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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Word

The original scalawag

A young word sleuth’s ancestor was being insulted before the insult was in the dictionary

A scalawag, the dictionaries tell us, is a rascal, a reprobate, a scamp, a scoundrel.

Now imagine that you’re researching one of your ancestors and you discover that not only was he called a “scalawag,” but he’s actually key to understanding how the epithet came about in the first place.

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