December 4, 2018

Who in the Sam Hill is Scott Free?

I'm reading "'Who is Scott Free?' A search for meaning after Trump’s misuse of a medieval idiom" (WaPo).

This is after Trump tweeted:
Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time,'” Trump began. “You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get..... his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free.
He made it look like a name — "Scott Free." He does weird capitalization, such as "Taxis," but next to "Scott," a first name, "Free" sure looks like a last name. Okay, he's got us paying attention again.

WaPo's Meagan Flynn instructs:
But, of course, what Trump meant was “scot-free,” a centuries-old phrase meaning to escape punishment, which has nothing to do with a person named Scott....
Does it have anything to do with a type of person, a Scot?
[A]ccording to the 2008 book “Common Errors in English Language” by Paul Brians... [p]eople might think the term has something to do with Scottish people (or an unfortunate “Scott”) or that it is “scotch-free,” somehow related to whisky.
I know I'm picturing Mel Gibson crying "Freedom" while getting disemboweled.
Others, Brians noted, have erroneously believed “scot-free” alludes to Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom only to lose in an 1857 Supreme Court case.
Well, that would be stupid, unless you want "scot-free" to mean not free.
But really, scot-free traces its roots back to a medieval tax called a “scot” that arose in the 14th century, according to Merriam-Webster. The Vikings could also be to blame for the origin of the phrase: “Scot” is derived from the Old Norse words “skot” and also “shot” — yes, like shooting a gun or taking your shot. The Gaelic Etymology of Languages of Western Europe, an 1877 dictionary, explains that shot and scot meant the same thing at that time, as in a “contribution that ... is ‘shot’ into the general fund.” Back in those days, if you skirted around the tax, you... were scot-free....
And, now, who is Sam Hill?
Sam Hill is an American English slang phrase, a euphemism or minced oath for "the devil" or "hell" personified (as in, "What in the Sam Hill is that?"). The "Sam" coming from salmon (sal(o)mon an oath) and "Hill" from hell. Etymologist Michael Quinion and others date the expression back to the late 1830s; they and others consider the expression to have been a simple bowdlerization, with, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an unknown origin.
But H. L. Mencken said it might be "Samiel" (one the name for the Devil, and some people point to a shopkeeper in Arizona named Sam Hill or various other characters actually named Sam Hill.

I see that term "minced oath" has a Wikipedia article:
A minced oath is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term's objectionable characteristics. Some examples include "gosh" (for God), "darn" (for damn), "heck" (for hell), "fudge" or "eff" (for fuck) and "shoot" (an exclamation for shit). 
And that gets me back to the problem I blogged about yesterday, a propos of Michelle Obama saying "shit." I was fine with her saying "shit." I just didn't like New York Magazine calling that "swearing." An "oath" — like "swearing" — is a solemn declaration to God, and that is something that you may think should not be debased. Talking about sex or excrement is a different matter.

Anyway, Trump got attention for a minor foible once again. I'm interested to hear what Scott Adams has to say about this. He's got to do this one in his podcast today, no? It's got the name "Scott."

85 comments:

tcrosse said...

Godfrey Daniel!

Yancey Ward said...

I am pretty sure Trump didn't do it intentionally, but that tweet now gets played over and over by his enemies, and will resonate with everyone who is not an active detractor. Trump is an accidental genius, I think.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

Ho hum, Trump Tweeted again. Media in a tizzy...

Is there a greater sign of their irrelevance?

rehajm said...

Scott® Free.

mccullough said...

Trump is keeping the mediocre media in business.

Anyway, Scott Free was a Navy Corpseman who people misunderestimated.

Yancey Ward said...

As for the origin of scot-free, you learn something new every day- I had always assumed it had something to do with the Scots and was something derogatory coined by an Englishman.

John Tuffnell said...

Maybe he's channeling Jimi's Stone Free:
Stone free, yeah I can't stay
I got to, got to, got to get away

AZ Bob said...

Ironically, Trump is of Scottish heritage.

Henry said...

Who in Ham Sill is William Spooner?

