Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/6/14: Scofflaw

The word scofflaw, while often thought to be of ancient origin, was actually created through a contest held in 1921. A wealthy banker in Quincy, MA sponsored a contest offering $200 to anyone who coined a word to describe people who violated Prohibition.  The winning entry met with nearly-universal disapproval, and was satirized in cartoons appearing in the New York Tribune–which ironically gave it a national audience. It largely died out with the end of Prohibition, but was resurrected in the 1950s mainly as a way of labeling those who failed to pay traffic and parking tickets. It still is in use today, but now refers to anyone who habitually violates the law and avoids paying fines.


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