Ron from Northport asked
about the origin of scot-free. It means without being punished, without
consequences. It often shows up as “he got off scot-free.”
There are at least two
explanations, one a romantic fabrication and one an actual fact.
The fabrication revolves
around a historical figure, Dred Scott. Scott was a slave who sued for his
freedom in 1847. After years of legal maneuvering, his case came before the
Supreme Court. That august body ruled that all people of African ancestry,
whether slave or free, could never become citizens of the United States and
therefore could not sue in federal court.
friends of Scot bought him and then set him and his wife free. Sadly, he died
only nine months later, Scott-free.
The reality is that the
word scot once meant a tax or tribute paid by a feudal tenant to his or her
lord or ruler in proportion to the ability to pay. As one R. Higdon put it in
1425, “Scot, that is the paymente of a certeyne money to the vtilite of the
So if you got off
scot-free, you didn’t have to pay the tax or tribute.
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