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to take a second look


a double-take = zweimal hingucken müssen; eine verzögerte Reaktion auf eine überraschende oder bedeutende Situation, nachdem man zunächst nichts Ungewöhnliches bemerkt hat



“Kristen Stewart’s ‘Diana’ made me do a DOUBLE-TAKE —— Netflix paid the producer a fortune to join up and her costume drama shows she is worth every dollar.”

Rebecca Nicholson - The Guardian (30th January 2021)

“DOUBLE-TAKE im C/O Berlin: Auch Ikonen können lügen —— Schau im C/O Berlin: Jojakim Cortis und Adrian Sonderegger bauen Miniaturmodelle von bekannten Fotos und Filmszenen, um sie dann erneut zu fotografieren —— Man muss schon zweimal hinschauen, um zu begreifen, was man sieht.”

Irving Penn - Tagesspiegel Online (24th April 2019)

Did you

noun / verb

- a delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual—usually used in the phrase “do a double take”

- to look at someone or something and then look again because you suddenly recognize him, her, or it, or notice that something unusual is happening

Merriam-Webster Dictionary / Cambridge Dictionary


The term “double-take” is a colloquial expression used to describe a sudden second look or glance at something or someone, often due to surprise or confusion.

The etymology of “double-take” is not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in the early 20th century in the United States, most likely in the world of theater or film.

One theory is that the term comes from the practice of actors doing a “double-take” in a comedic scene, where they would look at something or someone, then quickly look away, and then look back again in a surprised or exaggerated manner. This technique was used to create a humorous effect and to emphasize the unexpected nature of the situation.

Another theory is that the term may have been influenced by the phrase “take two” used in the film industry, which refers to shooting a scene again for a second time.

Apologies, dear Reader, if you chose “to do another recording” in the quiz — this may be “historically” correct, but nowadays “double-take” only means “a second look” or "to take a second look".


Animals can exhibit behaviour similar to a “double-take”. Prey animals in particular have evolved to be highly alert and observant of their surroundings, constantly scanning for potential threats. When something unexpected or unusual appears, an animal may briefly focus on the object or movement, then quickly look away and look back again to reassess the situation.

For example, a deer may do a “double-take” when it hears a sudden noise, quickly turning its head to look in the direction of the sound, then looking away and back again to determine if there is a potential predator nearby. Closer to home, domestic pets such as cats and dogs may do the same when they encounter new or unexpected objects or people.


Overall, any situation that is unexpected, surprising, or confusing can trigger a double-take — and this occurs frequently in everyday life. For example, hearing a sudden loud noise, spotting an unusual or unexpected animal in nature, seeing a strange, car number-plate, or even a surprising headline. Rather than a physical head turn, a double-take may simply involve an eye-movement.

One could even go as far as to classify an unexpected idea or insight as a “mental” double-take — but that would be another story!

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“The DOUBLE-TAKE response has been around for thousands of years, but only recently did we invent a word to describe it.”

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