Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Mask Scam

The word "scam" is a mystery.

Its origin is unknown.

Here's my proposal:

Perhaps it's a cognate of ‘mask.

Our English word mask comes from French masque and Italian mascara, which in turn descend from Medieval Latin masca, witch, specter, another word of uncertain origin. It's also believed to have been influenced by Arabic maskarabuffoon or mockery.’ Alternatively, it may have come from Provençal and Catalan mascarar which meant to blacken the face. By the 1570s, "mask" connoted the figurative meaning "anything used or practiced for disguise or concealment."

[Parenthetically, all these words suggest descent from ancient Hebrew root סך (SC), which means covering, as in succah (hut) or masach (screen). In fact, mask is masecha מסכה in Hebrew. The m is preformative.]

Scam could easily have been a metathesis of masc.

Think about it. Magic, buffoonery, masks. They can all imply an attempt to fool or hide the truth from others.

And scam means to defraud or swindle.

Interestingly, just about every human image that google offered when I searched for "scam" depicted the person in a mask, such as the one featured above. By very definition, "scam" implies a masking of the truth.

So there you have it folks.

Masks are a scam.

Not just conceptually and phonetically, but perhaps etymologically as well.

Don't fall for the scam.

Take off the mask.

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