Great Scott
Share it!               

When was the phrase first used? A familiar old inoffensive exclamation, popular in the second half of the 1800’s and the early 1900’s was possibly a substitution for saying Great G-d. The phrase was also resurrected in 1985 by Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown character in the first Back to the Future movie. Previously, in 1971 the largest lunar sample brought back to earth was named Great Scott after the mission commander David Scott. But where did the term originate?

The phrase is generally associated with two specific “Scotts”: Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and, US general Winfield Scott, also known as Old Fuss and Feathers.

An explicit connection of Sir Walter Scott’s name is found in a poem published 15 August 1871, on the 100th anniversary of Scott’s birth: Whose wild free charms, he chanted forth Great Scott! When shall we see thy like again? Great Scott!

Apparently Mark Twain held Sir Walter in distain as indicated by his repeated use of the phrase in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). And in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), where he names a sinking boat the Walter Scott.

The phrase also appears in a 3 May1864 diary entry by Private Robert Knox Sneden (Eye of the Storm: a Civil War Odyssey)

“Great Scott,” who would have thought that this would be the destiny of the Union Volunteer in 1861.

Maybe one of the historical characters you read about will use the time-honored words. In my next novel, my heroine Una McLaren, is a Scottish immigrant. While she doesn’t utter the phase, I think she qualifies as being a Great Scott!

Check out my current western Undercover Outlaw winner of The Beverley Award.