Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What the Scrut?

Sometimes in life, we encounter local or regional words that perfectly convey a concept to those who adopted the words into their vernacular at a young age, but utterly baffle those who encounter the words for the first time as an adult. As a service to my throngs of imaginary readers, we discuss one of those words today, and highlight the mystery of its derivation.

I introduce you to "scrut". It's a short word that is similarly defined in my two primary reference sources for words of central Maine origin (The Purington's Unabridged Dictionary and The Balsamo's Revised Desk Reference for Editors), but shows different derivations as noted below. This modern day literary conundrum has wrought tortured academic debate, flabbergasted the media, and spawned nick-names across wide swaths of Franklin County.


a person with no dire need who requests to share another person’s personal resources for the sole purpose of their own satisfaction.

the act of requesting, in the absence of dire need, to share another person’s personal resources for the sole purpose of one's own satisfaction.

ORIGIN: mid 16th cent.: via Old English from Central Maine

DERIVATION (Purington's): ‘scrounge’ + ‘art’ incorporating local dialect of de-emphasizing an “r” that trails a vowel. Scrounge: seek to obtain (something, typically food or money) at the expense or through the generosity of others. Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

DERIVATION (Balsamo's): ‘scruffy’ + ‘rat’. Scruffy: shabby and untidy or dirty. Rat: rodent that resembles a large mouse and is known for its proclivity to hoard or (informal) a person regarded as despicable.

Personally, I find Purington's derivation more compelling in terms of the actual definition, but Balsamo's derivation is more closely related to the final form of the new word. The truth may never be known.

Until next time, let the debate rage and keep an eye out for scruts (tip: they often materialize around pizza).


  1. Anonymous3/19/2009

    There is a verifiable need in the English language for this word, as there is no other one syllable utterance that aptly captures the essence of those who are (the noun form) and those who do (the verb form) infringe upon the resources of others

  2. I'd love to see a similar analysis on the well known Maine terms "frig" and "dub".... I'll check back soon.....

  3. Anonymous3/27/2009

    I couple other words I like to use: "stove" and "puckerbrush"?
    Especially as you move up to northern maine, you "stove" up your truck when you drove it into the "puckerbrush". Being curious, I googled "puckerbrush" only to have the 1st reference be "puckerbrush farm" newburgh...maine. "Balsamo stove up his arm when he fell into the puckerbrush while delivering newspapers" . JD