Leland said...

Free review by Scott [Adams]?

mccullough said...

So was Scotland named after a tax.

Illinois should change it’s name.

Kevin said...

Remember when the media was going to visit the heartland and bring us all the stories about people and events going on in our country which went largely uncovered?

I suppose they could get to that if only the President would stop Tweeting.

Nonapod said...

Scott Free, better known as Mister Miracle, is one of DC comics "New Gods" created by Jack Kirby back in the 70s. He's basically an immortal Harry Houdini.

Curious George said...

"I know I'm picturing Mel Gibson crying "Freedom" while getting disemboweled."


No, beheaded.

dbp said...

"[A]ccording to the 2008 book “Common Errors in English Language” by Paul Brians... "

I took a senior level English Lit course from Dr. Brians at WSU. It was one of the best courses I ever attended.

Brians noted at the start of the course that while it was an upper division English course, there were no English majors enrolled. His grading for the frequent short essays was as follows: Grade 1. English composition. Grade 2. Content. Final grade: Whichever is lower of the two.

LordSomber said...

He's buddies with Luke Warm.

Jim Gust said...

tcrosse, I think the entire phrase from the Firesign Theatre is "Godfrey Danial, pesky redskins!"

Jim Gust said...

from "waiting for the electrician, or somebody like him"

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Scott Free Productions
formed in 1995 and is the film and television production vehicle of esteemed film director Ridley Scott. The company is responsible for some of the most successful films ever made - including Gladiator, American Gangster, Man on Fire, Enemy of the State, Robin Hood, and Black Hawk Down.
And White Squall.

Ring any bells?

EDH said...

"Beam me up ScottFree."

Crimso said...

Who or what in tarnation is Murgatroyd?

Amexpat said...

"Skatt" is the Norwegian word for tax. The pronunciation is not far off from the English "Scot".

Leland said...

I just read Clay Travis opinion, in Republicans by Sneakers too of the media's hysteria of Bob McNair use of an idiom, which was also stated incorrectly to the common version. Much of Clay Travis opinion is that an idiom isn't meant to be taken literally, and doing so to be offended is just absurd.

In this case, whether Scott Free or scot-free, the point was made and understood. Then again, the point of taking about how Trump stated something is to avoid the substance of what Trump stated. Why should Cohen not get sentenced jail time? The SDNY raided the POTUS lawyer's office to develop a process crime not worthy of jail time?

tcrosse said...

Jim Gust said...
tcrosse, I think the entire phrase from the Firesign Theatre is "Godfrey Danial, pesky redskins!"


Firesign indeed

Michael McNeil said...

Scotland was named after the Roman name — Scoti — for the Irish, whose Gaelic-speaking people colonized what's now Scotland during about the 5th century AD, forming the Kingdom of Alba which later became known by the name of its (formerly) Irish people.

Mike Sylwester said...
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Mike Sylwester said...

I grew up in Seward, Nebraska. At that time, the population was about 5,000. About a third of the kids attended a Lutheran elementary school and about two-thirds attended the public elementary school.

A big difference between the two sets of kids is that the Lutheran-school kids generally used only minced oaths, whereas the public-school kids used the vulgar swear words.

I myself socialized with the public-school kids only in the summer, when all of us boys played Pony League baseball together. I was constantly amazed by the public-school boys' casual swearing.

It was not just that I myself did not use such words. While spending time with Lutheran-school kids, I rarely heard anybody at all talk like that.

AllenS said...

Well, Althouse, you ask who is Scott Free? According to People Finders, there are 99 people named Scott Free.

Char Char Binks said...

Scat means shit, and shit means shot. After all, we shoot the shit, figuratively when we talk nonsense, or of inconsequential matters, and literally when we shoot shit out of our bodies, like a shot from a gun.

Char Char Binks said...

I wonder if Sam Hill is related to Samhain.

William said...

