Do is undoubtedly the most protean verb in the English language. All one has to do to be convinced of this fact is to look under the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

A man and a woman, both of a certain age, come into a Vermontian tavern and sit down at the bar. They each order a glass of wine. When the bartender pours the drinks, there is some confusion as to which patron wishes the white, which the red, so the female customer says: “He does the white, and I do the red” [emphasis added––MS]. A strange utterance under the circumstances, no?

Whatever could she have meant? That her male companion habitually drinks white wine, and she red, implying that this distribution is at odds with the norm for the two sexes? It’s impossible to interpret the woman’s utterance with certainty.

One is reminded of the fact that just as characters in novels don’t always know their own motives, so with people in real life.


[Addendum on a personal note: I was sitting in a restaurant cogitating over what this post would contain when a well-known poem by that splendid Russian nineteenth-century lyric poet, A. A. Fet, hove into mental view. For those readers who have Russian, here it is (NB the last line and the preceding enjambment):

* * *

Я пришел к тебе с приветом,
Рассказать, что солнце встало,
Что оно горячим светом
По листам затрепетало;

Рассказать, что лес проснулся,
Весь проснулся, веткой каждой,
Каждой птицей встрепенулся
И весенней полон жаждой;

Рассказать, что с той же страстью,
Как вчера, пришел я снова,
Что душа все так же счастью
И тебе служить готова;

Рассказать, что отовсюду
На меня весельем веет,
Что не знаю сам, что буду
Петь – но только песня зреет.