Puzzling Antedating of "Scofflaw"

Sun Jan 23 23:22:59 UTC 2011

        Misdated in the original, I believe.  The date at the top is
"Sunday Morning, January 27, 1923," but January 27 fell on a Saturday in
1923.  It's odd, because the 1923 dating appears on every page, but
there are internal references to 1924 events.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Shapiro, Fred
Sent: Sunday, January 23, 2011 5:38 PM
Subject: Puzzling Antedating of "Scofflaw"

This is a weird one.  One of the outstanding examples of a conscious
coinage of a successful word is "scofflaw."  The OED 's first citation
is from the Boston Herald, Jan. 16, 1924, reporting that "Delcevare King
of Quincy last night announced that  $B!F (Bscofflaw $B!G (B is the
winning word in the contest for the $200 he offered for a word, to
characterize the  $B!F (Blawless drinker $B!G (B of illegally made or
illegally obtained liquor.  $B!F (BScofflaw $B!G (B was chosen from more
than 25,000 words, submitted from all the states and from several
foreign countries. The word was sent by two contestants, so the prize
will be equally divided between Henry Irving Dale $B!E (Band Miss Kate
L. Butler."  There are numerous other newspaper articles reporting this
Jan. 15, 1924 announcement.

But a Newspaperarchive search pulls up an earlier article, seemingly
correctly dated Jan. 27, 1923, from  the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail.
The 1923 article, datelined New York, Jan. 26, states that "The first
meeting of the Royal Order of Scofflaws held here was a staggering
event.  A 'Scofflaw,' as you may know, is a man who ignores the
prohibition law.  A man in Quincy, Mass., offered a prize for a name
which would rebuke bootleg drinkers and Scofflaw won."

It is hard to know what to make of all this, but one hypothesis is that
Delcevare King had a contest that ended with his picking The Word, and
liked it so much that he decided to do it all over again and get more
publicity the second time.

Fred Shapiro
YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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