Shit is more often used in a metaphorical rather than a literal sense. I'd like to see a comedy skit on SNL where Hillary because of the ravages of age loses control of her bowels and bladder while delivering one of her expensive talks.. The stench becomes overwhelming. Some attendees pass out and others start vomiting, but no one leaves or even complains because all there are committed to the proposition that Hillary's shit don't stink. Thus we see shit used in both its metaphorical and literal sense, and the humor inherent in the situation points to a profound truth about human nature and the perils of extensive Hillary worship.

Bill Crawford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hagar said...

Skot is dialect or "New Norwegian" for the noun shot. Skatt means tax or treasure as the German schatz.
The verb to shoot is skyte, pronounced "shyte" with y as in system but longer and no k sound.

(And likewise, there is no k or ø sound in Kirsten!)

Mike Sylwester said...

In the Slavic languages, the word skot means livestock.

Wilbur said...

Branch Rickey was known for the minced oath "Judas Priest!"

Bill Crawford said...

Sam Hill built a copy of Stonehenge in Maryhill, WA

Chuck said...

Althouse why would you wonder what Scott Adams will say about this episode of Trump's ongoing butchery of the language? Everyone knows what Adams will say; that this is Trump employing his Mastery of Persuasion. That because Adams is a trained magician/hypnotist/cartoonist, he is uniquely qualified to let us know that Trump is communicating in ways that are so effective, it requires Scott Adams to explain it.

There; I saved you twenty minutes. You're welcome. Now you can enjoy some delicious coffee.

Seriously; what I know is that if a New York Times columnist made this error, you'd have been picking apart in the way that you just did, but with the intended message that New York Times columnists are shockingly incompetent. Trump does it, and you find it all oh-so-fascinating-and-especially-so-with-Scott Adams-and-some-delicious-coffee.

AllenS said...

William, Crooked Hillary is still having coughing fits. Someday, she'll cough so hard that she will shit her pants. I can hardly wait. It will prove to be more embarrassing than Daddy Bush throwing up on the Japanese dude.

Comanche Voter said...

Pesky Redskins were dispatched by the Eagles last night.

Darrell said...

Chuck is Scott Free.
And Scott Free is a fuckhead.
I'm thankful that Trump pointed it out.

Howard said...

What in the Tar Nation is the fuss about?

Chuck said...

To the Althouse commentariat:

Michael Cohen has not pled guilty to "process crimes."

Cohen pled guilty (in August) to five counts of income tax evasion, for five different tax years while working for and at the direction of Trump. He pled guilty to one count of making false statements in connection with a bank loan (again in connection with activities on behalf of Trump). And he pled guilty to two counts of federal election campaign law violations, also while acting on behalf of Trump.

In the plea agreement for Cohen, he recited in open court that one payment was “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and the other was made “under direction of the same candidate.”

What we also know is that at the time, attorney Cohen had three clients; Trump, Sean Hannity and Elliott Broidy. Only Trump was "a candidate for federal office."

johnhenry100 said...

Yancey,

If this was the only time I might agree it was an error.

It's about the ten thousandth time though and I think he doez it on purpose.

Would we even know what he tweeted much less be talking about it if he had said scot-free?

John Henry

Danno said...

Also, doesn't Trump tweet from his phone? Probably has auto-correct mucking things up.

narciso said...

yes I blame autocucumber, how much time would some one serve for each of those charges, the current set, arise from statements, that do not involve the president, as paul sperry points out. Mueller's minions have a history of malpractice,

Darrell said...

Scott Free are the tissues without dyes, perfumes, or moisturizers.
Trump uses those, I'm sure. He just can't endorse them--emollients clause and all.

Ficta said...

For me, Scott Free capitalized means "Mister Miracle", a superhero with a maximum Jack Kirby backstory. Seriously, I thought about summarizing it and decided, nah, you can just go read it on Wikipedia; it's totally nuts.

narciso said...

even stranger than captain marvel, yes they don't want anyone looking at this travismockasham, fueled by fusion and crowdstrike, down in central America, there is a similar witchhunt, with the bitkov's being pursued by cigic, an ostensibly independent organization, which only targets right of center elements,

Infinite Monkeys said...

