scoot(er)ing

From two weeks ago, this report from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on an exchange between her and her daughter, Opal:

Me: Now you can just scoot down the block!

Opal: Mom! You said ‘scoot’!

Me: Yes?

Opal: You didn’t say ‘scooter down the block’, you said ‘scoot down the block’!

Me: Isn’t that what you do on a scooter? Scoot?

Opal: No! You scooter on a scooter! You scoot on a scoot. (rides off, singing ‘Scooter on a scooter! Scoot on a scoo-ooot!”)

Elizabeth was treating the noun scooter as a derivative in –er from the verb scoot ‘move swiftly’, while Opal (not seeing the verb as connected to scooter — in the way she fails, not unreasonably, to connect sweat and sweater) creates a verb scooter ‘use a scooter’ by verbing the noun directly.

“You scoot on a scoot” looks like it has a nouning of the verb scoot, though I’m not sure what sort of object Opal thinks a scoot is; maybe it’s just the result of morphological reasoning-by-analogy.

For those of you who are etymologically inclined, here’s a quick tour of relevant material from OED2.

(1) scoot v.1 [etymology not entirely certain for these senses]

3. slang or colloq.

a. To go suddenly and swiftly, to dart; to go away hurriedly. Often with advs.

The (? originally nautical) slang word, written scout and prob. pronounced /skaʊt/ , seems to have become obsolete early in the 19th c. The modern scoot was app. imported into general British use from the U.S.

The (? originally nautical) slang word, written scout and prob. pronounced /skaʊt/ , seems to have become obsolete early in the 19th c. The modern scoot was app. imported into general British use from the U.S.

[cites from 1758 on]

b. trans. To move or convey suddenly or swiftly.

[cites from 1905 on]

(2) scooter n. [from scoot v.1 + -er]

1. One who ‘scoots’ or goes hurriedly.

[19th-c. cites]

4. [various uses for fast boats, propelled by sails or motors (in full, sea scooter, water scooter)]

5.

a. A child’s toy consisting of a footboard mounted between two tandem wheels with a long handle attached to the front wheel, operated by resting one foot on the footboard while pushing with the other and steering by the handle.

[cites from 1919 on]

b. [motor scooter]

(3) scooter v. [from the n.; so Opal wasn’t the first to go the verbing route]

intr. To travel by scooter (senses 4, and 5).

[cites from 1909 and 1957, for the n. scootering from 1957 on]

(4) scoot v.2. Colloq. abbrev. [that is, back-formation from] scooter v. [so meaning ‘use a scooter’]

1951    N. Mitford Blessing i. vii. 72   The happy crowd of scooting, skating children in the Tuileries gardens.

1962    A. Huxley Island ix. 140   ‘Scooters are going to become a major political issue.’ Vijaya laughed. ‘To scoot or not to scoot, that is the question.’‥‘Wherever I’ve been‥they’ve opted wholeheartedly for scooting.’

Scoot on, or scooter on, whichever suits you!

3 Responses to “scoot(er)ing”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    Sk- is sufficiently 2-Dimensional phonosemantically to countenance a “scoot” object not unlike a scooter — something that moves along a plane, so that even though Opal might not know what one is exactly, she seems confident that such things, with such names and such verbs to describe their use, can exist.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Eleanor Houck on Facebook, some possible genuine illumination:

    Eleanor wrote: “You CAN Skuut on a Skuut. http://www.facebook.com/l/63239/www.skuut.com Our grandkids have one!”

    Oh, Skuut!

    (Eleanor’s grandkids are Opal’s third cousins, by the way.)

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