double cross

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double cross

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Apr 16, 2004 8:10 am

[Note: Newer posting of February 6, 2009, has been merged here with the older ones on the same topic -- Forum Moderator]

From (Tony Henriksen)
Chanhassen, MM, USA

New to this site....

I just watced a show on the history channel implying that the use of "double cross" originated during World War II.The British formed a counter-intellegence team headed by a "Commission of Twenty". Code symbol was the Roman nuneral XX which came to be known as the double cross (XX). Does anyone know if the term was in use prior to WWII or is this its begining?

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double cross

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Apr 16, 2004 8:25 am

"Double-cross" appeared long before World War II.
From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge:
double-cross or -double. Winning, or trying to win, after promising to lose a race: sporting: from ca. 1870. The v. is "double," "double-cross," or "put the double on," the last v.t. only: from ca. 1870. --2. Later, "double-cross," etc. is much used by criminals for betrayal (n. and v.) in a criminal transaction: from ca. 1885 ....
It is a double cross where the party who agree to lose either win or tries to win without giving warning to his confederates. (N.Y. Clipper Almanac, 1880)
If you git de double cross put on you, yer'll take it like it was medicine. (Harper's, Sept 1895)
Dem double-crossers will take care of de bill, dey says. (Saturday Evening Post, Jan 4, 1913)
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double cross

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Apr 16, 2004 8:39 am

when eve took the apple she doublecrossed adam
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double cross - where did the term originate?

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Apr 16, 2004 8:53 am

who said "he's so low he never comes to a bridge without
double crossing it"

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Post by Archived Topic » Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:34 am

What is the most credible version of the origin?
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Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:47 am

Vladimir, The bare-bones answer to this question is provided in Ask The Wordwizard, but I’ll fill in some of the interesting details.

DOUBLE CROSS or DOUBLECROSS: Today ‘doublecross’ is a noun (and a verb) meaning 1) an act of betrayal or swindle of a colleague, a deliberate violation of an agreement or obligation or 2) an act of winning or trying to win a fight, match, after agreeing to lose it. <He had planned a doublecross, intending to keep all the money for himself.>

This expression had its origin in sports gambling where it alluded to the duplicity of a contestant who breaks his word after illicitly promising to lose – arrange a ‘cross.’ ‘Cross,’ for ‘a prearranged swindle or fix’ dates back to the early 19th century. The adjective ‘double’ is meant in its sense of ‘duplicity,’ so ‘doublecross’ really means ‘dishonesty about dishonesty’ and, in fact, the earlier expression ‘to put on the double double’ meant the same as double cross. The first recorded use of ‘double cross’ (‘double X’) was in 1826 as a noun and in reference to a boxing match (see quote). Its first recorded use in a non-sporting sense was in 1894 (see quote) The verb was first recorded in ~1901.
<1826 “A good bit of ‘blunt’ [[money]] I’d have netted;/But a ‘DOUBLE X’ spoilt it, and Bob won the fight.”—‘English Spy,’ Blackmantle, II, page 208>

<1834 “The DOUBLE CROSS [[title of poem]] . . . Two ‘milling coves’ [[prizefighting fellows]], each vide avake,/Vere backed to fight for heavy stake:/But . . . /Both ‘kids’ agreed to play a cross.”—‘Rockwood’ by W. H. Ainsworth, III. IV. ii. page 244>

<1848 “All bets are off. It has . . . been ‘rumoured’, that a DOUBLE CROSS was intended.”—‘Sporting Life,’ 4 March, page 4/2>

<1873 “DOUBLE CROSS, a ‘cross’ in which a man who has engaged to lose breaks his engagement, and ‘goes straight’ at the last moment. This proceeding is called ‘doubling’ or ‘putting the double on,’ and is often productive of much excitement in athletic circles.”—‘ A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words’ by Hotten>

<1894 “Tommy, they’re givin’ y’ the double-cross”—‘Chicago Stories’ by Ade, page 46> [[first non-sporting usage]]

<1896 “Every time I see him over at the city hall he's whisperin' to one o' them red-necked boys and fixin' it to give somebody the DOUBLE-CROSS.”—‘Artie’ by Ade, ix. page 79>

