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The etymology of the verb to scotch is unclear. Here is the origin note from Oxford Dictionaries:

early 17th century (as a noun): of unknown origin; perhaps related to skate1. The sense 'render temporarily harmless' is based on an emendation of Shakespeare's Macbeth iii. ii. 13 as ‘We have scotch'd the snake, not kill'd it’, originally understood as a use of scotch2; the sense 'put an end to' (early 19th century) results from the influence on this of the notion of wedging or blocking something so as to render it inoperative

In contemporary English are there any other common uses of scotch? I'm interested in whether there used to be wider use of the verb beyond just that relating to rumours.

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I have never heard of "scotching a rumor." TIL. –  KitFox Feb 24 '12 at 16:11
    
@KitFox Perhaps it's mainly a BrE thing. –  z7sg Ѫ Feb 24 '12 at 16:25
    
Surprising you did not also check Etymonline first. –  Kris Feb 25 '12 at 5:50
    
You still did not update the question! –  Kris Feb 28 '12 at 6:18

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to Etymonline, scotch means: "stamp out, crush," 1825, earlier "make harmless for a time" (1798; a sense that derives from the reading of "Macbeth" III.ii.13), from scocchen "to cut, score, gash" (early 15c.), perhaps from Anglo-Fr. escocher, O.Fr. cocher "to notch, nick," from coche "a notch, groove," perhaps from L. coccum "berry of the scarlet oak," which appears notched, from Gk. kokkos. Related: Scotched; scotching.

As for your question, I found only one reference to this verb used with the noun plan in OAED: Plans for a merger have been scotched.

Searching the corpora at Brigham Young University for "[scotch].[v*]" shows that it is a British expression (most occurrences were in the British National Corpus) and that although rumour is by far the most common collocate, it's also possible to scotch myths, plans, speculations, suggestions and ideas.

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1  
Searching here corpus.byu.edu/bnc for collocates of "[scotch].[v*]" I can see that it's also possible to scotch myths, plans, speculations, suggestions and ideas. –  z7sg Ѫ Feb 24 '12 at 16:27
    
@z7sgѪ As the OP, it's better you share your research related the question. You can include this in the question body. –  Kris Feb 25 '12 at 5:49
    
@Kris I found this information after writing the question. Honestly I find it hard to take advice from someone who is unable to form coherent sentences. "it's better you share your research related the question" wut? –  z7sg Ѫ Feb 27 '12 at 10:55
    
@z7sgѪ Good point; 'related to the question' it should be. And, 'wut?' is ungrammatical, not a typo. ;) –  Kris Feb 28 '12 at 6:17

scotch originally also meant to scratch/score or cut.

Butterscotch is (apparently) called that because the butter mixture was cut with a knife before it set.

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Is that why it is called Scotch Tape? –  KitFox Feb 24 '12 at 16:11
    
@KitFox - no, it's either because of a tartan wearing boy mascot used by 3M, or allegedly because they were mean about the amount of glue. In England, scots are reputably mean. –  mgb Feb 24 '12 at 16:16
2  
I am disappoint. –  KitFox Feb 24 '12 at 16:19
    
@KitFox, I'm no expert, but I was told that it was called Scotch tape because it was inexpensive and Scots were stereotypically considered cheap... –  snumpy Feb 24 '12 at 16:50

I can uncover no evidence to support the allegation that this is somehow a ‘British’ English use of the word. I think it’s simply English.

The OED’s sense 2 of scotch v.1 is:

  • 2. trans.

    a. To render (something dangerous or undesirable) temporarily harmless or less harmful, without destroying it completely. Originally and freq. in the snake is scotched, but not killed and variants (see note). After Theobald's reading of Macbeth III. ii. 13 (see quot. 1726).

