Double take

Double take expression

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My first encounter with this expression occurred recently as I was discussing… seagulls (of all things) with a friend of mine. He said something along the lines of, ‘You see a seagull and you think, that’s a big seagull, you do a double-take and think, that’s a freaking big seagull!’ (the intonation, I’m afraid, is inimitable)

What this means is that when you are really surprised by something, you need to look again to make sure you haven’t been hallucinating. Or, if we stick with definitions from people who write them for a living, it means ‘to react after a slight pause, because you’re surprised by what you have just seen or heard.’

Here are some examples to get a better understanding of how it’s used:

– The photographs, shot by Eric Richmond and art-directed by us, are not only beautiful but quite arresting – the kinds of images that make you do a double take: Is she really posing with a body builder? What is that about? (The Guardian)

– Regular readers know Johnson doesn’t shy away from earthy, common language. But we also take seriously standards in language, including in journalism. So my eyes did an involuntary double take when I read the New York Post‘s cover today: “Jeweler gets his rocks off!  Ho swipes half-mil in diamonds.” (The Economist)

– I also did a double take when I read that “Chicago had never been an ideal place to do empirical work,” because “Nobel Prizewinning theorists like Gary Becker and Robert Lucas disliked dirtying their hands with data.” (The Economist)


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