"Rick Perry _double_ _downed_ on his denial of climate science."

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Oct 2 16:47:44 UTC 2011

On Oct 1, 2011, at 8:10 PM, Neal Whitman wrote:
> I've been thinking about writing up something on the phrasal verb "double
> down". It seems to have gained prominence with the increased visibility of
> gambling (world poker tournaments, online poker, casinos in locales other
> than Las Vegas and Atlantic City, etc.), and I was wondering when it would
> become frequent enough to exhibit edge-inflection like this. I know that
> it's a phrase from blackjack, and I know that the metaphorical meaning is to
> make a bold (and possibly foolish) move when an earlier action has gotten
> you into trouble, and that this bold and possibly foolish move is to do more
> of the earlier action that got you into trouble. For example, a recent
> Clarence Page column talked about how politicians' usual reaction when
> called on an outrageous statement (e.g. that HPV vaccine causes mental
> retardation) is to "double down on stupid", i.e. say it again in stronger
> terms. However, I don't know if this metaphorical meaning has a foundation
> in the blackjack meaning. Maybe someone more familiar with the finer points
> of blackjack can explain how it does.

draft addition August 2004 to OED2 under double:

intr. Pontoon (Blackjack). to double down : to double the bet after one has seen the initial cards, with the requirement that one and only one additional card be drawn. Also in extended use: to engage in risky behaviour, esp. when one is already in a dangerous situation.

first cites:

1949    J. Scarne Scarne on Cards iii. xv. 154   He doubles down on a count of 9 and he draws a deuce.
1956    Jrnl. Amer. Statist. Assoc. 51 438   It is good strategy to double down on soft 12 when the dealer shows a five.

extended uses:

a1991    J. Epstein Line Out for Walk (1991) 233   Let me double down‥and see if I can't win some points for being a racist by asserting that, for some while now, black men have worn hats with more flair than anyone else in America.
2001    N.Y. Times Mag. 10 June 77/3   Far from admitting defeat, Middelhoff is effectively doubling down. In February, he managed to persuade Mohn‥to agree to sell a quarter of the company to the public.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list