<1903 “Although he had been DOUBLE-CROSSED and put through the Ropes, he still had a Punch left.”—‘People You Know’ by Ade, page 153> [[verb usage]]
(Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Heavens to Betsy by Funk, Oxford English Dictionary)

Ken G – December 29, 2004
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double-cross: query about origin

Post by abl-pqr » Fri Feb 06, 2009 1:50 pm

[Note: This newer posting by Tony (a.k.a. abl-pqr) has been merged with the above older postings on the same topic -- Forum Moderator]

...New user. Please forgive my unfamiliarity with the research procedures.
Is it possible to re-view this site's responses, now archived I think, to inquiries about the origin of the term "double-cross" ? I have difficulty with what I am finding here.
One respondent indicated that the use of the word "cross" was derived from the slang term meaning "not straight," and then suggested, I think, that "thus" double-cross means duplicity on both sides of a transaction. I don't see how that follows.
Another respondent suggested that the term was first used in the sports-world, where a boxer failed to stand by his promise to let an opponent win.
Still another suggested that the term arose in WWII, when an "XX" symbol took on certain meaning in counter-intelligence.

Yet, none of these seem to go to the heart of the term, particulalry since one suggests that the use of "cross" was derived from slang. What I am trying to confirm or dis-confirm is this --again, I beg your indulgence as I describe what I have been told; it seems a bit far-fetched, but has an air of plausibility:
In the Roman Catholic religion, one makes the "sign of the cross" by touching his right fingers to the forehead, then to his chest or heart, then to his LEFT shoulder, and then--crossing the imaginary veritcal line he has just drawn--to his right shoulder, thereby having drawn an imaginary cross, before lowering his hand to prayer or to his side.
But, in the Eastern or Russian Orthodox religions, one apparently makes the "sign of the cross" by touching his right fingers to the forehead, then to his chest or heart, then to his RIGHT shoulder, then --crossing the imaginary vertical line just drawn--to his left shoulder, thereby having drawn the imaginary cross. You see that now, before he can return his right hand to prayer, it must move from his left shoulder and again cross the imaginary vertical plane -- in effect "double-crossing."
So, if I understand correctly, the term is said to have originated as a description of things done outside of the teachings of the "true" Church, signifying foreign or incorrect movements and actions.
Is there a religious scholar out there who might simply say, "hogwash," and put my curiosity to rest?
Thank you.
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by PhilHunt » Fri Feb 06, 2009 2:07 pm

Hello there,
Interesting idea. I'm not a scholar on the subject but I'd be interested to know if there is any connection myself. However, after a little googling I found this on Wiki:
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.
The fact that it is a 19th Cent. term suggests that it is a recent idiom. I imagine if there was a connection to the division between the churches it would have originated much earlier.

However, another site has this:

The term 'double-cross' has been used in various contexts for many centuries, usually as a straightforward reference to the shape of two crosses, as in the architectural design of cathedrals for example. That meaning is unrelated to the current figurative 'cheating' usage of 'double cross', which dates only from the late 18th century.

To find the origin of the expression 'double cross' as it is now used, we need to look first at one of the many meanings of the noun 'cross'. From the mid 1700s, a 'cross' was a transaction that wasn't 'square', i.e. not honest and fair. The term was most often used in a sporting context, where a cross was a match that was lost as a result of a corrupt collusory arrangement between the principals involved. You might expect that a 'double cross' was a deceit in which two parties collude in a swindle and one of them later goes back on the arrangement, crossing both the original punters and his erstwhile partner in crime. Although that is the case, the term 'double' doesn't here mean simply 'two times'. 'To double' had long been used to mean 'to make evasive turns or shifts; to act deceitfully'. This derives from the imagery of someone doubling back over a previous route. This 'doubling' gave rise to the term 'double dealing', which has been used since the early 1500s to refer to someone duplicitously saying one thing and doing another, for example, a 'double agent'.

Given that, by the mid 1700s, the language included both 'cross' and 'double', it wasn't a great leap to introduce the term 'double cross' to refer to aggravated duplicity. Double crossing dealings are the precise opposite of those that are 'fair and square', but the two expressions do have one thing in common - they are both tautological. 'Fair' and 'square' both mean honest and 'double' and 'cross' both mean dishonest.

