Double cross

Double cross is a phrase meaning to betray.

Origin

The phrase originates from the use of the word in the sense of foul play; deliberate collusion to lose a contest of some kind. In his book, "A Man Called Intrepid", William Stevenson claims that the term originated with the Double Cross System, a British military counter-intelligence operation during World War II. Apparently, the committee that ran the operation, which aimed to turn known German agents into sources of disinformation, met regularly in room 20 at headquarters. The number on the door to the room was written in Roman numerals, hence XX. Stevenson writes that the committee members began calling themselves "Room 20," and finally, the "double cross" operation.

It has also been suggested that the term was inspired by the practice of 18th-century British thief taker and criminal Jonathan Wild, who kept a ledger of his transactions and is said to have placed two crosses by the names of persons who had cheated him in some way. This folk etymology is almost certainly incorrect, but there is documentary evidence that the term did exist in the 19th century.

More recently, the phrase was used to refer to either of two possible situations:
#A competitor participating in the fix who has agreed to throw their game instead competes as usual, against the original intention of their collaborators - one "cross" against another.
#Two opposing parties are approached, urging them to throw the game and back the other. Both parties lose out, and the perpetrators benefit by backing a third, winning party.

This use has passed into common parlance, so that, for example, in World War II, British Military Intelligence used the Double Cross System to release captured Nazis back to Germany bearing false information.

(To 'cross swords' was a term for a duel where two drawn swords made an X. So to cross someone was to take a sparring position against them.)

In Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator, the "double cross" is a surrogate for the Nazi swastika of the fictional dictatorship "Tomainia" in an unflattering parody of the Third Reich, its ideology and its leadership.

ee also

*cross
*Double Cross System - British WWII counter-intelligence deceptions

References

*"Sporting Life", 4 March 1848
*Stevenson, William. "A Man Called Intrepid".


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Double Cross — may refer to: In film and television: Double Cross (1941 film), a film by Albert H. Kelley Double Cross (1972 film), a Bollywood action film Double Cross (2005 film), a Bollywood film Double Cross (Sliders), an episode of Sliders Double Cross… …   Wikipedia

  • double-cross — ˌdouble ˈcross verb [transitive] to cheat someone who you are involved in an illegal or dishonest activity with: • He was living in fear of drug traffickers he had double crossed. * * * double cross UK US /ˌdʌblˈkrɒs/ verb [T] ► to trick or cheat …   Financial and business terms

  • double cross — double cross, double cross double cross . teh act of double crossing; the betrayal or swindling of a collaborator or colleague. Syn: cross, betray. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • double-cross — double cross, double cross double cross . teh act of double crossing; the betrayal or swindling of a collaborator or colleague. Syn: cross, betray. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • double cross — double cross, double cross double crossv. t. to betray or swindle (a colleague); to promise (a collaborator) one thing and to treacherously do another, to the detriment of the collaborator. Syn: cross, betray. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • double-cross — double cross, double cross double crossv. t. to betray or swindle (a colleague); to promise (a collaborator) one thing and to treacherously do another, to the detriment of the collaborator. Syn: cross, betray. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • double-cross — double crosses, double crossing, double crossed VERB If someone you trust double crosses you, they do something which harms you instead of doing something they had promised to do. [INFORMAL] [V n] Don t try and double cross me, Taylor, because I… …   English dictionary

  • double-cross — 1834, from DOUBLE (Cf. double) + CROSS (Cf. cross) in the sense of pre arranged swindle or fix. Originally to win a race after promising to lose it. As a verb from 1903, Amer.Eng …   Etymology dictionary

  • double-cross — v [T] to cheat someone, especially after you have agreed to do something dishonest with them >double cross n >double crosser n …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • double-cross — verb transitive to cheat someone, usually when doing something illegal or planning to cheat someone else together ╾ ,double cross noun count …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.