Date: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 18:05:54 EST


Subject: Scofflaw

The word of the year for 1924 should have been "scofflaw." It's an

Americanism that nicely illustrates both American history and how we create

some of our words.

AMERICA IN SO MANY WORDS has "brainstorm" for 1924; that word was

popularized by the Harry K. Thaw murder trial in 1907 and doesn't deserve to

be there! Tom Dalzell wanted "hootch" and "bootlegger" for his SLANG OF SIN,

but would be wise to include "scofflaw" with those two.

"Scofflaw" has a special importance to me because I work in New York

City's Parking Violations Bureau--where researching this, working eight

exemplary years, solving the nickname of New York City, and having my parents

die entitles me to be treated like subhuman slime!

Anyway, here goes:

2 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 1, cols. 3-4.

Contestants Pour in Words to Fit

Man Who Drinks When Law Forbids

The contest for the $200 offered by Delcevare King of Quincy for a single

word which in his opinion best applies to a liquor drinker who knowingly and

maliciously violates the prohibition law, closed last night. Mr. King said he

had received thousands of words from contestants from all parts of the country

and probably will be unable to make a final selection before tomorrow night.

All words sent in letters that were postmarked before midnight last night

were eligible to be placed in competition, and in the huge stacks of mail he

received during the past few days words were submitted from every state in the

Union and many foreign countries.

Delcevare King, son of Mr. and Mrs. Theophilus King, is an officer of

several business organizations and prominent in Anti-Saloon League and

Y.M.C.A. activities. He advertised that he would pay $200 for a word, in good

use or coined, "which best expresses the idea of lawless drinker, menace,

scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of 'scab' or slacker."

Among the "words" submitted are the following: Vatt, still, scut, sluf,

curd, canker, scrub, scuttler, dreg, drag, dipsic, boozlaac, alcolog,

barnacle, slime-slopper, ell-shiner, still-whacker, sluch-licker, sink,

smooth, lawlessite, bottle-yegger, crimer, alcoloom, hooch-sniper, cellar-

sifter, rum-rough, high-boozer, and law-loose-liquor-lover.

It is Mr. King's hope that the word that he selects will be so

opprobrious and soul stirring that the liquor law violators will hang their

heads in shame, promise themselves not to drink any more and, perhaps, even

persuade their lawless friends to do likewise. He admits that if he finds a

word that will acoomplish a reformation ofthe steady drinkers, it will indeed

be a powerful word. But he says it is worth many times $200 to him to arouse

the public to serious thought regarding violations of the prohibition law.

10 January 1924, Harvard Lampoon, pg. 269, cols. 1-2.

5000 Seek Prize in Rum Word Contest

After wading through 5000 letters and 20,000 words submitted from every

one of the forty-eight states and many foreign countries in the "rum word"

contest, Delcevare King, of Quincy, last night halted long enough to state

that the response had been "quite overwhelming."

Mr. King offered $200 for a word "which shall stab awake the conscience

ofthe drinker of liquor, illegally made or illegally obtained, and stab awake

the public conscience to the fact that such lawless drinking is, in the words

of President Harding, a menace to the republic itself."


"Wanted: A Hundred Dollar Word"

Dear "Billingsgate," will you attend,

And your vocabulary lend?

A "hundred-dollar word" I seek

Just vile enough so I may speak,

To brand the man who dares to breathe,

A liberty he may conceive,

Was born when Forbears sternly spoke,

To rend for aye the tyrant's yoke.

The brand of Cain shall be as naught,

When I my special word have "bought,"

And stamped upon the man whose breath

Reveals the taint that leads to death.

Poor Judas did it with a kiss,

And all the world his name now hiss;

But mine shall be a word so vile,

That Scavengers will turn and smile.

The victim's soul shall burn with shame,

When he shall hear that odious name;

Society shall curse his tears,

And taunt him with that "word" and jeers.

I realize how I shall gloat

When I have got that poor soul's "goat,"

The press shall shout with every line,

Bold Delcevare! A "King" divine!

16 January 1924, NY World, pg. 1, cols. 5-6.



BOSTON, Jan. 15.--A word chosen from more than 25,000 suggestions as the

one best calculated "to stab awake the conscience of the lawless drinker" was

announced to-night by Delcevare King of Quincy--who offered a prize of $200

for the most suitable epithet. The word is


The donor of the prize and his two associate judges of contributions from

forty-eight States and several foreign countries divided the prize between two

contestants who proposed this word--Henry Irving Shaw of Shawsheen Village and

Miss Kate L. Butler of Dorchester, Mass.

