[Ads-l] Skuldugger (1855)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 25 14:11:44 EDT 2021

I'm a little surprised that "skuldugger" -- and similar backformations of
"skulduggery" (e.g., "skulldugger") -- isn't in the OED or in

Yet here it is, dating back at least to 1855, when "skulduggery"
flourished in Minnesota and elsewhere. I should note that the term
persisted well into the 20th century (and likely into the 21st).

-- Bonnie


As hitherto, we shall expose wrong wherever it may exist, believing that
the interests of the whole People is paramount to the interests or ambition
of greedy politicians, and if we are sustained in our course, as we believe
we shall be, political parties must and will become more respectable, for
as fast as old, trickey [sic], skullduggers are laid on the shelf, as of
them have been and will be, new and better men will take their places, and
to this end, God hasten the day.

(From "Enlargement," The Minnesota Weekly Times [Saint Paul], 12 June 1855,
p. 1.)



(From The Western Argus [Wyandotte, KS], 16 September 1858, p. 2, column 4.)


The publisher of the Register was in this Caucus; also the writer of the
article which asks if the "dear people have not some rights." -- Put
practice and profession together, and then judge of these county saving
patriots. -- Out upon such "skulduggers."

(From "Mere 'Patriotism'," a letter to the editor, The Sioux City [IA]
Eagle, 30 July 1859, p. 4.)


Enter Mr. Fogy, walking backwards and forwards in the parlors of church and
State, where Rascality is concocted by Swindlers and Sculduggers.

(From "Greatest Invention of the Age," The Wyandotte [KS] Gazette, 29
November 1862, p. 1.)


It is amiably relieving the people of all control over their most vital
matters, and giving it into the hands of political stock gamblers and

(From "From Washington," The Muscatine [IA] Weekly Journal, 4 September
1863, p. 1. A preface to the article notes "Correspondence of the Daily


It thus results that Blowhard, Gusty, Windy, Shyster, Nincompoop,
Sculdugger, Kleptomauiac [sic] and Squire Feebleminded are the nominees of
the Reform party, and while they, of course, ensmall our rightful majority,
they are elected to office.

(From "Turn out to the Primaries To-Night," The Daily Kansas Tribune
[Lawrence], 10 September 1874, p. 4.


The Republicans declared it was Democratic trickery, and the Democrats
swore it was some Republican skuldugger, but the matter of who did it, is
yet in the dark, as is the object it was intended to accomplish.

(From "Brevities," The People [Indianapolis, IN], 8 May 1875, p. 1.


Most people are led (if they are blind) to believe in an early education of
their children, but for my part I do and shall oppose it with both hands
and feet, and I know I am right, and I would rather be right than President
and have common skullduggers make a shooting gallery of me.

(From "Early Education," an advertisement in The Indianapolis News, 7
September 1881, p. 4.)

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

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