Double whammy

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fredpuli47 | 09:24 Thu 24th Dec 2009 | Phrases & Sayings
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"It's a double whammy". Who coined this expression? How old is it? And what's a whammy?


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A double blow or setback.


A whammy was originally an evil influence or hex. It originated in the USA in the 1940s and is associated with a variety of sports. The first reference to it in print that I can find is in the Syracuse Herald Journal, October 1939:

"Nobody would have suspected that the baseball gods had put the whammy on Myers and Ernie when the ninth opened."

double whammy'Double whammy' emerged not long afterwards, as seen here in the Oakland Tribune, August 1941, in an interview with the eccentric boxing manager Wirt Ross:

"Shore there's only one way to beat Joe Louis ... No man can lick 'im, it takes a syndicate and that's what I got. I've been taking a course in hypnotism from the famous Professor Hoffmeister of Pennsylvania. When I gave my big police dog the evil eye like this he liked to collapse, went out and nearly got himself killed by the neighbour's pet poodle pooch. Professor Hoffmeister says I don't get the double whammy to put on human beings until Lesson 9."

Ross was well-known for his tall tales and flowery language. It is quite possible that he coined the term in that interview.
The double whammy first appeared in 1951 as part of a statement by Evil-Eye Fleegle in a L'il Abner cartoon. It also figured largely as a Tory slogan in the 1992 British general election.
MY apologies...I should have said above that 1940 and 1951 were the earliest dates listed in the OED for whammy/double whammy. Clearly, as the first answer shows, there were previous uses of the terms. It has to be said that the great reference-work DOES occasionally fall down in the matter of Americanisms!

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