The Rev. E. Talmadge Root, Chairman ofthe New England Citizenship

Conference for Law Enforcement, and A. J. Davis, Regional Superintendent for

the Anti-Saloon League, were the other judges.

King has offered another $200 for the best statement, of not more than

100 words, as to the reason why the drinker of liquor made or obtained

illegally should be known as a "scofflaw."

16 January 1924, NY World, pg. 13, cols. 2-4.

"Broadcasting Skofflaw" cartoon.

A man at a bar uses the "pass word"--"SKOFFLAW."

Two men clink beers (7%) to "SKOFFLAW."

A cuckoo clock chimes, "SKOFFLAW! SKOFFLAW! SKOFFLAW!" A man says it's

"Time for another."

A train conductor declares, "SKOFFLAW! SKOFFLAW! SKOFFLAW AND POINTS


A man hits his thumb and curses, "SKOFFLAW! SKOFFLAW! SON OF A

SKOFFLAW!" "Why Henry, such language!"

A mini-dictionary illustrates Skofflaw, Skofflawing, and Skofflawed.

17 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 16, col. 4.

It can hardly have escaped the "Scofflaw" contestants that the esteemed

Roget's Thesaurus lists eleven words under "sobriety" and 160 odd under


17 January 1924, NY Times, pg. 14, col. 6.

Sufficiently Ugly, if That's All.

"Scofflaw" is the word that has won, among many hundreds offered in

competition, a two-hundred-dolalr prize as fittest for application to the

patrons of bootleggers, and most likely to give them the pain they deserve.

Perhaps it will serve, though it lacks the merit of coming trippingly from the

tongue, and, at least when first heard, is a sound with little or no meaning.

Carefully considered, the term becomes significant enough, and, as

intended, it may turn the more or most sensitive sinners from their evil ways.

Its weakness lies in the fact that said sinners will not be startled nor

abashed at being told that they do what they never have tried to conceal, and

they will ask to have it proved that they who scoff at one law necessarily and

inevitably are scoffers at all law.

There will be some danger in the indiscriminate use of "scofflaw," and in

most cases it will be wise to acoompany it with a smile.

17 January 1924, NY Tribune, pg. 12, col. 3.

A Feeble Stab.

It is much easier to manufacture synthetic rubies than synthetic slang.

The prize contest for a word "to stab awake the conscience of the lawless

drinker" has enriched the language with "scofflaw"! This grotesque compound

is not likely to leave a trail of bleeding consciences.

To feel its feebleness put it alongside specimens of the real thing that

just grew--roughneck, highbrow, boob, jazz, hootch, hoodlum, and so on. Words

like these were not produced by competition and couldn't be. If George Ade,

Finley Peter Dunne, Mark Twain and Artemus Ward were to collaborate they might

be able to invent a pricklier noun than scofflaw, but the chances would be

against it. Slang and poets are born, not made, and the unknown geniuses who

coin catchwords do so in inspired moments, never by malice aforethought.

The authors of "scofflaw" distilled their scorn of the lawless drinker in

this epithet for the reward of $200. An exorbitant price, perhaps, but could

$50,000 have extracted anything better? Mr. Bok provided a magnificent

stimulus to the highest thinking on the most mementous of world problems, and

the net result thus far in the opinion of many is as disappointing

as"scofflaw." The artificial word, the artificial peace plan, is bound to

fall short ofthe flattering hope. Mr. Bok, to be sure, entertained no false

expectations of a miracle. He was out to set people to thinking and talking

of peace, and he succeeded--something very different from trying to buy a

stroke of original genius.

Few things not purely mechanical, it seems, can be made to order. How

many attempts to procure a satisfactory national song have been futile? Where

is "the great American novel"? These will come spontaneously when they do

arrive. The lawless drinkers, some of them, would have humor enough to toast

the coiners of "scofflaw" if the word hit. Somebody, very likely a

bootlegger, will hit on the right word yet, and it will get into the common

speech without costing anybody a cent.

col. 4.

One trouble with "scofflaw" is it sounds too much like something served

under the head of "German home cooking."

17 January 1924, NY American, pg. 26, col. 2.


SCOFFLAW is a newly invented word that won a two-hundred dollar prize

offered by Delcevare King, of Quincy, Mass., for an epithet that would sting

the lawless drinker with society's contempt.

Will it work?