The earliest reference that I have found to 'double cross' in print is in David Garrick's 1768 farce The Irish Widow. The play centres on various practical jokes, and the phrase occurs as a play on words between two of the meanings of cross - 'marriage' and 'swindle':

Sir Patrick O'Neale: I wish you had a dare swate crater [dear sweet creature] of a daughter like mine, that we might make a double cross of it.
Mr. Whittle: (aside) That would be a double cross, indeed!

The sporting usage was defined a few years later, in an early self-help tome, written by 'Two Citizens of the World' and 'Containing Hints to the Unwary to Avoid the Stratagems of Swindlers, Cyprians and Lawyers', i.e. How To Live In London, 1828:

"A double cross, is where a boxer receives money to lose, and afterwards goes in and beats his man."

A systematic policy of double crossing was given the UK government's official, if covert, sanction during the WWII. In 1941, MI5 set up a military counter espionage unit called The Twenty Committee, chaired by John Masterman. The naming of this unit clearly linked the double crosses of the Roman numerals for twenty (XX) with one of the unit's aims, which was to 'double cross' Germany by coercing German spies to become English double agents. The coercion was less than subtle; captured German agents were given an offer they couldn't refuse, i.e. feed false information back to Germany or be shot.

During the Cold War, following the publishing of Masterman's The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939-1945, in 1972, the terms 'double cross' and 'double agent' became much more commonplace.
Then, yet another possibility:
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).
So now we have a possible 18th C. origin.
All of them appear to be folk etymologies or based on hindsight, so I would not vouch for their authenticity.
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by Phil White » Fri Feb 06, 2009 2:18 pm

Put "double-cross" in quotes in the search facility here on the forum and you'll quickly find all that's been said here in the past. ... f=7&t=8776 is probably the most extensive discussion.
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by PhilHunt » Fri Feb 06, 2009 6:51 pm

The only thing missing from Ken's post is any discussion as to the possible connection with earlier expressions using 'cross'.

The word has been used for centuries in various Biblical idioms:
To bear one's cross
To cross oneself

There are also early references to knights and crusaders
To take the cross
To cross swords

But at what point did the cross come to mean 'not honest' or 'untrue'. It is suggested in the post on that
From the mid 1700s, a 'cross' was a transaction that wasn't 'square', i.e. not honest and fair.
but there is no citation. In Ken's post he only traces it back to 1826.

The Etymology website offers an origin for the use of 'cross' as an adjective from the 16th C. with an intriguing reference to winds and sailing; 'cross-winds'. Could that have some distant influence on the origin of 'double-cross'?
O.E. cros, from O.Ir. cros, probably via Scand., from L. crux (gen. crucis) "stake, cross," orig. a tall, round pole, possibly of Phoenician origin. Replaced O.E. rood. The adjective meaning "ill-tempered" is 1639, probably from 16c. sense of "contrary, athwart," especially with reference to winds and sailing ships. Cross-stitch is first recorded 1710; cross-examine is from 1664; cross-fire from 1860; and cross-eye from 1826. Cross-dressing is from 1911, a translation of Ger. Transvestismus. Crossword puzzle is from Jan. 1914; the first one ran in "New York World" newspaper Dec. 21, 1913, but at first was called word-cross.
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by trolley » Fri Feb 06, 2009 7:19 pm

...and crossing your heart seems to be coming from the opposite direction. As kids, we crossed our hearts as a pledge that something was real and true. It was probably the most binding oath in kid-dom and breaking it could result in having needles poked in your eyes and/or even death! Crossing urine streams was something akin to becoming blood-brothers
"Criss cross, double cross
No one else can pee with us!"
.....I'm almost positive that was just the boys, though!
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by hsargent » Sat Feb 07, 2009 6:39 pm

Lots of very learned references.

Common usage is that if you cross someone, you are going counter to their efforts or beliefs.

To double-cross, you pretend to be assisting or agreeing someone only to betray them after confidence is established. Similar to double agents.

I don't see any tie to the Catholic symbolism.

