Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Mar 23 03:33:43 UTC 2003

>>At 1:57 AM -0500 3/22/03, Douglas G. Wilson wrote about "skedaddle":
>>... Anyone out there know anything more about this word?
>Don't really *know* anything much, but there is no reason why "skedaddle"
>shouldn't have predated the Civil War, in Scottish or Irish or other
>dialect. Compare the OED entries for "scuddle", "scuttle", and the Scots
>variant "skiddle" [from "scuddle" probably] in both senses "spill" and
>"scurry" -- parallel to the two senses of "skedaddle". I suppose
>"skedaddle" to be originally a 'fanciful' augmentation of "skiddle" or
>something similar or an amalgam of "scuddle" + "scatter" or something like
>that. As for "scuddle" (in at least one sense), it is *possibly* originally
>a reference to the tail of a fleeing rabbit ("scut").

For a compilation of information on "skedaddle," see my article
"Etymology of Skedaddle and Related Terms," in _Studies in Slang_,
Part I (by Gerald Leonard Cohen), Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang,
1985, pp.29-63.

    On pp. 34-36 of that article I quote several items indicating that
"skedaddle" existed in Scottish and North English dialects already
prior to the Civil War with the meaning "spill, scatter." For
example, the _Atlantic Monthly_, August 1877, pp.233-234:

"...But my English friends lost no time in upsetting my hypothesis
[about "skedaddle" being an American word that cropped up in the
Civil War].  'Why,' they exclaimed, 'we used to live in Lancashire
and heard _skedaddle_ every day of our lives.  It means to scatter,
or drop in a scattering way.  If you run with a basket of potatoes or
apples and keep spilling some of them in an irregular way along the
path, you are said to skedaddle them.  Or if you carry drops of milk
on the stair-carpet, to mark your upward course and awaken the ire of
the housekeeper, you are said to have skedaddled the milk.'

    "This seemed to be conclusive...evidently the Harvard student in
the army of the Potomac did not introduce the word _skedaddle_.  It
was a provincial English word, and probably dragged out an obscure
existence in some corner of our vast country until the time when
somebody applied it in a pat or appropriate way that solicited way
that solicited general attention, and then the word became famous.

Gerald Cohen

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