Additional Math Pages & Resources

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Double Trouble Down

Lately I've been hearing and reading a strange, math-sounding term that seems to have taken American journalists by storm. It's double down and it's being used every-which-way.

"Yahoo is doubling down on original TV show production -  it toyed with a bid for Hulu and struck a deal with ABC News."

"Economists double down on a double dip recession"

"Double Down is a DC Comics supervillain and an enemy of the Flash"

"Reed Hastings is not backing down from his decision to split off the company’s business and charge extra, he’s going to double down - Netflix is getting out of the disc business"  

"The Double Down of cream-filled cookies, Nabisco's Triple Double Oreo is a new snack - two Double Stuf Oreos mashed together ... but I bet most of us have been making the same thing by hand since we were 7 years old."

"The new KFC Double Down is a one-of-a-kind sandwich, featuring two fried chicken filets (Original Recipe® batter), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of cheese, sauce and no bun!"

"Presidential nominees used to choose their running mates to balance the ticket. Modern candidates use vice presidential selection not as a means of diffusing their core identity, but of reinforcing it - the doubling down model ... Should Mr. McCain select an independent like New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg? He is an admirer of McCain, he has credentials as a reformer, and he has several billion bucks - a fortune that could give the notion of doubling down a whole new meaning." 

"Wealthy donors who gave the maximum allowable amount to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign have doubled down with big donations to an outside PAC group backing the Republican"

April 2010: "HP buys Palm for $1.2 billion, saying “This is a great opportunity to take two Silicon Valley idols and put them together - WebOS is the best-in-class mobile operating system - our intent is to double down!"

What do television, movies, food, politics, economics and technology have in common? What can this phrase possibly mean - is it math-related?

Here are some definitions of Double:
  • having a dual relationship or character
  • multiplication by two
  • look-alike or substitute for an actor
  • two shots of espresso; two scoops of ice cream; a hamburger with two meat patties; an order of fish and chips with two pieces of fish; an egg with two yolks
  • a two-base hit in baseball; making a shot in pool by bouncing the ball off a cushion
  • folded in half; both sides of a sheet of paper
  • a bed designed to fit two people
  • a bus with two levels or decks
  • throwing two dice that land with the same number of spots showing on each
  • two punctuation marks that open and close a quotation
  • punctuation mark following a number that indicates the number is inches
And here are some definitions of Down:  
  • below
  • towards the floor, underneath; 
  • the opposite of up
  • southward
  • concentrated to a smaller size or volume
  • defeated
  • in a worse condition
  • depressed or dejected
Down is certainly a word that appears in Excel Math lessons sheets ... But using double and down together does not seem to fit the quotes above. I kept searching, and finally found the origin of this phrase:
  • In the card game of Blackjack, "double down" means a player can double an existing bet after the first 2 cards are dealt, but then he can receive only one more card. If the player wants the option of asking for 2 or more cards, he forfeits the ability to double down.
So apparently the term originally referred to a specific betting strategy early in a card game. A choice that gives the option of making more money in return for gambling with greater risk. Never satisfied, I looked about a while longer and finally located a definition in plain English:
  • to engage in very risky behavior, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation
That definition fits with this news item: Aug 2011: HP will discontinue webOS, TouchPad and webOS phones, saying "WebOS devices have not gained traction in the marketplace with consumers, so continuing is no longer in the interest of HP or its shareholders...”  

And this further commentary on that decision: "After new technology is introduced, it sinks, often quite quickly, to the bottom of the IT ocean and becomes part of its sediment"

Yep, they doubled the bet, lost, and are now doubly down, depressed and dejected.