Monday, January 17, 2011

"Dat double-crossin'..."

Have you ever noticed that the Popeye cartoons often misuse the phrase "double-cross"? Usually it's when Popeye takes back Olive Oyl from Bluto, causing Bluto to grumble about how Popeye "double-crossed" him.

I always got the impression that the phrase referred to when a criminal (or just someone mean) crosses another once, and then twice. But every source I can find about the phrase online seems to say that it simply refers to when a criminal betrays another criminal, therefore "crossing the crossers".
Bluto still isn't using the phrase correctly either way- neither of them are criminals (usually), and Popeye certainly never betrays him, unless you consider the two to be friends, and stealing a fickle and unfaithful girlfriend away from a brutish rival to be betrayal. Sure, Bluto was certainly being "crossed", but...

Maybe a lot of people in the 1930s thought of the word "double" as a means of emphasizing "cross", like "double dare". That would make sense, but it would be nice if it were explained somehow. I've seen this seeming misusage in some Hal Roach comedies too, like Laurel and Hardy and "Our Gang" (aka The Little Rascals).

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