Postman rings twice

Miller, Jerry jmiller at FRANKLINCOLLEGE.EDU
Wed Jan 10 18:47:54 UTC 2001

Doug: This is coming off the top of my head, but my recollection is that the
reference in the Cain novel (and movie based on it, twice) was to explain
away a ringing doorbell that "interrupted" the two illicit lovers at the
center of the story (she had a husband, who met an unfortunate end, of
course). I haven't found a reference yet that pre-dates the expression
before Cain's novel. I have a hunch the double-ringing was a "signature" for
postal deliveries in the '40s and perhaps earlier but can't offer any
concrete evidence of same -- maybe a postal historian could help?
I know this doesn't help much, but I thought I would throw it into the
discussion for what it's worth.

Jerry Miller
jmiller at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Douglas G. Wilson [SMTP:douglas at NB.NET]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2001 11:05 AM
> Subject:      Postman rings twice
> Does anybody here know the origin and significance of the saying "The
> postman [always] rings twice"?
> This seems to be some sort of aphorism or metaphor. It was the title of a
> famous novel, which I read long ago ... I don't remember a postman in the
> novel, but ....
> I looked through some reference books (books of proverbs, sayings, etc.,
> at
> a small library) without any luck. Can somebody suggest a reference?
> -- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list