I don't see any tie to "cross my heart and hope to die" as an oath.
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Re: double-cross: query about origin

Post by JANE DOErell » Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:00 pm

hsargent wrote: .... Similar to double agents. ....
I recall reading, speculation perhaps, that "double cross" derived from some espionage activities somewhere, somehow, sometime. Presently I'm somewhat at a loss as to how to find those yarns. Perhaps it will come to me and I can post more information.
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Re: double cross

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:41 am

Tony, Phil H, et al, Below I’ve tried to answer the question left unresolved in my above 2004 discussion – what’s the origin of CROSS used in the expression DOUBLE CROSS – which in retrospect I should have addressed back then. I hadn’t seen it mentioned anywhere in any of the sources I had consulted at the time and I just didn’t go on to pursue it.

In my current diggings to discover the original meaning of the infamous CROSS in DOUBLE-CROSS, I stumbled onto an idea I found in a 19th century slang dictionary and then pursued it through the maze of the OED listings to come up with what appears to me to be the answer. This is a bit involved – but in my obsessive-compulsive pursuit of truth and thoroughness, I now go where I must. (<;)

CROSS noun [1802] slang: That which is not fair and ‘square’: dishonest or fraudulent practices. a cross: a contest or match lost by collusory arrangement between the principals; a swindle. on the cross: in a dishonest, fraudulent manner; to be or go on the cross: to be a thief, live by stealing. to shake the cross: to give up thieving [[“to quit the cross and go on the square”—Farmer and Henley]]. (Oxford English Dictionary)
<1802 “I got it on . .. the cross.”—Sessions’ Paper, June, page 334/2>

<1812 “Cross, illegal or dishonest practises in general are called the cross, in opposition to the square . . . Any article which has been irregularly obtained, is said to have been got upon the cross.”—A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language by J. H. Vaux>

<1829 “It was decided that it should be a decided ‘cross.’—That is, it was decided beforehand that the match was to be lost.”—Chronicles in Annual Register, page 21/1>

<1834 “Two milling coves, each vide avake, Vere backed to fight for heavy stake; But in the mean time, so it vos, Both kids agreed to play a cross.”—Rockwood by W. H. Ainsworth>

<1848 “A conversation . . . about the fight between the Butcher and the Pet, and the probabilities that it was a cross.”—Vanity Fair by Thaackeray, lv>

<1861 “The young woman . . . may be on the cross.”—Ravenshoe by H. Kingsley, lx>

<1869 “Cross, a deception—two persons pretending hostility or indifference to each other, being all the while in concert for the purposes of deceiving a third.”—The Slang Dictionary by J. C. Hotten, page 112>

<1878 “Never to act on the square, but invariably on the cross.”—Tinsley’s Magazine, XXIII. page 300>

<1883 “If I would shake the cross and live on the square for three months.”—Life on the Mississippi Mark Twain, lii>

<1889 “It's the hardest earned money of all, that's got on the cross.”—Robbery under Arms (1890) by Boldrewood, xii. page 85>

<1915 “It's mum with me so long as I see you living on the straight . . . But, by gum, if you get off on the cross after this it's another story.”—Valley of Fear by A. Conan Doyle, II. iii. page 201>

CROSS verb transitive [1823] slang: To cheat or double-cross; to act dishonestly in or towards. (Oxford English Dictionary). To play false in a match of any kind.( Slang and its Analogues Past and Present by Farmer, Vol. II, page 218/1)
<1823 “CROSS. To cheat. To throw a match over, either in horseracing, or in a prize battle, or any article which has been improperly obtained , is said to be got upon the cross. Cant.”—A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Francis Grose, edited by P. Egan>

<1864 “A cross cove is in the street for me, And I a poor girl of low degree; If I was as rich as I am poor, Ye never should go on the cross for me!”—Cornhill Magazine, II. page 336> [[a cross-cove, cross-man, cross-man, squire/knight/lad of the cross are synonyms for a thief – Slang and its Analogues Past and Present by Farmer, Vol. II, page 218/1]]

<1887 “What made you cross the fight, and play booty with your own man?”— Deacon Brodie by Henley & Stevenson, Act iv, scene 3>

