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"I don't know -- I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election."
—John McCain's Concession Speech, Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix, November 4, 2008

Interviewer: How do you think your fans will react [now that you're returning to playing golf after being treated for sex addiction]?

Tiger Woods: I don't know. I don't know.
—Interview, March 22, 2010

An ubiquitous utterance in film, television, and the legitimate theatre, signifying that the protagonist is (dramatically) out of ideas. For real, this time.

Whereas in Real Life, most of us are content to say "I don't know" once, if at all, fictional characters are likely to repeat the phrase for dramatic effect. It's a common act break, being almost magnetically attracted to music stings and commercial breaks.

Although there are several variations of the Double Don't Know, there are a few particularly common breeds. Samples, with context:

After School Specials

 Concerned Parent: But what about the Mid-Winter Sophomore Diversity Dance Social?

Troubled Teen: I don't know anymore... I just don't know!

(runs away, slamming any doors in her path)


 Guy At Console: The ship's glowy core thing is bright red and leaking smoke for some reason! And stuff is shaking -- that means this is serious, captain. What should we do!"

Captain: I don't know, Console Guy. I don't know."

(close-up of pulsating space-gas blob on the view screen)

The Double Don't Know is closely related to One-Liner, Name. One-Liner. - simple, repetitive phrases used to provide closure to a scene or plot, including but not limited to: "I do, Billy. I really do," or, "It sure is, Billy. It sure is." etc. This variation is mostly a Dead Horse Trope, though the namesake phrase(s) linger on.

The Double Don't Know is a stock phrase trope. It has nothing to do with "what now?" cliffhangers that don't feature repetitive statements akin to those described above. It's also unrelated to Donald Rumsfeld's famous Unknown Unknowns - "the things we don't know we don't know".

Examples of Double Don't Know include:


  • Happened by accident in The Stand. Near the end, one character is asked the reason for all of what happened. He says, "I don't know," then pauses. Stephen King spent a good month trying to come up with an answer, couldn't, and had him repeat himself.

Live Action Television

 Beverly: You had no choice.

Picard: Didn't I? I don't know anymore... I just don't know.

  • Spoofed in the "Killer Sheep" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus by having a scientist ramble "I just don't know. I really just don't know. I'm afraid I really just don't know," and so on.
  • In the comedy TV show Corner Gas, the theme song goes, in part: "I don't know, the same things you don't know. I don't know, I just don't know."

Western Animation

 Jonny: What is it, Dad?

Dr. Quest: I don't know, Jonny, I really don't know!


  • Played straight - as so many things were - in I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
  • Top Gun, as the classic '80s cliche storm, features it, though in a slightly different way than might be expected.

 Viper: Would you wanna fly with him?

Jester: I dunno. I just don't know.

 Ray: This ecto-containment unit that Spengler and I talked about is going to take a load of bread to capitalize. Where are we going to get the money?

Peter: [takes a swig from a bottle] I don't know, Ray. I don't know...

  • The Terminator: When Kyle and Sarah are on the run from the Terminator, she asks him if he can stop it.

 Sarah: Can you stop it?

Reese: I dunno. With these weapons, I dunno.

 Bobby: Did Wanda deliver the [Ransom Note] tape to the cops?

Lalo: I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I wasn't with her.

 Statler: Can you think of anything that would make that last show something other than completely worthless?

Waldorf: I don't know, Statler, I just don't know!

Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!

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