Printable Version
Pronunciation: skor Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To notch, tally, cut or scratch a line on something. 2. To make a point in an athletic competition, as 'to score 15 points in a basketball game. 3. To succeed in obtaining something difficult to obtain, as 'to score some dope', especially love-making with someone of the opposite sex.

Notes: The last meaning has an interesting history. Baseball hall-of-famer Lou Gehrig played first base. His wife was a song writer who wrote a song in the 30s called "I can't get to first base with you". The song implied the lack of success in attracting the affection of someone of the opposite sex. The title of the song itself has become idiomatic in the sense of failure to achieve something. The logical extension of this sentiment was that if you hit a home run and scored, you had success in achieving something difficult to do.

In Play: The original sense of score was "to cut": "The French, whose life expectancy is longer than Americans', score their pork roasts in order to lard them." The latest meaning may be illustrated thus: "Phil Anders scored only a kiss from Anna Liza Carr last night."

Word History: Today's Good Word began its life meaning "to cut". Old English scieren, from PIE (s)ker-/(s)kor- "to cut", evolved into shear. Old English probably borrowed its scoru from Old Norwegian skor "notch, twenty", the language of the Vikings. Cutting notches was a way of keeping count of things in years gone by. The Germanic languages tended to keep Fickle Ss. Greek and Latin did not, so we find Greek keirein "to cut" and Latin curtus "short, shortened". The assumption is that in counting sheep, one notch equaled 20 sheep. In Old French, Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Breton, and non-IE Basque, the word for "twenty" came to be used as the base of their numbering system, as in Old French vint et doze "32", dous vinz et diz "50".

Dr. Goodword,

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