<1925 “Cross, to squeal; to betray . . . To deceive; to cheat one's pals.”—Flynn’s, 10 January, page 877/2>

<1938 “It wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been crossed. A journalist thought he could put one over on us.”—Brighton Rock by H. G. Greene, II. ii. page86>

<1960 “He'd been using us; he'd crossed us; and he knew too much for safety.”—Closed Circuit, xv. page 179>
But the above dictionary definitions and quotes, interesting as they are, don’t answer the question: Where did the above early 19th century meanings of this CROSS come from? In Farmer & Henley’s seminal 7-volume (1890-1904) slang dictionary SLANG AND ITS ANALOGUES PAST AND PRESENT, Vol. II, page 217-218, I came across the following:

CROSS (thieves): 1) A pre-arranged swindle. In its special sporting signification a CROSS is an arrangement to lose of one of the principals in a fight, or any kind of match. [Obviously a shortened form of CROSS-BITE]. When both principals conspire that one shall win, it is called a DOUBLE CROSS.

Hmm. “Obviously a shortened form of CROSS-BITE” (whatever that is)!

CROSS-BITE / CROSSBITE: Obsolete transitive verb [1532]: To bite the biter; to cheat in return; to cheat by outwitting; to ‘take in,’ gull, deceive. [from cross + bite where cross (when used with an object expressed) is an obsolete adverb (see below)] (Oxford English Dictionary). To cheat; . . . to hoax; stiff; CROSS-BITER: A cheat; swindler; or hoaxer (Slang and its Analogues Past and Present by Farmer, Vol. II, page 219)
<1532 “If ye lack contraries, to crosbite him withall, I shall lend you a pair of the same size that his cheats be.”—Dice-Play (Percy Society), page 30>

<1576 “CROSBITING, a kind of cousoning, under the couler of friendship; and in his epistle to the readers, The cheater will fume to see his CROSBITING and cunning shiftes decyphered.”—Roche of Regard by G. Whetstone, page 50>

<1591 “To Reader, When a broaking knaue cros-biteth a Gentleman with a bad commoditie.”—A Notable Discovery of Coosnage (= The Art of Conny-Catching) by R. Greene> [[cony-catch (obsolete verb): To cheat, trick, dupe, gull.]]

<1592 “Laying Open the Life and Death of Ned Browne, one of the most notable Cutpurses, Crosbidters, and Coneycatchers.”—Blacke Bookes Messenger [part of title] by R. Greene>

<1593 “If he playeth at the fast and loose . . . whom shall he conny catch, or crossbite, but his castaway selfe.”—New Letter in Works of G. Harvey (Grosart), I. page 274>

<1672 “Fortune our foe . . . By none but thee our projects are cross-bit.”—Love in a Wood by W. Wycherley, v. vi>

<1717 “As Nature slily had thought fit, For some by-ends to cross-bite wit.”—Alma by M. Prior, III. page 365>

<1822 “I know—I know—ugh—but I’ll cross-bite him.”—Fortunes of Nigel by Sir Walter Scott, xxiii, page 289>

<1823 “If your Grace can . . . throw out a hint to crossbite Saville, it will be well.”—Perveril of the Peak by Sir Walter Scott, xxviii>

<1823 “Cross Bite. One who combined with a sharper to draw in a friend . . . Cant. This is peculiarly used to signify entrapping a man so as to obtain crim. con.[ [[criminal conversation]] money, in which his wife, real or supposed, conspires with the husband.”—A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Francis Grose, edited by P. Egan>

CROSS preposition [1551]: = ‘across,’ now dialect or poetic (in the latter case commonly written 'cross, as a recognized abbreviation), from the Obsolete adverb (aphetic form of ‘across’) with object expressed. (Oxford English Dictionary)

CROSS adverb: 1) [circa 1400-50] From side to side, whether at right angles or obliquely; across, athwart, transversely. 2) [1614] In a contrary way, in opposition to. 3) [1603] In an adverse or unfavourable way; contrary to one's desire or liking; awry, amiss; = across adverb (obsolete or colloquial). See also adjective (Oxford English Dictionary)

CROSS adjective: 4) [1565] Of events, circumstances, or fortune: Adverse, opposing, thwarting; contrary to one's desire or liking; unfavourable, untoward. 8) [1812] slang Dishonest; dishonestly come by. (Opposed to square or straight) [[see noun above]] [Originally an attributive or elliptical use of ‘cross’ adverb, some participle (e.g. lying, passing, coming, etc.) being understood.]

