The Game of Doubles

by Hugh Fitzgerald (Aug. 2007)


Each person takes a sheet of paper and a No. 2 pencil or pen. He has ten minutes to write as many pairs of names as he can. These are the“doubles” which give the game its name. These names must somehow be linked in the mind of the person (hereinafter “the Compiler”) who writes them down. Some will be linked merely by some element or figure of sound, so that a certain similarity in the first names, or the last names, or the structure of the names, make one think, almost involuntarily, of the second once the first has been thought of.

Now the party’s gentil organisateur (hereinafter “The Host”) collects the lists. The Host will now read each list in the following manner. He will take one list, and read the entire contents, taking care to stop after every pair of linked names (hereinafter “the Doubles”). He will then, at each pause, ask each of the others, that is everyone present (hereinafter known as “the Participants”), except the Compiler of that particular list, to suggest reasons why the Compiler deemed this pair of names so linkable. Sometimes the link will be obvious. Sometimes it will be very obscure. Often there will be several reasons, some of them factual, some of them downright dreamy, some very obscure but making sense once they are made plain, why Name A and Name B form a legitimiate “double.” Ideally there will be all kinds of different reasons, taking into account many different kinds of considerations. The whole point and fun of the game consists in the imaginative and knowledgeable attempt by Participants  to figure out what it was that made not any Compiler, but this particular Compiler, pair these particular two names.

The more that each Participant has stored away in his brain, and can bring wittily to bear on the matter, the more likely it is that the reasons offered, even if they turn out not to be the right ones, or turn out to be only part of the answer, will amuse and instruct, provide profit and pleasure. At the end of the animated reading-cum-attempted explanation of each item on the first list, the Compiler of that list (who should be taking some notes on who offered what reason) will explain who was right, who wrong, and anything else he has to add by way of explanation as to why A made him think almost automatically of B. Then do the same with the second list, and so on.

A particularly desirable feature of this game are its non-obvious, potentially epithalamic properties. For it forces each Participant (each of whom is also required to be a Compiler) to demonstrate intelligence, knowledge, humor, and wit. Thus the game of Doubles is an ideal activity for all occasions. The usual occasion, when one is just hoping to make life more rather than less interesting for a few hours. And the unusual occasion (which is becoming more usual), when with all of society’s  little battalions permanently demobbed, one has to go out into the big world without a filtering intermediary, to find a suitable date or mate, and has so little time – which happens to be  money, as you know – to spare, and wants to find out quickly, if only to eliminate from the running, what the story is with Miss X or Mr. Y. Call it speed-dating with a library card.

Sound and sight correspondences generally will not be enough, though it is one of the main elements to start with before you get going. Rudolph Guiliani should not make you think of Salvatore Giuliano, nor Hillary Clinton make you think of Edmond Hillary, nor Romney the politician entitle you to pair him, without more, with Romney the painter.  General Boulanger does not make anyone think of Nadia Boulanger. (And don’t put beans up your nose.) But there will always be exceptions to that rule.  The main point is to offer pairs that will be seen, once the Compiler has explained, somehow very right, in some cases funnily and even inevitably right. And the whole effect will be in the reasons, subtle and obvious, offered about each of the names in each pair. Jokes are also allowed, so that some of the pairs may be entirely phony but also full of meaning. However, in this setting the joke “doubles” must be explained. No one should go home disgruntled or confused.

Each Participant should, in the ten minutes allotted (more time would seem, in such a convivial setting, intolerably interminable), come up with as many pairs of “doubles” as he can. By way of demonstration, I compiled my own list, which is appended below. I broke my own rule, because I found that even typing at top speed I couldn’t complete all the names that came to mind  in less than 30 minutes (by the old church clock), which was when I cut myself off, deeming that the absolute time limit I thought I should observe. Awareness of the likely audience of this website probably led me to skew the “doubles” in favor of the English and the academic, though I am not English and not academic. The list is offered merely as an example to those who like the idea of this game, but who at this point may find themselves in a group with others who are a bit reluctant to compile lists themselves, who want to try it only when they feel they have got the hang of it. In order to kick things off, this list is offered so that others may use whatever parts of it they wish, at their own cotter’s-Saturday-night gatherings, and try to explain to each other what that absent Compiler must surely have had in mind.


