Thursday, October 15, 2015



How many ways are there to say to leave? Here are a few that I find intriguing. Interestingly, only the first two come from sources other than American English.

Vamoose comes from the Spanish word vamos & showed up in English in 1834. The Spanish word translates to let us go & comes from the Proto-Indo-European word wadh- through Latin. Wadh-‘s progeny include the word wade.

Since 1844 English speakers have been able to shove off, a term born in the British boating world.

The classic American cop shows of our youth often included the theifly imperative Cheese it man, it’s the cops! Cheese it means stop, hide, quit, be quiet, or get out of here. Nobody’s sure where cheese it came from, but at least one etymologist has suggested it may have come from the word cease.

1950s westerns gave us the phrase, Get out of Dodge, meaning leave town, as so many westerns were based in Dodge City, Kansas, & there was seldom enough room in Dodge City into which a protagonist & antagonist might wedge themselves.

In 1928 the word scram materialized in American English. Its source is unclear. It may have been derived from scramble or it may have descended from the German word schramm, which means to depart.

Another American English term, to make tracks, showed up in 1835, meaning to move quickly.

Skedaddle also comes from American English & has an unknown source. It appeared in 1861 meaning to run away & was a form of military slang during the Civil War. Possible but unproven sources include scaddle, a dialectical English word meaning scare or frighten, & a Northern English dialectical word which meant to spill. Continuing in the uncertain parentage vein skedaddle may or may not have spawned the 1905 word skidoo, meaning to leave in a hurry, a word nearly always associated with the number twenty-three for no reason anyone has yet discerned.

Here’s hoping you’ll add a comment or two about all this in the comments section. Me? I’ve got to scram.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline,, the OED.


  1. I was hoping you'd have found a theory on the 23 skidoo thing. Such a very strange saying, and apparently meaningless. Skedaddle is mysterious too--but such a fun word.

    I don't think I've ever heard the cheese it phrase. To me Cheez-it means those orange stryrofoamy snack objects that taste almost, but not quite, like food.

    The scram-schramm connection makes perfect sense.

  2. Hi Anne - thanks for coming by. I'm with you on the 23 Skidoo thing. I had always assumed it had to do with the year 1923 -- graduating class, political contest? And it does seem weird they can't nail down something that looks as obvious as scram/schramm.

  3. I need to use the phrase, "Cheese it, man!" in casual conversation as soon as possible. As always, great post!

  4. This might be a phrase you could use when pushing Jack in a stroller through the neighborhood when the longwinded Mrs. Hussenfuss comes bustling out of her house to give you a piece of her mind.

  5. I've never heard "cheese it" either. But, it would be fun to use. My mom used skedaddle all the time. And I mean ALL the time, seeing as I have 6 siblings. We did a lot of skedaddling!