Note: As I followed the CROSS trail through the OED, I noticed that the dates of quotes provided for parent words and their progeny weren’t always in what reason would seem to dictate is the logical sequence. But these are first-in-print dates and don’t always reflect the order in which the spoken word came into existence.
<1565 I am ashamed of your too cross and overthwart proofs.”—An Aunswere to (John Martiall's) Ttreatise of the Crosse (Parker Society) by J. Calfhill, page 72>

<1603 “Things falling out crosse with the old Emperour.”— The Generall History of the Turkes (1621) by R. Knolles, page 164>

<1614 “Jesus Well: whose bottome . . . was in Heauen; whose mouth and spring downewards to the earth: crosse to all earthly fountaines.”—The Devil’s Banquet by T. Adams, page 217>

<1638 “To foist in two others, clean crosse to the Doctor's purpose.”—The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation by W. Chillingworth, I. v. §84. page 288>

<1718 “Every Thing was carried cross to his Intentions.”—J. Kettlewell by Hickes & Nelson, II. xlix. page 153>

<circa 1732 “The crook of the lot will . . . be found to lie cross to some wrong bias of the heart.”—The Crook in the Lot (1805) by T. Boston, page 33>
(all quotes in this posting are from the Oxford English Dictionary and various hard copy as well as archived dictionaries as indicated)

My above efforts might not be proof positive that the CROSS in DOUBLE-CROSS began its life as an obsolete preposition (connected to the adverb, adjective), which was a shortening of the adverb/ preposition/adjective ACROSS (the OED paradoxically informed those who bothered to crosscheck, in what appears to be a chicken-or-the-egg situation, that ‘across’ (derives from “‘a,’ the preposition meaning ‘on’ = ‘in’ + cross”). But, from the evidence above, it sure looks pretty clear to me that the derivation of this particular CROSS goes back to the lowly, unassuming, and unexciting preposition/adverb/adjective and that the other abovementioned etymologies are folk etymologies (e.g., church-related cross, etc.) and can be relegated to the dustbin.

And here’s another piece of useless trivia (in keeping with the rest of my ravings) which I happened upon in my searches:

The number sign (#), that we all know and love, has several other names which include crosshatch, hash mark, pound sign, space mark, tick-tack-toe sign and double cross!
<1791 “In addition to a capital letter, most of the gatherings are signed on one or more leaves with a typographical symbol (asterisk or double cross).”— A Series of Letters to the Right Hon. Edmund Burke; in which are Contained Enquiries Into the Constitutional Existence of an Impeachment Against Mr. Hastings. ... with an Appendix in which are Contained, Observations Upon Major Scott's Letter, Published in the Diary, 11th April 1791 by By George Hardinge, Edmund Burke, T. Cadell>

<1998 “By 1710 Swift [[Jonathan]] had changed the typography to use both marginal notes and footnotes marked by symbols. . . The genesis of these various symbols [is] interesting . . . They seem to have been cast as type by early printers and to have been added as needs arose. In order of their generality of use, they came to include the asterisk, the cross or dagger, the double asterisk, the double cross, the double dagger, . . .”—Rhetoric Review, Vol. 17, No. 1, Autumn, page 32>
However, it is not entirely clear to me (and I haven’t checked it out) if the DOUBLE CROSS of either of these two quotes actually refers to our number symbol (#). Interesting question. I might look into this some time (but probably not). Perhaps one of our members already knows the answer to this one.

Ken G – January 8, 2009
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Re: double cross

Post by PhilHunt » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:53 am

Fantastic bit of research Ken.

The only thing missing from all of these definitions though is the use of 'cross' as a synonymous adjective for angry. For example: "Are you cross(angry) with me?" Is this a colloquial usage or universal?
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