A mild-mannered darky, fond of the cup that cheers, was repeatedly haled

before a judge who at last asked him sternly: "Haven't I told you, Sam, after

you have had one drink to ask for sarsaparilla?"

Sam replied: "Yeh, boss, but after I'se had one drink ah cain't say


A word to the wise is sufficient, But even this dreadful word "scofflaw"

is hardly one to deter the crazy purchasers of poison chances in the bootleg


17 January 1924, NY World, "The Conning Tower" by Franklin P. Adams, pg. 13,

col. 1.

It strikes us that the man who got $200 for inventing Scofflaw as a word

to make the lawless drinker wince and writhe is a good deal of a profiteer.

Probably a scofflaw's little boy is a scornstatute.

18 January 1924, NY World

pg. 10, col. 6.



To the Editor of the World:

The gentleman who has striven, at some financial sacrifice, to fasten an

opprobrious epithet on a considerable and largely respectable body of his

fellow-citizens is hardly to be congratulated on the choice of "scofflaw,"

which has been announced as the "best" epithet submitted in the competition.

This attempt at a new word contains a flaw--in two senses. The first is

obvious; the second is that "scofflaw" is capable of being defined in more

than one way. No doubt many citizens will adopt a definition something

likethe following: "Scofflaw--One who scoffs at the idea of a flaw in the

glorious Constitution of the United States as it existed in the year 1919."

By the proper use of a hyphen this meaning may be made a little clearer.


Roselle, N. J., Jan. 16.

"The Conning Tower" by Franklin P. Adams, pg. 11, col. 1.


I want to be a scofflaw

And with the scofflaws stand;

A brand upon my forehead

A handcuff on my hand.

I want to be a scofflaw,

For since I went to school,

I hate to mind an order,

I _hate_ to keep a rule.

C. W.

pg. 15, cols. 2-4.

"Hocus-Pocus" cartoon.

"SCOFFLAW!" a dry accuses a wet, who, on his knees, pleads, "NO, NO,


A dry gets on a lamppost outside a drug store and shouts "SCOFFLAW!"

The dry navy cranks up "SCOFFLAW" on the Victrola and destroys other


The word "SCOFFLAW" is also sucessfully usued by "border defenses" with

"long range phongraphs."

18 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 8, cols. 3-5.

"IF SCOFFLAWS, WHY NOT THESE?" cartoon by Collier.

Illustrated are the terms Scofficer, Scoffelroad, Scoffincometax,

Scofflattire, Scoffornet Player, Scoffalate Train, Scofforator (To a sleeping

audience, he orates "I shall detain you but an hour longer."), Scoffurance.

A child in the last panel says, "A guy who thinks he kin make folkses

drink soft drinks by callin 'em hard names is a optimist. Now they got uh

name fre drinkers they shud orter offer anuther prize t' git people t' use


19 January 1924, NY Herald, pg. 1, col. 5.

Woman Offers $100 Prize

for 'Scofflaw' Antonym

NEW HAVEN, Jan. 18.--A prize of $100 for the best antonym for "scofflaw"

was offered today by Mrs. Rose R. Scott of Saugatuck.

"I will pay $100," she said, "for the best coined word that will in

effect mean one who scoffs at the God given privileges of liberty and the

pursuit of happiness."

19 January 1924, NY Sun and Globe, "The Sun DIal," pg. 8, col. 4.

King John's English.

Don't you think it might be a good plan to compile a Dictionary of

Prohibition to supplement "Scofflaw?" If you do, here is my first suggestion:

GINGRATE--One who scoffs at your synthetic gin when it is not contained

in original Gordon Gin bottles with the familiar tissue covering.

ITALGETYER--One who tells you "That stuff will get you one of these days"

as you down three fingers of rare old 1924 Scotch.


And, to continue:

HIPPLER--One with a significant bulge under his coattails.

JUNIPER--In modern mythology, the god of gin.

MOURNMORN--One who is always ready to have "just one more" and then not

go home.

19 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 1, cols. 5-7.


A drunk goes "Scoff! Scoff!" "in place of the customary 'hic.'"

A male chorus sings, "Here's to good old Yale, Scoff her down...."

A banjo player sings, "Down where the Scoffburger flows..."

A woman at a piano sings, "There's a tavern in the town, in the town; And

there my scofflaw sits him down, sits him down; And scoffs his scoff with

laughter free; An never never thinks of muh!"

A gramophone states, "The next song by Madam Skreetch will be 'Scoff to me

only with thine eyes.'"

