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A colleague and I were reading a corporate memo that contained the phrase 'redouble our efforts'. His claim was that the word redouble was equivalent to double and simply nonstandard. (Similar to, say, using irregardless in place of regardless). I've heard this phrase fairly frequently, and don't see anything wrong with it in particular, but I was wondering if perhaps there was some style guide that prescribed against it or something similar that marked a preference for simply doubling our efforts rather than redoubling them.

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In the card game Contract Bridge, the two words are very definitely distinct. If a player doubles the preceding bid by an opponent, that opponent (or his partner) may redouble. You can't escalate that process any more after a redouble - which is just as well because by then the stakes are already pretty high! –  FumbleFingers May 9 '11 at 3:29
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@Fumble: Yay Bridge! –  Cerberus Jun 27 '11 at 2:44
    
I hate this expression "redouble our efforts" because its just as easy to say double our efforts without the added confusion. We have words with meanings for a reason to avoid ambiguity so why add ambiguity. Imagine being told after trying something to redouble your efforts. Exactly how hard should you try right now? Twice as hard or four times as hard as your first attempt. Now after the so called "redoubling" has failed if you are told again to "redouble" your efforts how much does this entail? –  user44357 May 16 '13 at 12:55
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7 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"Redouble" is a valid word in its own right, not non-standard at all. Its use is uncommon, to be sure, seen primarily in the idiomatic expression that you reference. Technically, according to its etymology (french "re-" + "doubler"), it should mean either "to quadruple" or "to double a second time." However, it has over time acquired a broader meaning as "intensify" or "strengthen."

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I've voted this down. The word 'redouble' is not 'uncommon' at all, and it's misleading for you to have said so. –  Jez Jun 11 '11 at 20:28
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People in your neck of the woods may throw the word around like a nerf football, but around here I haven't actually heard the word used outside of this thread all year. It is, as pointed out elsewhere, very common in certain contexts (contract bridge and perhaps backgammon), but in my experience it is not widely used in normal conversation. You are, of course, welcome to disagree, but I do not believe that calling it "uncommon" is misleading in the slightest, even if it is significantly more common than my experience suggests. –  Hellion Jun 12 '11 at 3:05
    
I do disagree. Perhaps it is more common in British English. However if it is common in a significant portion of the English-speaking world, then it's wrong to call it 'uncommon' per se. –  Jez Jun 12 '11 at 7:48
    
@Jez I don't consider it uncommon in British English either. –  TrevorD May 16 '13 at 13:05
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@Jez Checking Ngrams, redouble is about equally common in British and American English – and not very common in either case. Furthermore, a large fraction of uses come from dictionaries, game encyclopedias, and French passages. –  Bradd Szonye May 16 '13 at 13:52
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The word redouble comes from French re- plus doubler, "to double". So to redouble one's efforts really means to double them again, to further emphasise or reinforce them beyond whatever doubling you may have done before. However, I'd go so far as to say that in corporate jargon, and even in common usage, it really is just a poor substitute for double or increase.

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It may be a poor substitute, but people don't say double our efforts. It's simply a trite expression in the same vein as we need to give 110%. –  ghoppe Jan 27 '11 at 22:14
    
@ghoppe: You're absolutely right. –  Jon Purdy Jan 27 '11 at 22:15
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It's not a poor substitute all the time. Imagine a situation where one has tried hard but failed. One would have to redouble their efforts (in other words, try again/harder) in order to succeed. –  Jimi Oke Jan 27 '11 at 22:20
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The expression can both mean to double and to double again. See thefreedictionary.com/redouble.

From the situation it should be evident if it means to double something that was doubled before or simply to double something. If it's not evident, the expression should naturally be avoided.

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It seems that the only appropriate time to use "redouble" is after it has been acknowledged that whatever you're applying it to has already been doubled once. It seems that most uses are otherwise redundant.

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Redundant certainly, but redouble your efforts is undoubtedly idiomatic or cliched, according to taste. –  TimLymington May 16 '13 at 13:02
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Often times it is used in a situation where the current approach is not working.

"We have to redouble our efforts."

This would mean both trying again, and putting in twice as much effort.

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Redouble is appropriate where there has previously been a doubling, as in Bridge. I disagree with all other usages. The use of redouble when double should be used is very akin to a malpropism.

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Clearly, a redouble is a double doubling of one which means it is appropriate as a second doubling. Then, technically, it is a doubling but in proper context signifies a quadrupling and is not a redundancy which of course is understood to be an unnecessary doubling. Giving it its broadest meaning possible, it can refer to any integer power of two beyond one.

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