February 16, 2013

Sorry to go all language police on you again, but: "doing diligence"?

So as I face-twitted last night, I've been hearing Al Gore's quaaluded H R Pufnstuf "sad voice" on the various media over the past week.

One phrase he always uses when discussing the kinda controversial Al Jazeera / Current TV deal is "doing diligence." He'll say "in doing diligence on what Al Jazeera really is…" or even talk about "doin' the diligence" as though he's referring to some crazy new dance step that's all the rage with the kids these days.

My first impression was that this was simply an ignoramus's attempt to use the term "due diligence" in a sentence. But my google machine tells me that this construction, unlike the internet that has catalogued it, is not a Pufnstuf invention, but rather a variety of business speak employed by at least 27,600 others at one time or another. When used in this way, the word "diligence" seems to be a synonym for "investigation" itself rather than a quality describing the manner of investigation you're talking about. You might just as well say you "did the sloppiness" or that in the process of doing extensiveness on Al Jazeera you found them to be an organization that does trustworthiness and lucrativeness along with the best of them. Hey leave me alone, Witchy-Poo, we diligenced the whole thing, repeatedly.

All because "due" sounds like "do." Well, it does in America; in Britain due is "dyoo" while do is "doo." I wonder if Britons ever do diligence in the same way that we due?

Now it's possible, I suppose, that there's another linguistic-historical explanation for this construction besides its just being wrong and dumb. I suppose I could do some thoroughness on it in the OED if the type weren't so small and if it weren't in the process of doing far-away-ness over there in the other room, and if I weren't lazinessing it up in the kitchen over here. Maybe "to do diligence" goes back to the Magna Carta or Domesday Book or what have you. On the other hand, it could just simply be doing retardation and dumbness. But that's our Pufnstuf.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 16, 2013 04:06 PM