Monday, 21 August 2017


Via Nag on the Lake, we not only learn the etymology of the term scofflaw but also how a bar in Paris—a country that’s demonstrated its sensibility previously for not experimenting with government imposed prohibition on alcoholic beverages—took advantage of the ensuing hoopla and stumbled onto buzz-marketing.
A Boston banker and staunch Prohibitionist named Delcevare King, seeing that the experiment was a failing one with the otherwise law abiding flagrantly flouting the law (the constitutional amendment was in force from 1920 until 1933 when it was repealed by a second amendment) and criminal gangs forming to create a lucrative black market, sought to find the perfect derogatory term to shame the misguided into compliance. To that end, King sponsored a contest soliciting the best epithet and enticed over twenty-five thousand entrants with a prize in the form of two hundred dollars-worth of gold—an inconceivable ransom for a wordsmith in 1923 and it made the papers worldwide. King’s efforts to “stab awake the public conscience of law enforcement” choose—over boozeshevik, boozocrat and many others, the neologism scofflaw but was himself made a rather international laughing stock for publicly harbouring such puritanical condemnation. Seizing the opportunity, Harry’s New York bar (an American extract from 1911, shipped to the City of Light) patronised by the expatriate community named a cocktail after the new term. A recipe and review of the Scofflaw can be found at the link above, a clever project linking letters and liquor through history.