Sunday Scribblings #92: Double or Nothing Can Be Truly Delightful

Cambridge Dictionary defines the term ‘double or nothing’ as an agreement that the player who owes money will owe twice as much if they lose, but will owe nothing if they win

Merriam-Webster takes on a different approach with the win in mind, for ‘double or nothing,’ where the result is that a gambler either wins two times as much money as he or she has already won or loses all of the money.

While I don’t think I have placed such a bet anytime in my life, I have watched movies and shows where a character goes in for ‘double or nothing.’ Of course, many a time, the really-out-of-luck protagonist wins big and the seemingly-born-with-a-Midas-touch person loses it all, thus turning the course of their lives. And then there are the stories where the director decides to give the plot an unexpected twist as well. Seems to me that sometimes the movies end up confusing me on the actual way ‘double or nothing’ work, just like those two slightly contrasting definitions above have managed to already..

So dear reader, if you know what ‘double or nothing’ really means, can you let me know too? 🙂

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Notepad and a pen over it with a cup of coffee next to it. words read Sunday Scribblings, and this is for Sunday Scribblings #92: Double or Nothing Can Be Truly Delightful

Why the Title: “Double or Nothing Can Be Truly Delightful”?

Well, as I was thinking about the poetic form for this Poetic Sunday, I noticed that January 16th is Anthony Hecht’s birthday (which I missed mentioning in last week’s Scribblings) as well as National Nothing Day. And Hecht is the creator of a delightfully difficult poetic form called the double dactyl. This led me to recall this term ‘double or nothing’ and thus the title!

Poetic Sundays: The Double Dactyl

Created by Anthony Hecht, Paul Pascal, and Naomi Pascal on one November day in 1951 over a shared lunch, the double dactyl is a witty, just the right size not to be itty-bitty, challenging enough to exercise our noodle, and totally fun to write it just right form!

What is the Double Dactyl Poetic Form?

The double dactyl poem is made up of eight lines of verse in two stanzas. The first three lines of each stanza are double datcyls, while the last lines in each stanza rhyme with each other and consist of a choriamb. In addition, the first line is a nonsensical phrase that usually rhymes, line two is a proper noun, and either line six or line seven must be a single-word double dactyl.

Purists of the form also follow this rule: No single-word double dactyl may ever be knowingly used again (by anyone)! Many choose to write the entire poem as a single sentence though I did not see any requirements that it be so.

Note: some sources say that the last line of each stanza can be a dactyl-spondee pair.

So what do choriamb, dactyl, and spondee mean?
  • A choriamb a foot consisting of four syllables in the pattern long-short-short-long, like “down by the bay.”
  • A dactyl is a metrical foot consisting of a long(or stressed) syllable followed by two short(or unstressed) syllables. For example, “poetry,” “basketball,” and “mockingbird” are all dactylic words.
  • A spondee is two syllables, both long (or stressed), like “downtown,” or “ticktock”

The Double Dactyl Poetic Form’s Characteristics

So the double dactyl poetic form’s elements are that at its most basic, it is:

  • stanzaic: made up of two quatrains (four-line stanzas)
  • metered/syllabic: Lines 1-3 and 5-7 are double dactyls, while lines 4 and 8 are choriambs (and sometimes a dactyl-spondee pair).
  • rhymed: Rhyme scheme of xxxa/xxxa (where x is unrhymed); in other words, lines 4 and 8 rhyme.
  • themed: humorous, witty
  • specifics: The first line is a nonsensical word or phrase, second line is a proper noun, while either lines six or seven must be a single-word double dactyl
  • titled
Additional Notes/Tips
  • The nonsensical word/phrase can of course also be made up or one of many you have heard.
  • Check the notes added previously regarding not reusing the single-word double dactyl as well as trying to write the whole poem as a single sentence. This is however optional (but something purists of the form will want to follow)
  • The proper noun can be someone/someplace real or fictional or even made up. For example, Jennifer Aniston and Ann Arbor, Michigan for real names of people and places; or Jonathan Livingston and Mooberry Avenue for made up/fictional ones!
  • And then the single-word double dactyl: it can also be a made-up one; you can add -ly, -ify, -ion to words, or you can use macaronic language (words made up by combining words from many languages)
So this is how it looks

