Scot free, or Scott free?
Dec 01, 2013 | 1178 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SOMETIMES in tracing the origin of a familiar saying we might go down the wrong trail. That is, to assume what, to us seems obvious, but turns out not to be true. Notice our caption is: “Scot free, or Scott free?” There are three different explanation of how the term came about. One is during the days of slavery in our nation a black man by the name of Dred Scott, who was born in the United States in Virginia in 1799, sought up through the Supreme Court in 1857 to gain his freedom, but was continually turned down. Later the family who was his slave masters set him free. With that in mind some look no further for the origin of the expression. If that had been the origin of the expression then it would be: “Scott free.”

A second explanation and probably the one more people believe was its origin has to do with the people of Scotland. The Scotsmen were not spend-thrifts! They are known to be very careful of how they spend their money. In relationship to this believed origin some understand correctly that the term has something to do with taxes. Hence they assume it meant when someone of Scotland got out of paying his taxes then he was “Scot free.”

HOWEVER, it turns out that neither of those supposed origins were the correct one. The word “Scot,” as used in that expression is derived from the Scandinavian word “Skat” which pertained to tax or its payment. The British borrowed the word as “scot” of redistributing taxes as far back as the 10th century. Hence it is “scot free,” not “Scott free.”

“Scot free” has come to mean getting away with something; without having to pay, or to escape punishment.

Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)
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