Scam
Posted: 25 November 2017 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The origin of scam, (meaning, trick, ruse, fraudulent scheme) is obscure or unknown; it might be related to British scamp, a cheater, a swindler.  OED has it first cited in 1963, but it seems that there are much earlier entries.

OED does not cite different definitions for the word, such as scam meaning to hurt, shame, also meaning to stain; spot or scorch.

Looking up shame in the OED, it seems that the word is a cognate of ME scam.
Forms:  α. OE scamu, sceamu, OE–ME scame, ME same, ME seame, ME scam,ssame, ME, 15 Sc. scham, ME, 15–16 Sc. schame, (ME chame), Sc. schaym(e, ME, 15 sham, 15 Sc. schamme, scheyme, ( schaheme), ME– shame. β. OE scomu, scomo,sceomu, ME scome, ME sceome, some, ME scheome, schom, ME schome,shome.(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  http://www.oed.com/frequencybandinformation/6
Etymology: Common Germanic: Old English sc(e)amu, sc(e)ǫmu, corresponds to Old Frisian scome, Old Saxon skama, Middle Dutch schame (modern Dutch schaam- in compounds), Old High German scama (Middle High German, modern German scham), Old Norse skǫmm with unexplained gemination (Swedish, Danish skam), Gothic *skama(inferred from the derivative skaman (reflexive) to be ashamed) < Germanic *skamō.
From the Germanic root *skam- are also Old High German scant ashamed ( < *skamdo- ), Gothic skanda , Old High German scanda (German schande ) feminine, disgrace, Old English scand (masculine), infamous man, scand (feminine), infamous woman, disgrace, scęndan ( < *skamdjan ) SHEND v.1

There are a few entries recorded in the CHAE that predate the OED’s:

1840: ,” traitor, take thy rest! Ha!—are those scars, that scam thy aged breast?—And didst thou think’ those poor dumb wounds would…”
1892: “faker, that is, a con man who runs a fraudulent lotion and cream scam; “ George Reeder, proprietor of an intelligence office, “ who is literate…”
1958: “ also was critical of the Assistant to the President for declining to testify.’ Scam Verdict’ “ I’d say it’s a Scotch verdict: not proven,..”

Not certain if all of these are related to fraud, trick, swindle…

Another hypothesis is that it derives from the word, escamotage, which is not recorded in all dictionaries. I doubt the legitimacy.

What say you??

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Posted: 26 November 2017 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Looking up shame in the OED, it seems that the word is a cognate of ME scam.

No it doesn’t; what makes you say that?

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Posted: 26 November 2017 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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languagehat - 26 November 2017 07:01 AM

Looking up shame in the OED, it seems that the word is a cognate of ME scam.

No it doesn’t; what makes you say that?

Because it might be of Scandinavian origin which translate to scam.

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Posted: 26 November 2017 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Where do you get the idea that scam is of Scandinavian origin? As far as I know, it’s a plain “origin unknown,” appearing in the mid-20th century. It’s not at all cognate with shame. A superficial resemblance with an old form does not a cognate make.

(Also, what is CHAE? I don’t know what to make of those citations without knowing what source you’re referring to.)

Green’s has this for a first citation:

1944 [US] D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 201: By this time I figure out what the scamus is.

I don’t trust Green’s breakout of the senses. This one is under “plan, scheme,” but this entry doesn’t seem to be well put together.

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Posted: 26 November 2017 06:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 26 November 2017 02:50 PM

Where do you get the idea that scam is of Scandinavian origin?

From my Websters New International Dictionary(second edition) . It reads: ”Scam (skam), n.&v.t. [“Prob. of Scand. origin; cf. ON. skömm a hurt, shame, Sw. dial. skamm evil. See shame.] “

As far as I know, it’s a plain “origin unknown,” appearing in the mid-20th century. It’s not at all cognate with shame. A superficial resemblance with an old form does not a cognate make

.

(Also, what is CHAE?

Corpus of historical of American English, I should have written, COHA, sorry. Also keep in mind, shame translates to skam in Swedish.

[ Edited: 26 November 2017 07:24 PM by Logophile ]
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Posted: 27 November 2017 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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From my Websters New International Dictionary(second edition) .