20 January 1924, NY Tribune, part 2, pg. 4, col. 4.

"Scofflaw," the prize word chosen to denominate prohibition drinkers,

sounds a little too much like a horse laugh to be exactly withering.

21 January 1924, NY World, "The Conning Tower" by Franklin P. Adams, pg. 9,

col. 1.

An announcement comes from Preferred Pictures Corp. to the effect that

that organization is about to begin work on a production to be called "The

Adorable Scofflaw." The picture, the announcement concludes, will be released

in the spring. We don't believe it. We don't believe, that is, that it will

be released under that title. For unless we are wrong--and nothing in the

past leads us to suspect we ever could be--by St. Valentine's Day only a few

antiquarians will recall the word.

"I desire to offer a prize," desires Julian Street, "for the best name to

be applied to the kind of Prohibition bigot who, by fighting against light

winds and beer along with hard liquor, created the scofflaw. The prize will

be two hundred lily cups, slightly used." Mr. Street's own suggestions are

Dryfool, Spiggot-Bigot, and Cupcuss.

"I am a scofflaw's wife," telephones Thyra. "My name is Ignordinance."

And T. A. thinks scofflaw's little boy should be nicknamed Buster


Let's all sing, "For he's a jolly good scofflaw."

21 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 13, cols. 2-4.

"CAN 'SCOFFLAW' BE PUT ON THE MARKET?" cartoon by Collier.

Scofflaw is used as the name for a carbureter, in "scofflaw chocolates,"

as a game ("Let's play scofflaw!"), as a term of affection ("Who's 'ittle

scofflaw is 'oo."), but "desperate slogans may require desperate measures"

("Say Scofflaw or I'll slap you!"). Delcevare King declares "You are not

supposed to laugh! This was not gotten up to be a comic!"

Franklin P. Collier's article accompanies his cartoon.

22 January 1924, NY World, pg. 12, col. 2.



Boston, Jan. 21.--The hunt for words as good as "scofflaw" led John Allen

to steal a dictionary, he told Judge Sullivan in Municipal Court to-day prior

to receiving sentence on thirty days in the House of Correction (Must have

been a Random House dictionary--ed.).

Allen said he had become interested in the contest for the best word to

describe a Prohibition violator.

"What's your business?" asked the Clerk of the Court.

"I'm a porter in a near-beer saloon," was the reply.

22 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 16.

col. 2.

The flaw in scofflaw, as compared with scab and skunk, is the lack of

pictorial appeal.

col. 3.


To the Editor of The Herald:

As a constant, inveterate and deeply appreciative lover of the "Collier"

cartoons, permit me to say--after weeping joyfully over the "scofflaw" of this

morning--if I had any pull with the "Hall of Fame" the niche marked "Collier"

would take up all the centre of the place, as a public benefactor. Though the

man who makes people weep tears of joy these days is already among the



232 Summer Street, Boston, Jan. 19.


To the Editor of The Herald:

When Will Shakespeare wrote that "a rose by any other name would smell as

sweet" he knew something. 'Tis not the word, but what the word implies,

imparts the sting and teaches to despise. This latest example of the

fanatical folly of the self-appointed adjusters of the universe--usurpers of

the Creator's power--will fail to convince the sober-minded people of this

country that the subverters of the constitution are less blameworthy than the

so-called "Scofflaws."


89 Wilson street, Norwood, Jan. 20.

23 January 1924, NY World, "The Conning Tower" by Franklin P. Adams, pg. 13,

col. 1.

A small rum-boat, obviously, is a skifflaw.

24 January 1924, NY Sun and Globe, "The Globe Trotter," pg. 22, col. 5.


My neighbor is a scofflaw bold,

He has a scofflaw wife;

Two scofflaws, they, that beat as one

And lead a scofflaw life.

Their neighbors all are scofflaws; 'tis

A scofflaw neighborhood;

At scofflaw parties all consume

As scofflaw drinkers should.

A scofflaw cop is on the beat;

He's on a scofflaw force,

And when he sees a scofflaw fete

He scoffs his share, of course.

It wouldn't do to make arrests

Of scofflaws small or great,

For in the court the scofflaw'd find

A scofflaw magistrate.

So wickedly the scofflaws scoff

In scofflaw homes, cafes--

In scofflaw drug stores, scofflaw inns

And scofflaw cabarets.

26 January 1924, Boston Herald, pg. 10, col. 4.

There is more phonetic punch in the long-dropped term "dram-drinker" than

in a dozen "scofflaws."