I wonder if Sam Hill is related to Samhain.

Then we'd pronounce "Sam Hill" as "Sow Will".

PM said...

Also the name of Ridley Scott's production company, which I'm sure is anything but 'free'.

johnhenry100 said...

Shouldn't Scot-free be capitalized?

"Scot" is a proper noun

John Henry

narciso said...

so apparently Omidyar, the franco Persian tycoon behind the intercept, is behind the ostensible center right never trump troubadours,

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Since the majority of people on the internet don't seem to understand the difference between:

literally or figuratively
there, their, they're
who's whose
your you're
seem seam
phase phaze
when to use I or me in a sentence

and much more, I'm giving Trump a pass on capitalization issues.

We know what he means and what he is saying :-)

narciso said...

and long before, there was the resistance to any actual anti soviet operations,


https://amgreatness.com/2018/12/03/from-bush-to-trump-the-hard-left-deep-state-alliance-endures/

Ken B said...

Explain to me how full length articles about spelling errors in tweets keep democracy from dying in darkness.
This is fake news, doubly so since I don’t believe the reporter put this together without google. She is pretending to a knowledge she doesn’t actually have to imply an intellectual superiority she also doesn’t have.

Mike B said...

"WWG1WGA"

Where we go one, we go all is an identification of "Q". Th phrase was used in the movie "White Squall"

Scott Free Productions is a British film and television production company founded by filmmakers and brothers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott. They formed the feature film development company Percy Main Productions in 1980, naming the company after the English village Percy Main, where their father grew up.

Scott Free has produced films ranging from the 2000 Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator (2000) to "smaller pictures" like Cracks (2009). Between productions of WHITE SQUALL (1996) and G.I. Jane (1997), Ridley Scott reorganised the company.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Free_Productions

White Squall, Where We Go One We Go All

madAsHell said...

Scott Free?!?!

He's trolling. You're repeating his message because Trump has exercised a little artistic license.

The window is open, and I can hear heads exploding.

Howard said...

Deplorables let Trump off Scot free for Dow tanking: he killed the Obama expansion with trade war

BUMBLE BEE said...

Step away from the bong you two. Who? I know, but I won't tell you!

Ann Althouse said...

""I know I'm picturing Mel Gibson crying "Freedom" while getting disemboweled." No, beheaded."

He is disemboweled first. Also his genitals are burned off. He is conscious for all of that and only beheaded later. Look it up.

Char Char Binks said...

Free at last!

Curious George said...

"He is disemboweled first. Also his genitals are burned off. He is conscious for all of that and only beheaded later. Look it up."

Yes, but when he cries "Freedom" he is being beheaded. Watch the clip you posted.

FullMoon said...

Naturally I associate Scot Free with Smart Alec, who was , indeed, a real person

tcrosse said...

The sea o the sea, it's geal grá mo chroí*,
Long may it roll between England and me.
God help the poor Scotsmen.
They'll never be free
But we're surrounded by water.

JaimeRoberto said...

I always assumed it had something to do with the Scots being notoriously cheap, er, thrifty. It's not just free, it's Scot free.

Jim Gust said...

I stand corrected. I did not know that Firesign stole "Godfrey Daniel" from W.C. Fields.

tolkein said...

I don't understand or agree with the idea that scot as in scot free came from mediaeval norse or arose in in the 14th century
Anglo Saxon laws referred to scot as a tax.

It just means tax free. Nothing to pay. Merriam-Webster has gone down in my estimation.

traditionalguy said...

I heard that Scott Free is actually the brother of Trump's favorite CPA, Tax Free.

Drago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drago said...

Howard: "Deplorables let Trump off Scot free for Dow tanking: he killed the Obama expansion with trade war"

Its almost as if you've never heard of the Federal Reserveor the yield curve.

Drago said...

The Fed insists on signaling more rate hikes to continue fighting non-existent inflation increases....almost as if they are intent on pulling a "Volcker" just in time for the 2020 election....

Drago said...