Webster’s second is from 1934. At over eighty years old, I wouldn’t trust its etymologies. Merriam-Webster is now saying “origin unknown,” as does American Heritage and the OED (1982).

As for the COHA hits, there are a lot of what appear to be OCR errors in there. Although, the 1892 Henry James citation appears to be on point. I’d like to see that in an actual edition of the book before declaring it to be genuine. Full hit:

Date 1892
Title A Change of Heart
Author James, Henry, 1843-1916
Source A Change of Heart
Expanded context:  (Problems with text?)

lyrics from their earlier songs, brought in other composers to assemble a script that combined low comedy, ethnic jokes, and references to current social and political events. The names of the characters are drawn from minstrelsy. Reading through the program, one meets Shylock Homestead, a detective of sorts, whose name is certainly derived from Sherlock Holmes, the most famous fictional detective of the day. “ Dr. Straight (in name only), street fakir, “ who is a faker, that is, a con man who runs a fraudulent lotion and cream scam; “ George Reeder, proprietor of an intelligence office, “ who is literate (a reader) and can sift through official documents; “ Leather, a bootblack, “ and so on. During the opening scene, Dr. Straight is attempting to persuade the crowd that his products, “ Straightaline “ and “ Oblicutucus, “ are the best hair straighteners and skin lighteners, respectively, on earth.

This reads as if it’s from an introduction to the play, which may have been written much later. That’s why you need to always actually look at the book.

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Posted: 27 November 2017 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Webster’s second is from 1934. At over eighty years old, I wouldn’t trust its etymologies. Merriam-Webster is now saying “origin unknown,” as does American Heritage and the OED (1982).

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t discount it; again shame in English translates to Skam in Swedish. Webster defines it as such.

OED says, origin obscure, and its first entry for scam is 1963, but it seems there were much earlier references.

When he wins all hands know it at the next liberty and Jack and his friends have trouble in toeing a scam, but Lord!

With the Battle Fleet” by Franklin Matthews

This is the yarn he told me
As we sat in Casey’s Bar,
That Rooshun mug who scammed from the jug
In the Land of the Crimson Star;
That Soviet guy with the single eye,
And the face like a flaming scar.

The Ballad Of Lenin’s Tomb” by Robert W Service

With the Battle Fleet was published in 1907-08
The Ballad of Lenin’s Tomb around 1930

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Posted: 28 November 2017 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Some interesting discussions on The Better Editor:

https://thebettereditor.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/its-a-scam-history-and-origin-of-the-word-scam/

https://thebettereditor.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/is-the-origin-of-scam-a-scam-itself/

No solutions. Just some fun reading.

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Posted: 28 November 2017 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Nevertheless, I wouldn’t discount it

That’s precisely the reason why you should discount it. Knowledge advances. We know more than what we did in 1934. If the editors at M-W today, presumably looking at the same, original evidence plus new information, come to a different conclusion than their predecessors—and every other major dictionary agrees with them—that’s pretty firm evidence that the 1934 editors were wrong.

The Matthews poem is an interesting hit, but it’s not in the same sense as the most common use of scam (a swindle) today. Just looking at some of these older citations, I’m wondering if the modern use isn’t a variation on skim. Just a thought, I haven’t fully investigated it, and it will take a major effort to do so. There are a lot of subtle, and perhaps indeterminate, differences in sense floating about.

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Posted: 28 November 2017 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dave Wilton - 28 November 2017 06:29 AM

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t discount it

That’s precisely the reason why you should discount it. Knowledge advances. We know more than what we did in 1934. If the editors at M-W today, presumably looking at the same, original evidence plus new information, come to a different conclusion than their predecessors—and every other major dictionary agrees with them—that’s pretty firm evidence that the 1934 editors were wrong.

The Matthews poem is an interesting hit, but it’s not in the same sense as the most common use of scam (a swindle) today. Just looking at some of these older citations, I’m wondering if the modern use isn’t a variation on skim. Just a thought, I haven’t fully investigated it, and it will take a major effort to do so. There are a lot of subtle, and perhaps indeterminate, differences in sense floating about.

I agree, thanks.

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