L1 – A double-dactyl nonsense word/phrase (x)
L2 – A double-dactyl proper noun (x)
L3 – double dactyl (x)
L4 – choriamb (a) OR dactyl-spondee pair (a)

L5 – double dactyl (x)
L6 – double dactyl OR single-word double dactyl (x)
L7 – single-word double dactyl OR double dactyl(x)
L8 – choriamb (a) OR dactyl-spondee pair (a)

Some examples to help you

A self-referential example by Roger L. Robison:

Long-short-short, long-short-short
Dactyls in dimeter,
Verse form with choriambs
(Masculine rhyme):

One sentence (two stanzas)
Challenges poets who
Don’t have the time.

Check here for more inspiration and examples

My examples

Double or Nothing

Tweedledee Tweedledum
Come from a epigram
Written by John

Piper he tweedled them
Making a pair of them
Nothing, well, gone!

~ vidya tiru @ladyinreadwrites


Oliver Prodigy
wrote some new poetry
that was so bad

Really terrible
Questioning sanity
Making us mad!

~ Vidya Tiru @ LadyInReadWrites

References, Further Reading, and h/t:

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Image shows a pen over a open notebook on an empty page overlaid with the title Poetic Sundays: The Double Dactyl


On My Blog & at Home

My recent posts since and including my last Sunday Scribblings:

We kind of had gone double or nothing on the booster shots when both hubby and I bravely decided to take the booster together. It was kind of a risk since we had no idea if one or both of us would have side effects (I did have side effects for both previous doses); and if both ended up with something because of it, then who would take our daughter to her classes and school? Or any other stuff around home as well? Luckily, we were both symptom free (except for a headache I did have for a couple of days with a sore arm)/

What about you? Are boosters available where you are? And if yes, then have you been boosted already?


On My Blog: Should I Say Double or Nothing (Against Last Week’s Total Posts)?

Mini-reviews are on the forecast again. And hopefully, I will go back and play catch up for the missing posts last week plus achieve the one thing I always aim for but do rarely, that is, schedule a couple posts. This way, I can do the ‘double’ of last week’s five posts!

And at home

Hopefully the weather gets warmer so we can spend more time in our backyard and on our garden to prepare it for spring, slowly but surely.

This Week’s Celebrations

Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)

  • Literary birthdays this week include: Jan 17th is Anne Brontë, Benjamin Franklin; the 18th of January is A.A. Milne; Edgar Allan Poe, Patricia Highsmith, and Julian Barnes on the 19th of January; Vanessa Diffenbaugh on January 20th; Francis Bacon, John Donne, and Lord Byron on the 22nd of Jan.
  • January 18th is National Thesaurus Day and National Winnie The Pooh Day
  • National Handwriting Day is on the 23rd of January

Foodie Celebrations

Other Celebrations

Multi-day Celebrations

Wrapping up my Sunday Scribblings

So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. And do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?

Linking this to the Sunday Post over at the Caffeinated Reviewer and the Sunday Salon

3 thoughts on “Sunday Scribblings #92: Double or Nothing Can Be Truly Delightful

  1. Double or nothing is a gamble I never consciously make. In the case of marriage, we choose to go it together, or doubled. When something happens to our partner, then I prefer to think of it as something that rises from the ashes of denial, because that change inevitably happens to one or the other. We change course and see that nothing never did exist. A new life is created from something we already created: experience.

  2. I also am not too sure about Double or Nothing and like you I’ve never placed a bet and I don’t plan on it as I like having my money in my pocket and not losing it to a senseless but might be fun game.

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