Origin of Words & Phrases

I was watching a quiz show recently where as an aside they discussed the origin and meaning of a well-known phrase.

In Anglo-Saxon England, also know as ye Dark Ages…


Ye Dark Ages

…a tax was levied called ‘Scot and Lot’ – the ‘scot’ part comes from Old English sceot (payment). But not all members of the community had to pay it, and those people came to be described as being scot free.

So it’s nothing to do with Scotsmen

Scotsmen getting off free

Scotsmen getting off free

And sorry, America, but it’s also nothing to do with Dred Scott, a slave who once got off something or other a long time ago – but nowhere near as long ago as ye Dark Ages


Dred Scott getting off something but not in ye Dark Ages

Like many old phrases its meaning has altered somewhat, in that it now tends to imply getting away with something that one is actually guilty of, whereas the original idea was that you were legally free of an obligation to pay.


About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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