damned if he do, damned if he don't

Now I do realize it’s a slang phrase, though I do wonder whether “does” can be used in it so that the whole sentence would not look so incorrect in terms of grammar. I mean, rather than “damned if he do, damned if he don’t” can we say “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t”? Actually, the question is not really whether we can or not; it only matters whether anybody we might run into on the street would be likely to say a thing like that.

This how I understand the matter:

(1) After “if,” we should use the subjunctive, for we are talking about something that has not actually happened. So in older English, you might see a sentence something like this: If he COME, I shall be very happy."

(2) In 2012, however, English speakers no longer use the subjunctive after “if.” They say “If he comeS, …” (We have confidence that he probably will.)

(3) Therefore, you are 100% correct: Damned if he do, damned if he don’t" is “wrong” on two counts: It should now be “Damned if he DOES; damned if he DOESN’T.”

P.S. Also remember that maybe 50 years ago, “damn” was considered to be a “bad” word in the United States and could not be said in “polite society”!

Funny you should say that; a similar thing happened in my country. Our, let’s call it equivalent of the word “damn” (“cholera”) used to be considered a pretty nasty offense not so long a time ago (of course, so long as it didn’t concern the disease). Now you can sometimes hear it even in kids shows; not the worst thing that could have happened, actually, especially considering the fact that every second child runs around our playgrounds with the word “kurwa” (which some would call a more dirty equivalent of the English “fu*k”) on their lips.

Very interesting. Thanks.