That Damned Elusive Skallewagg

Nathaniel Sharpe nts at BETHLEHEMBOOKS.COM
Mon Jan 7 22:10:52 UTC 2013

Thank you all for your feedback!

Yes, the modern sense has apparently lost much of its original power.
Anatoly Liberman also noted this and appropriately titled his 2009
article "Droll but Harmless: The Word Scallywag"
( It is interesting though that
even some of the earliest users seem to share Jonathan's grandmother's
amusement at the word.

Also, inspired by Joel's comments and Fred's Carpetbagger antedating, I
have started doing some research on the origin of OED's sense 2. My
previous research was mainly pre-Civil War as I figured the second sense
was just a new limb from the same trunk. If this is true, there may be
an obvious branching-off point. I'll let you know what I find.


Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: That Damned Elusive Skallewagg
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Very* interesting finds, Nat, particularly since
> historians stereotypically associate  the word with Reconstruction.
> These examples antedate any I know of by roughly a generation. Your
> language sense is acute.
> The only person I ever heard use the word in more-or-less everyday speech
> was my grandmother, born in NYC in 1888.  She didn't use it much, but when
> she did, she pronounced it "scallywag" with the -y- clearly enunciated.
> She used it only in a weakened sense - much like the modern use of
> "rascal."  A "scallywag" to her was mischievous rather than villainous, and
> the word itself was rather amusing.
> JL

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