Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another Name for Ne’er-do-wells

A nugget I stumbled upon accidentally: The word scofflaw came into the English lexicon as the result of a contest. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
scofflaw: 1924, from scoff (q.v.) + law. The winning entry in a national contest during Prohibition to coin a word to characterize a person who drinks illegally, chosen from more than 25,000 entries; the $200 winning prize was split between two contestants who sent in the word separately, Henry Irving Dale and Miss Kate L. Butler. Other similar attempts did not stick, cf. pitilacker (1926), winning entry in Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals contest to establish a scolding word for one who is cruel to animals (submitted by Mrs. M. McIlvaine Bready of Mickleton, N.J.).
So good on you, Mr. Dale and Miss Butler. Way to leave your mark on your language, if less so on the anti-alcohol movement.

1 comment:

  1. I love that word! I think I put it in my second novel...