6 June 2017

How did that come around? – To get away “scot free”

I was reading a social discourse which talked about a certain category of folks getting away “scot free”. Which got me thinking about where could this phrase possible have come from. Of course, it means to “get away without penalty or unpunished” but how do you put a Scot in that?

Some amount of research showed that actually, this has nothing to do with the Scots. Apparently, “scot” refers to taxes. Specifically, 12th century England municipal taxes. And the Anglo Saxon word was “sceot”. But there were similar words at that time – Swedish “scatt”, Danish “scat”, Icelandic “scattur” – all meaning tax. In fact as recently as in 1921, the US Senate Committee on Finance hearings transcripts read “[The common laborer]He is scot free at 40 cents an hour”.

So “scot free” meant escaping without taxation. And all of us agree taxation is an unnecessary punishment 🙂

And that is how “scot free” came around to mean “get away without penalty”.