Sunday, March 27, 2005

I Double Dare You

Even when I was a kid, it never made any sense to me why there was a "dare," and then a "double dare" and then things like "D-dog-double dares," when in reality there was no difference in the outcome of the situation if accepted. It puzzled me why there was an aura of augmentation around these successive terms, which was not at all unlike the use of swear words to communicate the gravity of a situation.

Today, something clicked, and it all makes a little bit more sense.

I had Easter dinner at the Tanner's house, and among the guests was an elderly lady who, after WWII, had traveled to Japan and then Germany as a school teacher for the children of U.S. servicemen. This is how she described the situation that led to her continental switch: "A friend of mine was thinking of making the transfer, but she was timid, so I made it a double dare."


Ah, so a double dare used to be an "I will if you will" proposition, and hence a big step up from a simple dare, which is more like "it would be awesome if you did this and you won't regret it." As far as the D-dog-double dare thing goes, it's my personal theory that that was tacked on by some group of little boys for whom the original sense of the expression had already been lost, and for them it was simply a transition from a 2-point scale to a 3-point scale. But I have no evidence to back that part up, it just makes the most sense to me.

So, mothers, whenever your children use these terms, please do me a favor by preserving the richness of the English language and inform your children of the true nature of a double dare. It also might help in spreading the culpability for certain 'crimes' committed on dares to those who egged on the offender.

I dare you. No, I double dare you!

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