    The word was previously rendered scorch’d, as it appears in the First Folio; subsequent (esp. 19th-cent.) editions of Shakespeare often use scotch’d, though modern scholars usually prefer scorc’d. Cf. scorch v.3

    • 1726 L. Theobald Shakespeare Restored App. 186 If I am not deceiv'd therefore, our Poet certainly wrote thus; We have scotch'd the Snake, not kill'd it. She'll close, and be her self.
    • 1759 S. Fielding Hist. Countess of Dellwyn II. iv. ii. 158 The Snake was scotched, but not killed.
    • 1798 Cooke in Ld. Auckland's Corr. (1862) III. 393, I fear relaxation and too much clemency; but the snake must be killed not scotched.
    • 1820 Byron Marino Faliero III. ii. 268 Would that the hour were come! We will not scotch, But kill.
    • 1843 G. W. Le Fevre Life Trav. Physician II. ii. viii. 279 The malaria is scotched, not killed, and the intermittent returns at some future period.
    • 1879 C. Merivale Four Lect. Early Church Hist. ii. 86 It was by Augustine most of all that the Arian heresy was scotched, if not actually killed.
    • 1913 H. A. Jones Found. National Drama xiii. 214 The [Oxford] movement was thought to be killed. But it was only scotched, and it is the one operative force in the English Church to-day.
    • 1941 ‘N. Blake’ Case of Abominable Snowman xxii. 250 That wasn't enough for Andrew. He wanted the snake killed, not scotched. It was partly his personal hatred for the man.
    • 1996 Cycle Touring & Campaigning Apr.–May 25/4 So far, the snake has been scotched, not killed.
  • b. To crush, stamp out (something dangerous or undesirable).

    • 1825 Q. Rev. 32 277 If we, in our own language, were to scotch the insidious forgetfulness, we might, perhaps, be accused of ‘coarse and insulting abuse’.
    • 1880 A. H. Huth Life Buckle I. iii. 189 Attempting to scotch the pestiferous germs of heresy.
    • 1908 Expositor Dec. 527 Fanaticism which constitutes a danger to mankind should be scotched.
    • 1978 T. Garvey Bones of Contention ii. 24 A political police force charged with scotching seditious activities was a long-established feature of the Russian state.
    • 1999 P. Gregory Virgin Earth 543 More particular were the thanks of the Quakers who came under his protection while he scotched the last of the royalist rebellions.
  • c. To put an end to, bring to nothing, quash; to refute conclusively (a rumour, report, etc.); to frustrate (a plan or hope).

    Perh. influenced by scotch v.2 3c.

    • 1888 J. B. Mackie Life & Work D. McLaren II. xviii. 97 Mr. McLaren delivered a speech which ‘scotched’ the measure with facts and arguments.
    • 1898 Dublin Rev. Oct. 450 The Catholic Truth Society has much work to do in tracing out and scotching these lies.
    • 1926 in H. W. Fowler Dict. Mod. Eng. Usage 518/2 We hope the proposal for a Government news service for the Colonies is finally scotched by the debate.
    • 1966 Listener 2 June 792/2 The closing words of his book firmly scotch any hope we may have of evading the central question.
    • 1976 Australian 30 June 1/7 The Prime Minister‥is to meet the Russian Ambassador‥next month to scotch reports of a serious rift in Soviet–Australian relations.
    • 2008 N. Roberts Tribute xiv. 201 They wanted to have a welcome-back party‥. I scotched that.

The citation for which is:

scotch, v.1
Third edition, June 2011; online version December 2011. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/173106; accessed 29 February 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1910

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The noun 'Scotch' is used in railway parlance as the chock which is placed on a rail to stop a 'parked up' coach or other wagon/ stock from rolling away if the brake fails/ is mistakenly released.

I imagine it got its name from the verb 'to scotch' as in to stop something in its tracks.

The term 'to scotch a rumour' was relatively common in the UK some years ago but is not heard much nowadays.

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Thank you for your contribution, but would you please provide some reference or other substantiation for this usage? –  TrevorD Jun 22 '13 at 23:33

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