One who scoffs at the local laws. Often interchangeable with 'riff-raff'. A great word (or at least I think so) just because the two words which make it tend to conflict in pronounciation.

One who mocks the law

The history of this word is most unusual, in that it was coined as the result of a competition in 1924, during the American Prohibition era. A prize of $200 was offered by the teetotal banker Delcevare King for a word to suitably describe "a lawless drinker of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor".

The joint winners of the competition were Henry Irving Dale and Kate L Butler, chosen from (allegedly) 25,000 entries.

H. L. Mencken, in his book The American Language said that "the word came into immediate currency, and survived until the collapse of Prohibition". Its use has continued with a different meaning, and is nowadays used to refer to one who "habitually violates the law or fails to answer court summonses". According to schist "it's a common word here in New York", so New Yorkers (and perhaps others) have Kate and Henry to thank for the enrichment of their vocabulary!



As a sideline, I also discovered a cocktail recipe for a "Scofflaw" during my researches:

1 ounce Whisky
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce lemon juice
Dash of grenadine
Dash of orange bitters
Stir ingredients with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge. Share and Enjoy.

I wonder if the competition winners celebrated with one?


More information at:
http://uk.cambridge.org/elt/newsletter/edgeways/languageevolution.htm
http://www.worldwidewords.org
http://www.drinkboy.com/

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