Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Language Virus: Double Down Syndrome (Now With Too Many Updates!)

(Getty Images)

I've had my eye on this one for a few years as it has bubbled up the cliché-o-meter. I hoped about a year ago that it had peaked, and that it would recede and remain safely contained within Talking Points Memo (the worst offender by far) and spread no further. No such luck: double down is the single most irritating, cutesy phrase to be mercilessly overused since the maddeningly-inaccurate and nonsensical drinking the Kool-Aid or the forbidden (I can't even bring myself to write this one out) ATEOTD.

How badly are lazy writers... uh... doubling down on double down? Take a look:

  • Romney doubles down on Russia, according to The Hill.
  • Barney Frank doubles down on calling the Log Cabin Republicans "Uncle Toms," according to Buzzfeed.
  • Obama doubles down on Medicare defense, says the Orlando Sentinal.
  • Jerry Brown doubles down on something about Chris Christie's fatness, claims the LA Times.
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz doubles down on a lie, the Washington Times exclaims.
  • Steve King doubles down on comparing immigrants to dogs, Mediaite reports.
  • Clint Eastwood doubles down on yelling at a chair, according to Think Progress.
  • Democrats double down on the wicked, socialist auto industry bailout, spits Hot Air.
  • Democrats also double down on lies, Steve Huntley breathlessly shrieks at the Chicago Sun-Times.

People: this is just a few days' worth! And the list above is far from complete.

Stop it! Stop using this vapid gambling jargon now!

UPDATE: Mere hours after posting this, defiant Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, natch, called out Reince Priebus for doubling down on a Romney lie.

UPDATE: OK, I'm not going to update this post indefinitely, but here's Politico today:

And the Huffington Thing:

And, naturally, where Politico and Huffington tread, Mediaite is sure to follow:

The Washington Post:

Elsewhere, Andrew Sullivan talked about Bill Kristol doubling down on something, and Josh Marshall, unable to resist a clever turn of a phrase, approvingly linked to Mark Halperin talking about Mitt Romney... doubling down. And I'm tired of linking to all the myriad examples, but variations on the phrase were also used today by the New York Times, NBC News, Newsday, Towleroad, the Associated Press, Business Insider, The News Journal, and Time Magazine.

This phrase fad is officially completely out of control. Let's not speak of it ever again. Please?


samael7 said...

I think it's partly laziness, and partly because an awful lot of politicians lately insist on re-stating stupid and/or untrue things and have to save face.

However, I, too, would like it if writers would instead say something like, "S/he reiterated the lie," but since "doubling down" on a dubious claim is . . . friendlier than saying, "Bitch lied to my face -- twice!" I don't see that changing soon.

Until some other metaphor.

Fran said...

Make mine a dou... no, I'll stick with single.

Lazy, lazy, and more lazy, along with a complete lack of creativity.

That's the freedom that we fight for!

Matthew Hubbard said...

Yes, "stands by" or "re-iterates", used alternately, would be much less annoying than "doubles down".

But sadly, Peteykins, when it comes to stupid gambling jargon, I would bet the ranch it will never go away completely.

@Samael7: Sometimes it is neither stupid or untrue, just rude. Chris Christie called Jerry Brown old (true), Jerry Brown challenged Chris Christie to a three mile race, which Jerry thinks he has a good chance of winning (also true). Neither statement was stupid or a lie, but neither statement has much to do with governing.

Civic Center said...

I hadn't been noticing its ubiquity until reading this, but of course you're right. Thank you for this Double Dare Warning.

Anonymous said...

I was telling someone today that I was sick of the phrase, ATEOTD, and then I heard it again on the radio. UGHH!!!!

Diane Griffin said...

ATEOTD really, really annoys me, too!

The lexical approach to language acquisition holds that we learn language in different levels of granularity, and that the largest of these discreet bits of language is larger than words -- we learn phrases which are referred to as "chunks" and consist of these phrases that tend to annoy us and indicate not having thought out what one wishes to say well.

The lexical approach is useful to ELLs (English language learners) who learn these larger order chunks more slowly. Not knowing that phrase that annoys us when it's overused is an indicator of not knowing the language well. "Double down" has a cultural aspect to it -- we would know it to the point of annoyance, someone who is just learning English would be confused by it.

Knowing that has changed my attitude towards these cliché turns of phrase.

Anonymous said...

Ah--reminds me of the overuse of the word unique.

Dave said...

I see your double-down and I raise you a double-dog-down. Feel it...

The Cat's Meow said...

And Romney is doubling down on all this Libya stuff today. Heaven help us.

Anonymous said...

Doubling down is particularly prevalent in key battleground states.

Matthew Hubbard said...

This whole thing reminds me of George Orwell's advice for writers. Here is the first of five rules. (There is a sixth rule allowing you to break the first five "sooner than saying something barbarous.")

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbed come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.

For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.

lambcannon said...

so glad you said that about ATEOTD, i can't watch the creeps on Chris Matthews anymore for just that reason

re double down: can we please also include the phrase "walk back" which seems to follow a doubling down...

great KFC pic to0... think i'll just drink my dinner tonite :)

Peteykins said...

Wow, Matty, that is an awesome citation! He described it so completely!

Matthew Hubbard said...

Thank you for the praise, Peteykins. I agree I found something as sweetly on-topic as when I scrounged up that picture of Sue Storm's original haircut in the midst of Callista-mania.

Anonymous said...

I find sports metaphors just as annoying as the use of "doubling down" and other gambling metaphors. I just see them as lazy writers, who think their only way to connect to the general public is to show they watch football or whatever sport as well.

Fran said...

At the beginning of the day, I'd like to quadruple up, and hope I don't spit up the coffee.

* Hope you found these opposites refreshing.

Fran said...

Hah! I had not read these comments and I just used the phrase zeroing up in the next post. Frans thinking along the same oppositional lines, I like that!

Karen Zipdrive said...

Fuck all that...is that sandwich actually replacing the bread with two chicken breasts with some kind of cheesy mayonnaise filling?
My face got greasy just looking at the photo.