I expected the feedback on the distinction I recently made between scrooch and scooch to be rougher than it actually was. The most interesting comment came from Lenn Zonder and runs thus:
“I don’t remember ever hearing the word scrooch, and I am now sixty-nine years old. And maybe it is also important to point out I was a newspaper reporter most of my life, talking to and interviewing a great many people, many of them first or second generation immigrants, who spoke slang and colloquialism, and never the King’s English.”
“However, I do recall hearing and using the word scootch many times as a schoolboy. Apparently, without knowing or realizing it, we used scootch to mean both, “scootch over,” or to “scootch down,” as to hide. But the use of the word, at least in the greater New Haven, CT area, seems to have died out. I cannot recall hearing the word or phrase in the past 30-40 years. Maybe it’s an effect of living in a community of learned, Ivy League scholars.”
Well, scooch and scrooch are words slangy enough that learned scholars would tend to eschew them, certainly not master with any sense of pride. The reason I ran them as Good Words is that they are fading in many dialects and are frequently confused in others. As connoisseurs and scholars of American slang (click here for evidence), I wanted to make sure that when our readers are slinging slang the slang they sling is true.
Both scrooch and scooch have been around for hundreds of years and I’m sure every generation confuses, conflates, or mispronounces them given nothing more than that tiny curl of the tongue (R) that separates them. They are separate words, though, with separate origins and distinct meanings.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they shortly meld together but down South, where I come from, I heard them both fifty years ago and still retain a pretty good sense of the distinction. Southern dialects are much more conservative in terms of developing and changing. Moreover, I still hear scooch emerge from the lips of very well-educated people here in Pennsylvania from time to time.