Definition and history of ‘It do what it do’

So, just what do we mean by “It do what it do”?

Back in October, my IDWID cohort, Mike, definied “It Do What It Do” as the following:

For too long, media attention has been given to the overachievers or those who stand in the spotlight. The irony of this, of course, is that it is the rank and file, the Average Joe and the consistently good — but not great — elements of our society that really make things work. This web page is a salute to all of those things — people, places, products, what have you — that do what they are supposed to do — and only that.

That was back when IDWID.com was simply a vanity URL, registered as a joke under that always popular motivation known as “because I can.”

If we turn to another source, we can also find IDWID defined by the Urban Dictionary. This definition conveys an attitude more than a course of action — an attitude that seems to me to have come from the same way of thinking as the motto “It’s all good.”

That definition, I suppose, is as good a definition as any, and is probably still the predominate attitude whenever we use the phrase, “It do what it do.” In our field of work, which is building web sites with a minimum of resources and money, we need to find ways to add content and features with as little headache as possible.

This particularly was the case when we (along with our colleague Kyle) were rebuilding a certain newspaper’s web site from the ground up in the summer of 2006. We had an utterly inflexible deadline looming just three months away, we knew what we wanted to do, and we had to figure out how to get there. Mike had a lot of new content he wanted to add to the site which we had not previously installed. Meanwhile, I wanted to massively overhaul design, infrastructure, and function from the ground up.

There wasn’t a lot of time to find and test solutions, so in a lot of cases we had to simply test and implement the quickest solution available to us — which often used the default software provided to us by our hosting and CMS provider. In many cases, these solutions were obviously not the best ones available, but they worked and cost little or nothing and were quick to implement. In short, they do what they do. With so many things to get done and the deadline approaching, we had to move down the checklist, get it done, and move on. It do what it do.

The redesign turned out great. We were all pretty happy. Individual features could’ve been better, but they were adequate, and the whole turned out to be better than the sum of its parts. “It do what it do” came through for us, and a mantra had been born. We use the saying almost daily.

But with the launch of IDWID the blog, I think it’s time to revisit and expand that definition.

IDWID the blog, I think, can sometimes be a celebration of all those things that simply do what they do, but as a blog, we need a little more flexibility. We need the flexibility to be random, obscure, and even pointless — because, believe me, I see that as a big part of where this blog will likely go if we hope to maintain it. We cannot be constrained to topics that only do what they do.

So, to expand the definition in a very general way, when you say, “It do what it do,” say it with a casual air that implies, hey, “It does whatever it feels like doing.” Sort of like this blog.

IDWID the blog: It do what it do.

Where did the saying “It do what it do” come from?

It came to us this way: In March 2006 we were building a web site for the launch of our city’s new arena football expansion team. Our online sports editor was gathering information for the team roster, which included brief bio tidbits that the players filled out on a questionnaire. You know: age, height, school, most inspirational figure, etc. One of the entries was “superstitions.” Some players wrote things like “wearing the same jersey for every game.” But one response stood out: “Superstitions: None. It do what it do.” Because we never let a joke die at the office (we quote The Big Lebowski daily, for example), an instant quotable was born. We had no idea that it was about to become our mantra of the year.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Gramatically speaking, shouldn’t it actually be “It does what it does”?

A. No.

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1 comment on this post

Carlton R. Harris
Thursday, April 19, 2007, 5:42 am (UTC -6)

Will it ever do what it don’t?

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