30 January 1924, NY Tribune, "The Lantern," pg. 10, col. 5.

"Scoffings" must not be confused with "scofflings." The scoffings are

the eats, whereas scofflings are the drinks of the scofflaw. This note is

just to keep the philologists straight.

31 January 1924, Harvard Lampoon, pg. 297.

THREE guffaws, we're all "Scofflaws."

And proudly do we sing.

This land is free for you and me,

So take away the King.

Three Guffaws and loud applause.

Again this song we sing.

We cringe with shame at such a name?

Nay, nay, away, oh, King!

2 February 1924, Literary Digest, pg. 16, col. 1.

WELL, the prize offered for the new word that would best stab the

conscience of the illegal drinker has been awarded to "scofflaw," and it stabs

harder than we had dared to hope, as it sounds like something warmed over for

luncheon.--_Grand Rapids Press_.

"Scofflaw" suggests that a more effective term to apply to bootleggers

and their patrons would be sixty days.--_Springfield Republican_.

pg. 28, col. 2, "The Lexicographers Easy Chair"

"R. S.," New Haven, Conn.--The sciolist who has informed suffering

humanity that _scoff-law_ is established in the language is evidently a

believer in _sciology_ which, but for its pronunciation, one is almost tempted

in these days of Blue Sky Laws to spell _skyology_.

The word is of very recent coinage, and time and usage alone will

determine whether it be entitled to admission in the dictionaries.

Undoubtedly if it receive general support it will gain admission, but just as

one swallow does not make a summer the mere introduction of a word does not

establish it in the language. No limit can be put upon the number of words

that may be coined at one time or another, for have we not 26 letters in our

alphabet which an enterprising mathematician has calculated can be arranged in

620,448,401,733,239,439,369,000 ways? The genius if language watches over its

welfare, accepts that which is good and rejects all for which it has no use.

2 February 1924, Judge, pg. 15, col. 2.


IN SELECTING the word, "scofflaw," as the one best calculated "to stab

awake the conscience of the lawless drinker," the judges in the recent prize

contest were evidently carried away by the literal meaning of their epithet

and paid little attention to its sound. "Scofflaw," far from stabbing

anything awake, falls upon the ear with a soothing liquidity of sound that

seems a cross between a guffaw and a gurgle. Even its meaning, to the hard-

boiled cohorts of gin who have been used to hearing "outlaw!" and worse hurled

at their heads, suggests not chastisement but chiding. They had been looking

at the very least for a box on the ears and, behold, a tap on the wrist.

But regardless of the value of the epithet, its use by prohibitionists

reminds us of the pot bawling out the kettle. The "scofflaw," as a rule,

respects all law but the one. The 100 per cent prohitionist, on the other

hand, really respects only the one.

21 February 1924, Harvard Lampoon, pg. 12, cols. 1-2.


"Quafflaws" Unanimous Choice in Great _Advocate_ Contest

_Cambridge, Valentine's Day, Leap-year:_ It might as well be announced,

while we have the chance, that the generous, though scoffable, award, of _Dame

Advocate_, has fallen into the clever but modest hands of _Lampy_. Naturally,

the contest has not yet been officially terminated, but we say with unassuming

pride, that it is high time it was.

_Not Aroused by Sums_

Of course, the vast sums sacrificed by _Dame Advocate_ are not the

primary object of _Lampy's_ chaste display of intellect. It is the moral

force--the idea behind the $10 which has led him on to the trough of

achievement. And deeply did he drink!

_"Quafflaws" Is Chosen_

"Quafflaw," that stinging sibilant epithet, so characteristic of a Dry,

is the unanimous choice of the alleged judges. It is alleged that countless

words were sent in. _Dame Advocate_, when interviewed by a LAMPOON reporter,

verified this statement that the alleged words were never counted.

"Only three were kept," she said, in her quaint way. "We kept your

because it was written so neatly, and drew two other by lots. These other

words were 'Dry' and 'Dry.' We eliminated the former as unworthy of teh

competition, and after a short debate came to our unanimous decision that

'Quafflaws' was indeed the word that would best instill shame" (and here her

parched carmine lips quivered), "even to the very mugs of royalty."

_"Quafflaws" Fulfills Conditions_

"Quafflaw" is hosrt. It is popular (see _quaff_ in the dictionary). It

brands relentlessly those who continually drink their fill of laws. It has,

therefore, a burning penetration. Briefly, _Lampy's_ coy and unobstrusive

simplicity has won for him both riches and renown. Now where in the world did

that corkscrew go to?