"scarf down"

Hello everyone,

Someone at worked just used "I will do the task after I scarf down my lunch." I have heard this "scarf down" phrase often. Does anyone know where it comes from? It does not make sense although I know what it means. Maybe a little etymological lesson will clarify this.

Thanks,
Drei
 
  • rsweet

    Senior Member
    English, North America
    Interesting question! I found a source that shows this meaning of scarf to be a variant of "scoff" [from 1840s] meaning "to eat voraciously." "Scoff" is thought to be a variant of "scaff," which dates back to the 16th century.
     
    Hello everyone,

    Someone at worked just used "I will do the task after I scarf down my lunch." I have heard this "scarf down" phrase often. Does anyone know where it comes from? It does not make sense although I know what it means. Maybe a little etymological lesson will clarify this.

    Thanks,
    Drei
    I've never heard of this, Drei. However, I guessed its meaning immediately.


    [Origin: 1955–60, Americanism; var. of scoff2, with r inserted prob. through r-dialect speakers' mistaking the underlying vowel as an r-less ar
    ]
    This etymological explanation is from Dictionary.com.

    LRV
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It's not "scarf" it is just "scoff", no varient of "scarf" - maybe the accent made it sound like that, but it is just "scoff"
    I can guarantee you that there are many, many people who say "scarf down", not "scoff down" and it's not an accent issue. :) I've been saying it since the 70s. It's a common casual phrase for eating quickly, at least in California. Friends of mine who have moved here from other states also seem to recognize and use "scarf down."

    Here is a Google search that shows it in context:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GFRC_enUS207US208&q=%22scarf+down%22
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Could it be to do with the US pronunciation of "scoff" which I imagine is "scarf"?

    LRV
    Odd... I would think it more likely that BE speakers of certain dialects (like Cockney) would say "scarf" for "scoff' (as "harf" for "half" or "arse" for "ass") than for it to be an AE variation.

    "Scoff" is pronounced just like "off" with an "sk" sound in front of it. I can't think of any American dialect that would shift "off" to "arf".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Confirming LRV's definition, the OED defines scarf in this sense as a US slang variant of scoff.
    The pronunciation given is non-rhotic, similar to scoff but with a different vowel sound - but then the AE pronunciation of scoff is perhaps not that different from the BE pronunciation of scarf.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Confirming LRV's definition, the OED defines scarf in this sense as a US slang variant of scoff.
    The pronunciation given is non-rhotic, similar to scoff but with a different vowel sound - but then the AE pronunciation of scoff is perhaps not that different from the BE pronunciation of scarf.
    Ah, I see! Yes, a person with a Boston accent might say, "skahf" for "scarf." I hadn't thought of it that way. I don't know of anyone who would say "scarrrf" for "scoff", though. We don't add R's, as a rule; we just over-pronounce the ones we already have. :)
     
    Ah, I see! Yes, a person with a Boston accent might say, "skahf" for "scarf." I hadn't thought of it that way. I don't know of anyone who would say "scarrrf" for "scoff", though. We don't add R's, as a rule; we just over-pronounce the ones we already have. :)
    The person saying this phrase today clearly pronounced the word the same way as one would pronounce the article of clothing used in winter time "scarf".

    In the same vein, 9 out of 10 people say "flush out" instead of the correct "flesh out". One day I myself had to look it up to discover that it is "flesh out". My boss says "flush out". Where are we, the WC?

    Drei
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The person saying this phrase today clearly pronounced the word the same way as one would pronounce the article of clothing used in winter time "scarf".
    Yes, I"m not saying that the phrase is not "scarf down". I think what Panj was suggesting is that somehow "scarf" migrated from "scoff". I was trying to picture how it would happen. Now that I think more about it, though, I don't think a Bostonian would say "scahf" for "scoff". It would be a darker sound, since they still have a difference between the two sounds. Never mind my ramblings. :)

    In the same vein, 9 out of 10 people say "flush out" instead of the correct "flesh out". One day I myself had to look it up to discover that it is "flesh out". My boss says "flush out". Where are we, the WC?
    It's not my experience that 9 out of 10 people say "flush out" instead of "flesh out."
     
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