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Columbia Pictures Television

In Defense of Double-Dipping

Double-dipping had a great run. For millennia, humans dunked food into sauce, took a bite, and re-dunked with impunity. And then came that episode of Seinfeld.

Ever since Season 4's "The Implant" first aired 25 years ago this week and a George Costanza-chastising character named Timmy planted the term in the food-culture lexicon, double-dipping has been deemed a crime against humanity -- if not up there with murder, at least on par with shaming people at wakes about food hygiene.

Even today, in an age serving up nearly daily harbingers of doom -- natural disasters, market crashes, a movie about Flamin' Hot Cheetos -- double-dippers must practice their dark art in private or face the wrath of righteous germaphobes hovering around the snack table, waiting to rebuke. We have become a nation of Timmys.

Well, I'm sorry, Timmy. I don't dip that way.

The double-dip is not to be feared. It's not disgusting. And luckily for me, there's actual semi-science to back up both of those surely divisive claims. As you'll soon see if you squint hard enough, you should safely dismiss the stigma attached to this presumed party foul. And then print this article out, dip it in ranch dressing, and shove it in all the anti-douple-dippers' judgmental, germaphobic faces.


The (actual) science of double-dipping

To elaborate on the science of double-dipping from a scientific perspective, we consulted a scientist. A GERM scientist.

"Germs can spread as long as there's a surface. When you have something that has a high concentration of bacteria, like a human mouth, you're going to inevitably see some transfer," said microbiologist and author Jason Tetro. "Usually that transfer is going to contain about 1% of the bacteria. So, out of the millions of microbes in your mouth, only about a thousand should be transferred to the chip. With even less bacteria being transferred back into the dip, if you use the same chip. There's a lot of dilution there."

So, I'm not a scientist (technically), but I have to assume this assessment works in my pro-double-dip favor, correct?

"Regular oral bacteria should not cause any problem, in this case," Tetro confirmed.


"But bacteria is not the only thing that can be transferred via double dipping," Tetro said, promptly hoisting me on my own petard. "Especially if someone is sick with a virus. This can be a twofold problem: You're exposing your body to something it might not be familiar with, so there could be an immune response. And if it happens to be a pathogen, such as the flu, cold viruses, or herpes viruses, this could potentially lead to an infection."


This is what scientists and science-enthusiasts alike refer to as the "minimal infective dose." Basically, you have to be exposed to certain number of the bug in order for you to get sick. In the bacterial sense, it's tens of hundreds of thousands of microbes. So that can't happen via dip, unless someone literally spits in it. But with viruses, it could be as little as one microbe, according to Tetro -- which unfortunately can be spread via dip. And even scarier, people can be contagious with viruses without even showing symptoms.

So, the verdict here is split.

Bacteria = never.

Viruses = definitely possible.

And that's not good for my argument, really. But it doesn't kill it. It's a mere dent in the armor of my ironclad stance.

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The truth about double-dipping

So I can't sit here in an ivory internet tower and pretend like there are zero potential health ramifications from double-dipping or engaging in communal bowls of dip. There is a plausible --  yet very Final Destination-esque -- chain of events that could result in an illness through dippage: someone carrying a virus double dips, then someone else using the same dip happens to place their chip in the approximate spot the double-dip occurred, and then their immune system is ultimately unable to block the virus, resulting in an infection. It's not impossible: this is how viruses spread.

But despite the risks, I have to remain in favor of the double-dip. It's not that I'm stupid or apathetic toward my health or other people's health. In fact, it's because I care about humanity that I am so steadfast in my opinion.

Consider this: How many times a day do you touch a doorknob? Unless you live in the woods in solitary confinement like Nell (if so, awesome), probably more than few. When you meet someone for the first time, do you refuse to shake their hand? When your local ice cream shop lovingly places the cherry atop your sundae, do you insist on wiping it down with antibacterial soap before plucking it off your scoops?  If someone hands you a phone to show you how adorable their niece looked whilst dressed like a Rockford Peach for Halloween, do you cast their request aside like a potential Pauly Shore biopic? No.

The point is, humans are filthy. We touch our mouths with our hands 3,000 times a day. We use our phones while we defecate. Our skin, clothes, hair, fingernails, and close friends are consistently soaked with a veritable swarm of microbes at all times.

To freak out about the double-dip is to deny one of the fundamental truths of coexisting with other people on this planet: You can't make an omelet without cracking eggs, and you can't crack eggs without covering them in disgusting germs. Or anything else, really. For those who don't coat their digits in antibacterial soap every five minutes, all this is unavoidable. And it's even unavoidable for those who do.

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I dip, you dip -- we dip

So, if the thought of double dipping grosses you out, avoid the dip altogether and keep your opinion to yourself. And also make sure to avoid giving or receiving any handshakes, because those are definitely lousy with germs. Better yet -- fist-bump yourself for carry around in your pocket so you can whip it out when needed and then continue down the lonely road of elitist agoraphobia you were apparently born to wander eternally.

To double-dip is to be human. It's that simple. And often, the dip is the best part of the experience anyway, right?

Plus, dipping more than once gives you more bang for your buck -- snacks-wise. And in this economy, you can't scoff at that kind of efficiency. Germs or no germs.

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He does the dip. Follow him @wilfulton.