As I was painting the other day I had the TV on. I had my own little film noir festival: “The Maltese Falcon”, “Double Indemnity”, and “The Wrong Man”. As is my habit I mostly listened to them. After all I can’t paint and watch a movie at the same time. I have seen all of these movies before so there are no real surprises but my ear caught something this time that I had not noticed before. It was a phrase used in “The Maltese Falcon” and then repeated in “Double Indemnity”. One character looks at another who is quite disheveled and says, “You look all in”. Having seen both movies before I certainly heard the phrase but never noticed it.

With Texas Hold ‘Em poker being played on TV all of the time I’ve heard the phrase “all in” a million times in the last year or two. It is when a player bets all the chips he has left on a single hand. The phrase pops up all the time in pop culture now to signify that a person is committed one hundred percent. That is probably why I payed attention when I heard something similar in these two movies. Yet the meaning was quite different.

A quick internet search of the phrase “You look all in” brings up a bunch of books in which the phrase is used. Some are period pieces and some are contemporary. Is it really that common? Are people saying it all the time but just not around me? Is it regional and I’m not in that region? Was it common in the 40s and 50s but not now? Where does the phrase come from? You look all in. All in what?

One of my favorite regional phrases I heard when I was a freshman in college back in the fall of 1984. I was going to school in Sullivan County NY and a lot of the students were from the Binghamton area. I began to notice a strange phrase popping up. It was in any normal situation where you agree with some one. The first person says, “I like chocolate” and the second replies, “So do I”. That is unless you come from ol’ Bingy. Then instead of saying “So do I” you say “So don’t I”.

This is how the conversation went:
Me: “I like chocolate”.
Him: “So don’t I”
Me not understanding: “You don’t like chocolate”?
Him not understanding: “What do you mean? I like chocolate”.
Me: “But you just said ‘So don’t I'”.
Him: “Yeah, so don’t I”.

It was like the old “Who’s on first routine”. To his ear “So do I” and “So don’t I” were they exact same thing. I even repeated both phrases and to him there was no distinction between them. I also heard several other people from the Binghamton area say the same thing. But not all of them. The English language is a funny thing.

Thanks to the joys of the internet search (I refuse to use Google as a verb I don’t want my speech to be branded) I looked up that funny phrase and found it is native to around Boston and Central NY. No one seems to know exactly why.