Scuttlebutt, now where exactly did this word come from?
In the 1800’s, scuttlebutt was the name given to the fresh water supply aboard a ship. The water cask had a hole cut in it for the dipper or cup to ladle the water out (called a skuttle). The butt means barrel, which is the same as cask of water.
Sailors gathered around the water supply to talk about the goings on of the day. Today, mainly in the
this is slang for the latest rumors and gossip.
People gather around the water cooler at work to get the latest scuttlebutt.
Now, what about scallywag?
The dictionary says this is usually a child who behaves badly. However, a scallywag can also be an undersized, scraggy and ill-fed animal of little value. No one knows which came first: “a mean man” or “a worthless animal.”
The word scallywag did crop up in medieval times with several different types of spelling depending on the region. But the word was first used in western
New York in the US. It’s unclear what country of immigrants
brought the word to America.
Back after the Civil War the word swept across the country to mean native white, southern Republicans who gained during reconstruction. As a result, scallywags couldn’t be confused with carpetbaggers, northern men who came south after the war for economic, political and other reasons.
Later the word shifted to mean any politician that was corrupt, but has softened somewhat today.
Scally is widely used in north-west
especially around Liverpool, to describe a
young person, usually male, who is boisterous, disruptive and irresponsible. Usually the “lovable rogue” was less than
honest, but their crimes were minor and lacked malice.
Today scallywag means “charming scoundrel,” “scamp,” or “rascal” often used by admiring, doting mothers to describe a mischievous child.
So, there you are. Have you taken part in any scuttlebutt or called someone a scallywag?