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Scotch down

Posted by James Briggs on December 05, 2008 at 12:23

In Reply to: Scotch down posted by ESC on December 04, 2008 at 22:53:

: : : : : : : : I grew up in rural southeastern Virginia. Many of the older men would use the term "scotch down" as a substitute for "hunker down". For example, when I would hunt with them, they would say, "Go over to that bush and scotch down while I drive the animal your way." I can't find references to the phrase "scotch down". I have read that "hunker" is based on Scottish. Perhaps these facts tie together? Any info on the "scotch down" phrase would be appreciated.

: : : : : : : The Oxford English Dictionary had no helpful definitions of the verb, to scotch. However, the well-known verb, to scooch (down), seems like what you want. According to the OED, it means "To crouch or stoop (chiefly with down). Also: to fit oneself into a small or crowded space; to squeeze in."

: : : : : : : The OED considers it as originally an American colloquialism, and cites, as its first example, "1858 Atlantic Monthly Sept. 421/2 She scooched down on the floor and pulled my two hands away, and looked me in the face."

: : : : : : : I first heard the expression from my wife, who was raised in Philadelphia and uses it freely. So I suppose it must be fairly common.

: : : : : : : As for the origin of the word, the OED speculates that it may be a variant of scouch or scrooch or crouch or scoot, which may or may not be helpful. It does seem that "scooch" is used exactly as you indicate "scotch" is used.
: : : : : : : SS

: : : : : : 'Scooch' is also used as a noun meaning a small amount, like a 'tad'. ("More gravy?" "Just a scooch.")

: : : : : : As a verb 'scooch' often signifies to make a small movement or adjustment, as when trying to add oneself to an already crowded couch - "Scooch over." - and everyone shifts a little.

: : : : : The noun meaning a small amount is SKOSH from the Japanese 'sukoshi' (not even related to scooch).

: : : : Interesting if true. What does the Japanese 'sukoshi' mean? How old is it in Japanese? And when did it make its way into American spoken-English? (Whichever one made it first, I suspect the coincidence of sound between 'sukoshi' and 'scooch' is what clinched the colloquialism.) - Bac.

: : : Skosh is skO-sh not skoo-tch. I have no resources to determine the age of Japanese words, but it came into English in the early 50's by troops on R and R in Japan from the Korean War. I don't think the "similarity" is that great (since you thought they were the same word, they may seem more similar to you than to others).

: : DARE has several meanings for "scotch." To prevent (a wheel for example) from moving by use of a chock, to block or obstruct, to hold oneself immobile, to help out or provide assistance, and a horse straddling or splaying out his legs or digging his feet into the ground. "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume IV by Joan Houston Hall (2002, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England). Page 793-794. I am guessing that scotch down meant to hunker down quietly, hold still.

"Scooch" is not mentioned in my 1947 Dictionary of American Slang.