[Ads-l] Skedaddle, skedaddling (incremental antedating to 1858?; 1859)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 16 19:40:40 UTC 2021


I grew up near McGregor, Iowa. I feature the giant fiberglass pink elephant in McGregor in my post about the origin of "pink elephants."  It stood prominently on a hill, visible to cars crossing from Wisconsin into Iowa.

The Ringling brothers moved to McGregor in 1860.
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Tuesday, March 16, 2021 12:23:03 PM
Subject: Skedaddle, skedaddling (incremental antedating to 1858?; 1859)

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Subject:      Skedaddle, skedaddling (incremental antedating to 1858?; 1859)

"Skedaddle" and variants have come up on the list before, with John Baker
pushing this back to December, 1859. See his post and follow-ups:
(BTW, OED still shows as its earliest example one from 1861.)

1) Here's something from McGregor, Iowa, in the fall of 1858, which
suggests that a form of "skedaddle" was at least in place there. I'm not
sure what "we will make it 'Skeedaddle'" means in the first text, though
"Skeedaddle" is, according to the second, clearly a nickname for someone
named Harrington. So, "we will make it 'Skeedaddle'" is obviously some sort
of wordplay. (I wish "Skeedaddle" here meant "scatter," but does it seem to
imply "appear"?)


We were trout fishing last week and had a "gel--orious" time but our
columns are too crowded now to do justice to the trip -- Sawyer & Co will
please hold their poles till our next issue -- "Jim Wing" will be
immortalised and Wauzeka made classic ground -- if our pen does not fail
us, we will make it "Skeedaddle". Saywer will please have that picture
interred. [From "Fishing," The Weekly North Iowa Times (McGregor), 20
October 1858, p. 2.]

Not long since it was our good fortune to accompany a few friends on a
little tour of exploration in Crawford Co., Wisconsin. There were Clark,
the "Doc." and "Squatter Sovereignty" alias Sawyer, of Prairie du Chien,
and "Skeedaddle" or Harrington and the writer, of McGregor. [From "A
Fishing Trip," The Weekly North Iowa Times (McGregor), 27 October 1858, p.

(The newspaper also mentions "'Skeedaddle,' alias Harrington" in its 16
February 1859 issue, p. 2).


2) We've touched on an anecdote about "a Hoosier, an awful ugly man," which
ends in "You'd oughter seen that gang skedaddle." It's this sketch that had
brought us the earliest appearance of the word, in December, 1859. (John
Baker's post again:

Note, though, that this anecdote seems to have been first published at
least as early as 1 December 1849 (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania), so a decade
earlier, though there the last line reads,

"You oughter'a seen that gang scatter."

The "scatter" form persists in printings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana,
Wisconsin, Vermont, and New York until 1851. (The anecdote also sometimes
appeared without that final punchline, so no "you ought to have seen that
gang scatter." This truncated version appeared in an 1857 issue of "Yankee
Notions" as well, which may be of interest to Peter Reitan.)

In the summer of 1859, the tale seems to have reemerged, appearing in
newspapers in California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maine, at least,
still with the "scatter" punchline in place.

But the versions printed in The Sioux City [Iowa] Register on 11 August
1859 and in The Red Wing [Minnesota] Sentinel two days later have
substituted "skedaddle" for "scatter." (So, this is the same telling John
Baker shared with us.)

The anecdote appears again, however, with "scatter" back in place in Ohio,
Iowa, and Wisconsin in August and September, until The Bucyrus [Ohio]
Weekly Journal (10 September 1859) uses "skedaddle" in place of "scatter."

It's hard to know where this anecdote's "skedaddle" came from, whether its
placement was original to someone at the Sioux City paper, who simply
removed "scatter" from the piece he was about to print and substituted
"skedaddle," or whether it had already appeared elsewhere with "skedaddle"
for "scatter." Someone, somewhere, sometime, though, made the substitution,
perhaps for humorous effect. (I mean, "skedaddle" sounds funnier to me than
"scatter" does. And I doubt the original form featured "skedaddle," with a
decade's worth of editors changing the word to "scatter" until Sioux City
slipped up.)

3) "Skedaddling" (verb).

(I include it not only because it's early, but also because that to me it
gives a sense of barreling in and not so much fleeing or retreating.)

On Friday last a freight car belonging to a downward bound train on the
Illinois Central Railroad took fire about eight miles north of the city,
and came "skedaddling" in all ablaze. It was taken to the water tank and
subjected to a pour bath, which soon extinguished the flames. [From "An
Urgent Call," The Daily Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), 22 September
1859, p. 2. The Pantagraph credits "Kankakee Gazette, 15th" for this piece,
so presumably it appeared just a week before in that Illinois newspaper.]

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