Still the storm raged furiously. Lightning, thunder...winds gusting strongly, enough to bend the searchers over double.

What is the meaning of the bold part? I know what bend double means but I am not familiar with bend someone over double, and I didn't find anything in dictionary. Please help.

  • bend is redundant there. double over itself includes bending I think. :)
    – Maulik V
    Jun 21 '14 at 12:39
  • You got it right, they just bent due the force of the winds. This sentence is equal to -The wind was strong enough to double over the searchers
    – Maulik V
    Jun 21 '14 at 12:45
  • @MaulikV so the structure is verb + somebody + over double. And that "double" should be a noun. But in dictionary entry there is no suitable meaning of "double" as noun that fits here. Jun 21 '14 at 12:47
  • Yes, the idiom is double someone over or for a person, simply double over as in Listening to Russel Peters, I just doubled over with laughter. But I guess, here, the author has included bend which has changed the structure of the sentence. Bend someone over double
    – Maulik V
    Jun 21 '14 at 12:51
  • @MaulikV it's still unclear. I mean there is not suitable dictionary entry. Jun 21 '14 at 14:24

To bend over is to lean down from the waist, to whatever degree, usually by choice to pick something up. It is pretty much equivalent to bend down. This is the best picture I could find online (ignore the big red "not" sign, I think it's trying to instruct people not to lift heavy things that way, and it's not the point; I just couldn't find a better picture).

enter image description here

The addition of double is describing to what extent the searchers are bending over. To bend over double is to bend over so far that you bend to about your halfway point (bend in half, bend over double). Like this:

enter image description here

(Except the wind is doing this to them, and the girl in the picture is using her arms and doing it on purpose for yoga or something.)

So now we understand what to bend over double means. But to add to your semantic confusion, in your example sentence the people aren't intentionally bending over double on purpose; the wind is doing it to them. If they were doing it intentionally, you'd have something like this:

Tom suddenly got a severe stomach ache and bent over double.

But since the wind is doing it to them, you get the construction in your example:

...winds gusting strongly, enough to bend the searchers over double.

So the winds were strong enough that they forcibly made the searchers bend over double.

  • The pictures and definition you provided is for Bend double and for bend over. I found those definition in dictionary already. But in my quoted sentence the structure is bend over double, and that is creating confusion. Jun 22 '14 at 2:10
  • Bend over double is the same as bend double in this case.
    – BobRodes
    Jun 22 '14 at 4:29
  • @Man_From_India What Bob said. To bend over is to bend to any degree. To bend over double is to bend at least in half (double).
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 22 '14 at 19:05
  • @WendiKidd A search of modern usage shows that bend over double does not (a) always or (b) have to mean the posture of the woman doing yoga. See my answer, especially the paragraph beginning with the word Think. (Additionally, I am not understanding your statement to bend at least in half. How can a person bend more than half?)
    – user6951
    Jun 28 '14 at 17:49

Still the storm raged furiously. Lightning, thunder...winds gusting strongly, enough to bend the searchers over double.

In this image, the orange cord is bent over double. (It is bent or folded back upon itself.)

To bend means to fold.

To double (as in double up) means to fold something in two, or to fold something in half.

To bend something over double. means to fold something over upon itself. LIke the orange cord in the image.

You bend a sheet over double by folding the sheet in half and holding the sheet by the two edges and letting the rest hang down toward the floor. Thus the sheet is bent over double, or doubled over on itself.

In the case of a body, you bend one's body so as to bring distant parts into proximity (my OED definition of double up (8b) which gives the same idea.)

So for the searchers: the wind gusts were strong enough to fold the searchers over upon themselves or to bend the searchers over double. Each searcher is now doubled over upon him or herself. The exact meaning of the phrase, as used in the passage, is not known. Is it figurative? Literal? Does the wind bend the searchers over double in a general sense? Does the wind snap each searcher's back and bend the searcher over double backwards? Or do the searchers, facing the wind, bend themselves over double, so as to shield themselves from the wind? Even in the latter case, it can be said that the wind is the agent of the searchers' bending over double.

For a person to bend over double, it does not necessarily mean that the person is bending all the way down, back and knees straight, and touching their toes.

In general one bends over double by bending at the waist and leaning the torso forward over the body, And it can include a posture with the hands or arms resting on one's knees.

Think: (1) a person runs 10 kilometers and then stops and bends over double, hands on knees, to catch their breath. (2) a person gets bad news in a doctor's office and bends over double, crying, so that the tears fall to the ground. (3) A person hears a joke and bends over double, laughing. These examples can all be found by contemporary authors using a database such as google books. But in none of these three examples is a person touching their toes.

In the passage, the phrase to bend the searchers over double can be read in the transitive sense: the gusts of wind were string enough to fold each searcher back upon himself.

Another possible interpretation is that gusts of wind were so strong that they caused the searchers (in the intransitive or reflexive sense) to bend over double, so as to make headway against the gusts, or shield themselves from the gusts, their face from flying debris, etc. They were bent over double, that is bending deeply from the waist, torso leaning forward over their body, but they were not touching their toes.

(To be bent over double can mean to be bending at the waist, knees straight and touching one's toes. Except, in my mind, that posture does not fit the description of the passage at hand, unless it means that the wind was able to bend the searchers over double in a figurative sense.)

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