I guarantee the fed, which kept rates at ZERO for just about the entirety of the obama admin, will set records for rate hikes leading up to 2020....

whitney said...

I was literally looking up all that Sam Hill stuff a couple days ago. I sent it in a text to someone and thought "where did this expression come from"
So strange and random yet fun

Howard said...

Fed set zero rates to respond to the Great Bush Recession. We get that you have to believe that all good is due Trump and any bad is always blamed it on other like Navy SEALs or Secret Service.

0_0 said...

Note that Prison Time is also capitalized.

This is how millenials type on phones. Trump blends in to social media better than any politician I know of.

rcocean said...

I always thought "Scot Free" was a play off the notorious Scottish reputation for being cheap.

Guess I was wrong.

But Trump is a born comedian:

Scott Free = hilarious.

rcocean said...

BTW, I share Trump Random Capitalization fetish.

When tying on the Internet, I have no Idea what words to capitalize.

and I don't Care.

Drago said...

Howard: "Fed set zero rates to respond to the Great Bush Recession."

LOL

So here we have another "when lefty meme's collide" scenario.

According to you, Howard, and every other lefty, obama and the dems had completely rescued the economy.

Completely.

If that was the case, why did the fed only begin raising rates AFTER obama and the dems were voted out?

Oh, right, the economic recovery obama was responsible for just happened to accelerate right about the time the republicans cut taxes, implemented rules for massive repatriation of capital, massively cut stupid dem regulations, etc.

Don't bother answering.

I suspect it won't go well.

Not Sure said...

IIRC Stormy Danilels starred in "Getting Off Scott Free," back when she had a film career

Tom said...

This is some flabberknocking bull hockey!

Bad Lieutenant said...

If you want to understand what a word means, ask someone who knows. From Patrick O'Brian's The Thirteen-Gun Salute (after Jack Aubrey learns that he will be reinstated in the Royal Navy):

It was Lucy, sent to know what the gentlemen chose to eat for supper: Mrs Broad thought a venison pasty and an apple pie would be very lovely. Stephen agreed, but Jack said, 'Heavens, Lucy, I could not eat another thing today. Except perhaps for some of the apple pie, and a little piece of cheese. And Lucy, pray ask Killick to step up, if he is below.'
A moment later Killick appeared, his eyes starting from his head, and Jack said, 'Killick, jump round to Rowley's, will you, and get a new pair of epaulettes. Ship them first thing tomorrow morning and have a hackney-coach waiting at half past eight. I have an appointment at the Admiralty. Here is some money.'

'So it's all right, sir?' cried Killick, his shrewish face suffused with triumph. He held lout his hand and said, 'If I may make so bold. Give you joy, sir, give you joy with all my heart. But I knew it would be - I said so all along - ha, ha, ha! I told 'em all, it will be all right, mates. Ha, ha, ha! That'll learn the buggers.'

'Speaking of food,' said Stephen, 'will you come to Black's and dine with Sir Joseph and me and Mr Fox tomorrow at half five? That is to say, in your dialect, at half past four?'

'If I am through with the Admiralty by then, I should be very happy.'

'This is not an invitation, Aubrey; you are still a member, and must pay your share.'

'I know I am, and very handsome it was in the committee to write to me so; but I
had sworn never to set foot in the place until I was reinstated. And the Gazette will be out tomorrow, ha, ha. I shall pay my scot with the greatest pleasure.'

Howard said...

Drago's expert on the dismal "science" .

James Sarver said...

"Who is Scott Free" can be used to express the more complex idea of a two-tiered system of justice and hostile administrative/security state weaponized only against conservatives. Kinda like "Who is John Galt".

mikee said...

Today on reddit.com a post exhibited the word "fucktangular" to describe a situation that was complicated and messy in multiple unpleasant and difficult ways.

The word was coined in a school essay by a student.
And thus is the English language enriched yet again by kids saying the darnedest things, with a hat tip to Art Linkletter.

https://www.reddit.com/r/WhitePeopleTwitter/comments/a33h34/a_new_word_is_born/