-08-15 21:32:31 UTC
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Post by Marius Hancu
Post by Marius Hancu
Post by Donna Richoux
RHHDAS knows the origin of a similar phrase, but I'm not positive there
is a direct connection.
"To do brown" was recorded starting in 1824, according to Partridge DSUE
ed 5, meaning to swindle, victimze, trounce, or defeat thoroughly.
------
One or two had edged forward but when they saw his determined air they
slunk back.
"Go on and fight him, Jack," said one. "This is your mix-up, not ours."
"You said you was going to do him up brown," put in another.
...
Post by Marius Hancu
http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/lit/adventure/JoetheHotelBo
y/chap18.html
The phrase "cook his goose" comes to mind.
...

Which is also a member of a family of idioms that use some kind of
favor to mean beating up or defeating someone. The only other one I
can think of is "fix his wagon". There's one in New Mexican Spanish:
"carry his roof beam" (cargarle la viga).

"Settle his hash"?
--
Jerry Friedman
Donna Richoux
2006-08-15 22:32:28 UTC
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Post by j***@yahoo.com
Post by Donna Richoux
Post by Marius Hancu
"Go on and fight him, Jack," said one. "This is your mix-up, not ours."
"You said you was going to do him up brown," put in another.
...
Post by Donna Richoux
The phrase "cook his goose" comes to mind.
...
Which is also a member of a family of idioms that use some kind of
favor to mean beating up or defeating someone. The only other one I
"carry his roof beam" (cargarle la viga).
"Settle his hash"?
Clean his clock.

There's an advantage to staying vague in making threats, don't you
think?
--
Best -- Donna Richoux
R H Draney
2006-08-15 23:31:41 UTC
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Post by Donna Richoux
Post by j***@yahoo.com
Post by Donna Richoux
The phrase "cook his goose" comes to mind.
Which is also a member of a family of idioms that use some kind of
favor to mean beating up or defeating someone. The only other one I
"carry his roof beam" (cargarle la viga).
"Settle his hash"?
Clean his clock.
There's an advantage to staying vague in making threats, don't you
think?
I don't think I go through an entire week these days without hearing
someone refer to "ripping him a new one"....

The ripping, when it occurs, tends to be mostly verbal....r
tinwhistler
2006-08-16 02:27:55 UTC
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Post by Donna Richoux
Yours is a separate meaning that overlaps in time: to do something
thoroughly, excellently, or perfectly. Citations start in 1843.
Sometimes it's "done up brown," or "done it brown," "did it up brown."
In 1873 it was described as "a very low phrase."
Is this the 1843 sighting you have?

http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moajrnl;cc=moajrnl;g=moagrp;xc=1;q1=up%20brown;rgn=full%20text;idno=acf2679.0009.011;didno=acf2679.0009.011;node=acf2679.0009.011%3A3;view=image;seq=0655

Title: Glimpses into the Biography of a Nameless Traveller, Chapter VII
Publication Info: Southern literary messenger; devoted to every
department of literature and the fine arts. / Volume: 9, Issue: 11, Nov
1843, pp. 647-651
[excerpt from p. 649:]

"...If this was strange, stranger still to me was the next
information I received; for the political meeting was soon to resolve
itself into a political procession, an event entirely new to me, and a
mode of "doing the thing up brown," which had been invented during my
lifeless state in the tombs...." [end excerpt]
Donna Richoux
2006-08-16 11:09:41 UTC
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Post by tinwhistler
Post by Donna Richoux
Yours is a separate meaning that overlaps in time: to do something
thoroughly, excellently, or perfectly. Citations start in 1843.
Sometimes it's "done up brown," or "done it brown," "did it up brown."
In 1873 it was described as "a very low phrase."
Is this the 1843 sighting you have?
http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moajrnl;cc=moajrnl;
g=moagrp;xc=1;q1=up%20brown;rgn=full%20text;idno=acf2679.0009.011;didno=
acf2679.0009.011;node=acf2679.0009.011%3A3;view=image;seq=0655
Post by tinwhistler
Title: Glimpses into the Biography of a Nameless Traveller, Chapter VII
Publication Info: Southern literary messenger; devoted to every
department of literature and the fine arts. / Volume: 9, Issue: 11, Nov
1843, pp. 647-651
[excerpt from p. 649:]
"...If this was strange, stranger still to me was the next
information I received; for the political meeting was soon to resolve
itself into a political procession, an event entirely new to me, and a
mode of "doing the thing up brown," which had been invented during my
lifeless state in the tombs...." [end excerpt]
Nope, RHHDAS has a different one:

1843 in G.W. Harris /High Times/ 29 Those are places
where things are done up brown!

As usual, we have to trust the lexicographer that the sense that was
implied is the one in the definition.
--
Best -- Donna Richoux
tinwhistler
2006-08-16 14:50:47 UTC
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Post by Donna Richoux
1843 in G.W. Harris /High Times/ 29 Those are places
where things are done up brown!
As usual, we have to trust the lexicographer that the sense that was
implied is the one in the definition.
In this case I'd go with the Harris citation as being the earliest,
because the other is dated Nov 1843. The lexicographer of RHHDAS
(Jonathon Lighter?) probably didn't search the engine at MOA-Mich for
the reason that it didn't exist when he/she was looking for early
usages of doing something "up brown." Both 1843 citations seem to me
to fit the sense of doing things elegantly so I have no trouble
trusting someone else who thinks the same way I do.

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