Great Scott!

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Nov 18 13:55:49 UTC 2002

In a message dated 11/18/02 6:51:05 AM Eastern Standard Time,
TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG writes:

> "Great-Scott!" he gasped in his stupefaction, using the name of the
>  then commander-in-chief for an oath, as officers sometimes did in
>  those days. [The Galaxy; Volume 12, Issue 1; July 1871; p53]
>  "Scott, Great!" a curious euphemistic oath, in which the name of a
>  well-known general is substituted for the original word, probably
>  merely because of its monosyllabic form. ("Great Scott! I'd rather
>  give my name to a horticultural triumph like that there, than be
>  Senator." Lippincott's Magazine, March 1871, p1. 289.)
>  [Americanisms; the English of the New world; Maximilian Schele De
>  Vere; 1872; p630.]
>  So it might seem to be originally an American expression. Questions:
>  Which well-known general could this be? And does this seem reasonable
>  as the origin?

Winfield Scott (1786-1866), who I believe had the title of
"commander-in-chief" of the US Army at the beginning of the Civil War and for
some years prior to that.

While his fame was eclipsed by that of many Civil War generals, he was very
famous  during the middle of the 19th Century as one of the two generals who
won the Mexican War (the other was Zachary Taylor, who used his fame to
become President in 1849).

Taylor was "Old Rough and Ready".  Scott had the less enviable nickname of
"Old Fuss and Feathers".

Your first quote refers to the "then commander-in-chief."  Is it possible to
figure out the date in which the "officer" was swearing?  If so, then would
it match the dates in which Scott was Commander-in-Chief?

        - James A. Landau
          systems engineer
          FAA Technical Center (ACB-510/BCI)
          Atlantic City Int'l Airport NJ 08405 USA

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