Here’s that list of “Doubles”:


Stephen Crane and Hart Crane

Sacha Guitry and Sacha Chorny

Tommy Lee Jones and Billy Bob Thornton

Bix Beiderbecke and Bunny Berigan

John Suckling and Richard Lovelace

Linda Lovelace and Linda Ronstadt

Ilf and Petrov

Bernard DeVoto and Wallace Stegner

Issy Bonn and Pinky Lee

Li Po and Po Li

Verlaine and Rimbaud

Tasso and Ariosto

Dosso Dossi and Betto Betti

Joan Littlewood and Joan Greenwood

Alain Delon and Johnny Hallyday

Billie Holiday and Judy Holiday

Toto and the King of Naples

Peregrine Worsthorne and P. J. Wodehouse

Alan Coren and Sheridan Morley

Don Marquis and Don Hebold

Marshal Pilsudski and Admiral Horthy

Pisemsky and Gontcharov

Thomas Wentworth Higginson and James Russell Lowell

Richard Burton and Robert Burton

Robert Burton and Thomas Browne

Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Casey

Alice Adams and Alice Munro

Rosa Luxemburg and Kurt Liebknecht

Gerard Philippe and Leslie Howard

Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch

Bing Crosby and Russ Colombo

Anna Karina and Anna Karenina

Nikolai  Trubetzkoy and Baudoin de Courtenay

Arnaldo Momigliano and Rita Levi-Montalcino

Edmond Jabès and Albert Memmi

Ernst Cassirer and Elias Canetti

Aby Warburg and Fritz Saxl

Josef Albers and Walter Gropius

Max Friedlaender and Erwin Panofsky

Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach

Salvador de Madariaga and Ortega y Gasset

Jakob Burckhardt and Jakob Bernays

Miguel Unamuno and Ortega y Gasset

Menendez Pidal and Menendez Pelayo

Damaso Alonso and Amerigo Castro

Silvia Ocampo and Victoria Ocampo

Flann O’Brien and Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty

Edwin O’Connor and Frank O’Connor

James Clarence Mangan and George Kennan

Virginia Lee Burton and Margaret Wise Brown

Quentin Crisp and Peter Quennell

Anjelica Huston and B. H. Traven

Doris Day and Dinah Shore

Winston Churchill and Winston Churchill

Boris Vian and Frank O’Sullivan

Frank O’Sullivan and Flann O’Brien

Roy Campbell and William Plomer

Rev’d Kilvert and Gilbert White

Cornelia Otis Skinner and B. S. Skinner

B. S. Skinner and Quentin Skinner

Quentin Reynolds and Lowell Thomas

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Rowley

Fanny Kemble and Fanny Burney

Edmund Kean and John MacReady

Andrey Platonov and Mikhail Bulgakov

Alain Chartier and Charles, Duc d’Orleans

Jacques Loeb and Jacques Cousteau

Max Planck and Max Perutz

Max Ascoli and Max Lerner

George Polya and Michael Polanyi

Seymour Papert and Seymour Cray

Seymour Glass and J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger and J. D. Watson

J. D. Watson and Francis Crick

Francis Quarles and Bernard Quaritch

“Chinese” Wilson and “Chinese” Gordon

Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner

A.J. Ayer and D.J. Enright

George Moore and George Moore

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Lessing and Schiller

Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor

Martin Landau and Lev Landau

Rod Steiger and Anatoly Shteiger

William Arrowsmith and Martin Arrowsmith

Dorothy Thompson and Dorothy Parker

W. V. Quine and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and George Saintsbury

Sidney Hillman  and David Dubinsky

Evariste Parny and Evariste Levi-Provencal

Alain and Alain Finkielkraut

Joshua Whatmough and John Wansbrough

H. D. Kraus and Karl Kraus

Kurt Weill and Kurt Godel

John Maynard Keynes and John Maynard Keyes

Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky

Tom and Jerry

Brian Vickers and Alistair Fowler

Radhakrishnan and Ramanujan

G. H. Hardy and Keir Hardie

Ernest Bevin and Aneurin Bevan

Hugh Gaitskill and Jo Grimond

Jean Jaurès and Jean Barois

André Gide and Roger Martin Du Gard

Ernest Dowson and Aubrey Beardsley

Wassily Leontieff and Abram Bergson

Leo Spitzer and Erich Auerbach

Enoch Powell and Lord Deming

Maurice Bowra and Gilbert Murray

Gilbert Murray and Oswyn Murray

Oswyn Murray and Jasper Griffin

Jasper Griffin and Peter Brown

Rita Mae Brown and bell hooks

Robin Lane Fox and Peter Green

Jo Stafford and Harriet Hilliard

Charles Perrault and Madame De Genlis

Felix Faure and Edgar Faure

Pierre Mendes-France and Catulle Mendes

Catulle Mendes and Oscar Milosz

Time and Newsweek

Fidelity and Vanguard

Hedge-Schools and Hedge-Funds

Our Mutual Friend and Our Mutual Fund

Neville Chamberlain and Houston Stewart Chamberlain

William Lyon Phelps and Chauncy Brewster Tinker

John Horne Tooke and John Hookham Frere

Alexandre Koyré and Alexandre Kojève

Marie Boroff and Max Beloff

Jean Seznec and Jean Starobinski

Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor

Edward Teller and John von Neumann

Issur Danielovitch and Yul Brynner

Vladimir Dukelsky and Vernon Duke

Quentin Durward and Durward Kirby


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