scoff / scarf
Posted: 13 May 2016 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was reading Alexandra Churchill’s new book, Black Winter last night.  At one point, one of the characters “scoffs” his food.  Well, I had heard of people “scarfing” their food, but never “scoffing” it.  It made me wonder if it was an ass/arse sort of thing.  WM says that scarf is an alteration of scoff, dating it around 1960.  Is scarf purely an Americanism, or is it found on the right side of the pond as well?  MW also says that scoff is an alteration of dialect scaff, but does not elaborate.  Can anyone tell me more?

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Posted: 13 May 2016 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED2 has scoff, to eat, to eat voraciously, from 1798. It’s from the dialectal scaff, which is recorded as early as 1768.

The OED agrees with M-W that the synonymous sense of scarf is an Americanism dating to 1960. I don’t know if it used elsewhere, but my guess would be that it’s by far the most common of these words here in Leftpondia. (I’m not going to attempt any corpus search. There are too many alternative senses for the same spellings and sorting the wheat from the chaff would be a major project.)

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Posted: 13 May 2016 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I can’t recall seeing scarf in that sense over here in Blighty. Scoff, OTOH, in the sense to eat voraciously is common. I always associate it with the Owl of the Remove, Master William Bunter.

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Posted: 13 May 2016 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks, Dave.  I definitely understand your reluctance to do a corpus search considering the multiple meanings of both scoff and scarf.  When they say “dialectal scaff”, do you have any idea what dialect they are referring to?

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Posted: 13 May 2016 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The OED isn’t specific—they rarely are with English dialects. Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary (1905) says Scotland and the Orkneys. The OED usually says if its Scottish. It may have wider range into the north of England. Wright has scaff as a noun meaning food, provision, and a as a verb, meaning to eat.

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Posted: 15 May 2016 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The Scottish National Dictionary has it:

SCOFF, v.1, n. Also scuff; scowf, scouf(f), skowf(f) (ne.Sc.). For the dipthong cf. O, letter, 2. (2) (v). [skɔf, skʌuf]

I. v. 1. To swallow (food or drink) quickly, to gulp down, toss off. Gen.Sc.
Abd. 1826 D. Anderson Poems 8:
Ye ranted wi’ them and scuff’d aff their wine.
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb v.:
Hoot, min, dinna spull the gweed, clean, halesome water — skowff’t oop!
Arg. 1917 A. W. Blue Quay Head Tryst 42:
Suppose we’re scoffin’ up hot pies at the Fair.
Abd. 1918 J. Mitchell Bydand 13:
An’ meetin’ wi’ a drouthie freen They scouft a gless or twa.
Bnff. 1924 Swatches o’ Hamespun 40:
Scouff’t aff, min.

2. To filch, steal, plunder, sponge (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., scowf; Ags., Fif., Lth., Slk. 1969). Also in Eng. slang.
Lnk. 1885 J. Hamilton Poems 147:
On the fiel’s o’ brairdin’ wheat Comes scouffin’ doun the hungry craws.
Mry. 1922 Swatches o’ Hamespun 68:
Tho’ dark as mirk he scouft an oor An’ dockt me ane in twenty-four.

II. n. A large draught of liquor (Bnff. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 277).

[Now in gen. slang use but orig. dial. in various parts of Eng. and Scot. Appar. a variant of Scaff, v.1, of Du. orig. The mod. Eng. slang form prob. derives directly from Afrikaans. O.Sc. scoff, to scrounge, 1689.]

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Posted: 16 May 2016 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks Dave, lh.

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Posted: 22 May 2016 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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’Scoff” is also used as a noun in BrE, both in the general sense “food” - “very good scoff at this restaurant” - and “meal” - “We went back to his house for a scoff”.

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Posted: 22 May 2016 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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From A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue:

Scaff, Skaff, v. Also: scaffe; scoff. [Cf. MFlem. schaeuen to beg importunately, to sponge (Bense).] tr. and intr. To obtain (something) by begging or scrounging; to beg or ask for in a cringing, importunate or bullying manner. — tr. Dunb. Flyt. 133.
He sayis, thow skaffis and beggis mair beir and aitis Nor any cripill in Karrik land abowt;
1620 Calderwood VII 424.
I purpose not to scaffe my meete at my cheese, nor am I now to learn at Doctor Lindsay;
1667 Aberd. Council Lett. IV 298.
The saids provest [etc.] … oblegis them … to caus restraine all extrainier or former touns posts to scaff or carie leters from this brughe;
— (b) 1689 Reg. Privy C. 3 Ser. XIV 98.
The petitioner haveing hade nothing … to live upon but what he scoffed and begged by way of charitie;

The only food sense is the one I’ve highlighted.  The verb scoff is even older, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.

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Posted: 28 May 2016 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The verb scoff is even older, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.

The Scandinavian word skaffe/skaffa is today mainly, if not exclusively, used aboard ships and means to eat
The origin supposedly being an older Dutch word schaffen meaning to prepare a table for dinner or decorating food on plates before being served at a table.

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Posted: 28 May 2016 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ratatosk - 28 May 2016 11:01 AM

The verb scoff is even older, perhaps of Scandinavian origin.

The Scandinavian word skaffe/skaffa is today mainly, if not exclusively, used aboard ships and means to eat
The origin supposedly being an older Dutch word schaffen meaning to prepare a table for dinner or decorating food on plates before being served at a table.

Odd that you should mention that, a couple of days ago I was going to post a reply here about the Dutch verb ‘schaffen’ - and its present remnant, ‘schaftijd’, or ‘time for a (food) break’. Normally heard when working outside.

But I thought it was just another West Germanic - in this case Dutch - example of an older verb meaning ‘eat’. But now you suggest a connection vehicle… Perhaps indeed it spread thanks to the Dutch navy? They certainly gave rise to a bunch of other nautical terms and vocabulary as I am sure all here are aware.

So thanks for that!

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