Seriously, what is this saying? And what is it that the man’s gotta do? People have said this saying to me through the years, and I always sit there, dumbfounded, trying to figure out what it is suppose to mean. For instance, after telling someone that I need to work on a project all weekend instead of enjoying time off from work, I would get a response of “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” Seriously? What kind of a response is that?
In actuality, the phrase/idiom is meant a couple different ways. First, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, it means you do whatever you have to do, even if it’s different or dangerous. I understand that it means you do whatever you have to do, but that element of difficulty or dangerous was added in every dictionary I used to confirm the explanation. Another dictionary confirmed the first definition by saying “something said when you are going to do something unpleasant or you may joke that it may be unpleasant.” Maybe I am just too matter of fact. This is what I have to do, and it really does not need a response, especially one that makes little sense to me.
It is also used as irony or sarcasm — you know, mocking someone or something or showing contempt.
I am not alone in saying that this idiom is silly to use. Fred MacMurry said it in 1955 in the film The Rains of Ranchipur, and Clyde Gilmour, a Canadian radio personality and film columnist, awarded the idiom a prize for the stupidest phrase ever used in a movie.
Actually, the phrase was first seen in print when John Steinbeck wrote and then published The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. In Chapter 18 of the book, Steinbeck wrote, “I know this man — a man got to do what he got to do.” The line never made it to the film version — I can understand why.
And today — well you can hear Dr. Horrible singing his version of “A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do.” And, well, I can’t make sense of those lyrics either. I guess I am doomed…..
Until next time…have a good week…