I was doing a crossword puzzle, and the clue was "Old Scratch." The answer was "Satan." What's the connection? When/where/how did the nickname come about?

I was doing a crossword puzzle, and the clue was "Old Scratch." The answer was "Satan." What's the connection? When/where/how did the nickname come about?

— Steve

It's interesting that you would use the word "nickname," Steve, as "Old Nick" is yet another euphemism for the Horned One. But we digress, as we so often do here at the Since You Asked Department of Etymology.

"Old Scratch" is believed to be derived from the Old Norse word "scratte," a wizard, monster, goblin or devil, thence to the Middle English "scrat," a hermaphrodite goblin.

The Oxford English Dictionary recognizes it from the 18th century onward as a colloquialism, citing its use by Anthony Trollope.

In this country, it was widely used in New England in the last century by, among others, Stephen Vincent Benét in his short story, "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Since then, we are told, it has been used regionally, chiefly in the South.

In case you are ever in need of other ways to refer to the Evil One, here are just a few of many euphemisms — we found a website that claims to list 57:

Abaddon

Angel of the bottomless pit

Beelzebub

Old Bendy

Clootie

Demogorgon

Old Harry

Prince of Darkness

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