scam from scheme/schema

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Tue Dec 19 15:22:36 UTC 2006

I've wondered several times if "scam" might be related to the French
"escamoteur", which magicians use as a synonym for prestidigitator or
conjurer.  (I don't speak French, so for all I know, "escamoteur" isn't
even a real word).

> OED scam n. and v. (trick, etc.) from 1963 and n. (info,
> etc.) from 1964 "slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.)...Origin obscure"
> AmerHerD 3rd "Orig. unknown"
> Websters 3rd NID 1981 and Random House 1971 lack the word.
> Via google-books, a 1966 citation; I have not seen a paper
> copy, but this appears to be a valid 1966 date; e.g., WordCat
> lists a matching title and description with 329 pages.
> Criminal Laws and Procedures: Hearings Before the
> Subcommittee on Criminal Laws and Procedures...... By United
> States. Congress. Senate. Judiciary 1966 329 p.
> p.206:
> Although federal agencies investigated about 1000 suspicious
> bankruptcies in
> 1964 and 1965, only 89 convictions resulted. Moreover, only
> one of the convictions involved a scam mastermind. [new par.]
> The Justice Department feels, however, that top scam
> operators can be convicted if legistation sponsored by
> Senators John McClellan of Arkansas [....]
> Page 204:
> Called "scam" operations by the Mafia (from the carnival
> jargon for "scheme") planned bankruptcies may today be the
> underworld's largest single [....]
> [Or: from Italian, schema]


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