The word scratch came up
several times during today’s show,the result of the observation that it abounds
in multiple meanings. The word seems to have come from similar words in Old
Scandinavian and Germanic dialects.
As a verb, it has gone
through a succession of meanings since the 15th century.
with claws of fingernails in a superficial manner
to use claws
or fingernails as an offensive weapon
without doing serious injury
to make only
slight progress (‘that market has barely
furrow soil for cultivation
light incisions on a surface
earth with claws or fingernails
to make money
through with difficulty
fiercely to obtain
to remove a
name from a list or a horse from a race
to refuse an
to move a
pen over paper with a slight noise
or write carelessly
checks or banknotes
to make a
penalty-incurring stroke, as in billiards
As a noun, many of the
actions described above are transformed into names. So there’s a tearing of the
skin, a shallow incision, a mark, a sketch, a trivial fight, a shot that incurs
a penalty, and so on. But there’s also a disease of horses, slang for paper
money, a position with no advantage or favorable odds, and a hiss heard when a
record is played. It’s also a name for the devil (Old Scratch), probably because he was often pictured with claws.
As an adjective, it may
be used to describe an impromptu selection of teammates for a game, a
hastily-assembled work crew, a vote that does not reflect the actual will of a
constituency or deliberative body, or a golfer with a handicap of 0 or below.
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