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Double cross

Posted by ESC on July 07, 2000

In Reply to: Double cross posted by Brian Shea on July 07, 2000

: I noticed double cross in the general list with no origin. It's my understanding that it refers to the Double Cross Committee,
: or Group, or something like that, a group attached to British intelligence in World War II. Once they cracked the German code, they would wait for German
: agents to arrive in Britain and give them a choice: stay and feed false information to Berlin or be executed. The term is pretty
: self-explanatory.

There's an earlier use of the term:

DOUBLE CROSS - "Double cross came into use only in about 1870, apparently as an English racing term describing the common practice of winning a race after promising to arrange a 'cross,' to lose it. 'Cross,' for 'a prearranged swindle or fix,' dates back to the early 19th century and was used by Thackeray in 'Vanity Fair' to describe a fixed horse race. The adjective 'double' here is meant in its sense of 'duplicity,' so 'double cross' really means 'dishonesty about dishonesty'; in fact, the earlier expression 'to put on the double double' meant the same as 'double cross.'" From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).