Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I used quick, let's scarper before the boss comes back to inject some levity into a recent meeting, but got only blank stares for my trouble. When asked to explain scarper to my American chums, all I could think of was you know, as in "scarper lads, it's the filth", i.e. run away quickly before the police catch you, but run away quickly really doesn't convey the essence of this truly useful word. Is there a good American English equivalent?

Note: it is difficult to convey the exact context. Imagine high school kids (not the good ones) deciding to try and evade the deans, or maybe a bunch of dropouts or low-level criminals about to get caught breaking in.

share|improve this question
10  
@Orbling: As an American, I haven't heard that word before in my life (that I can remember). –  Kosmonaut Jan 23 '11 at 16:38
1  
I had never heard of this word either. Interestingly, Merriam-Webster define it without any "chiefly British" tag, but it appears not at all in either COCA or COHA. –  nohat Jan 23 '11 at 17:23
2  
@Kosmonaut @nohat @dave: All the etymology points at it being of London origin, either via Italian influence or Cockney rhyming slang with "Scapa flow". Probably why, as a Londoner, it is totally normal to me. It is particularly used in reference to getting away from the police, hence @ukayer's example 'scarper lads, it's the filth' (filth being a slang term for the police). –  Orbling Jan 23 '11 at 18:53
3  
I find it amusing that your usage example, 'scarper lads, it's the filth', contains only 2 words commonly used in AmEng. Lads is will understood, of course, but not used, while I've never heard of scarper at all or filth as a term for the police. –  Dusty Jan 26 '11 at 17:10
3  
Of all the suggestions, "bail" and "split" seem the most appropriate for the context. All the other ones seem hopelessly dated or totally out of character. –  horatio Feb 15 '11 at 15:26
show 8 more comments

22 Answers 22

up vote 4 down vote accepted
+50

Depending on the age and ethnicity of your co-workers, "bounce" may work quite well in this context.

The urban dictionary's most popular definition (warning: potentially offensive link) lists "bounce" as:

v. to exit a location/situation.

I think it has a similar connotation to "scarper" to some groups in the US, although not all groups use this term.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 looks promising –  ukayer Feb 15 '11 at 4:29
    
+1 In late 90s California, we would say "Popo, let's bounce". Never "scram". –  BenjaminGolder Jun 25 '13 at 15:47
add comment

'Scram!' or the old Bugs Bunny, Pig Latin version, 'Am-scray!'

share|improve this answer
    
@Elendi - scram also seems too twee. Imagine a bunch of drunken louts coming out of a pub at 11PM, they might use scarper but I doubt they would use scram. –  ukayer Jan 23 '11 at 17:26
    
Both “scram” and “vamoose” seeme pretty apt to me (orig. UK, now lived for 6 years in US/Canada). Yes, in some contexts and tones of voice they can be a bit camp — but so can “scarper”! I can certainly imagine an old codger shaking his fist at the kids playing on his lawn and shouting “Oy! Scram!” in complete seriousness. –  PLL Jan 23 '11 at 18:14
    
@ukayer I think scram would work in the context you presented. Quick, let's scram before the boss comes back. –  ghoppe Jan 26 '11 at 17:13
    
@ghoppe yes it works, but in British English there is definitely a difference between scarper and scram –  ukayer Jan 28 '11 at 5:44
1  
@ukayer, I don't think scram has any twee connotation in American English. It's certainly the first word that came to my mind for substituting into "Quick, let's ___ before the boss comes back." –  Marthaª Feb 13 '11 at 19:02
show 1 more comment

Perhaps absquatulate is the word you are looking for, although that might be getting on a bit now. You might also try skedaddle, which appears to be aging rather better.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for the word absquatulate, but I would have got at least as many blank stares. Skedaddle seems too twee. –  ukayer Jan 23 '11 at 8:18
2  
Absquatulate? Really? –  ash Jan 23 '11 at 9:14
    
@Jasie, yes, really. See here... dictionary.reference.com/browse/Absquatulate –  Brian Hooper Jan 23 '11 at 9:19
    
+1 for absquatulate –  Ed Guiness Feb 15 '11 at 11:50
1  
i dnno about absquatulate... to me it's a facetious made-up-word to sound like fake-latin. it's kind of being overly mellifluous for no reason. compare: 'scarper, it's the filth!' intending a sense of hurrying and such, to 'by golly lads, it's the police! let us absquatulate before they chance upon us!' –  Claudiu Feb 15 '11 at 15:23
add comment

I think book comes closest, both in meaning and degree of colloquialness, as in: "Look, John's coming in. I owe him money, so I gotta book. See you later."

share|improve this answer
    
@Robusto: How widespread is that term, I've heard it a number of times, but do not know if it is specific to a region? –  Orbling Jan 23 '11 at 11:43
    
@Orbling: It's of relatively recent coinage. I hear it among young(ish) people in the U.S. all the time. –  Robusto Jan 23 '11 at 13:47
3  
@Orbling: It's pretty common, especially in the phrase "book it", which has a sense rather like "to hurry on foot", as in "I gotta book it to class" or "I saw some dude just booking it down the road earlier". The sense of "get out of here" isn't quite as common, but I think "I gotta book" would be understood as short for "I gotta book it outta here". –  Jon Purdy Jan 23 '11 at 15:45
    
@Robusto: +1 for a promising answer –  ukayer Jan 23 '11 at 17:28
    
This seems interesting! Looking around, I get the impression that among people who use this phrase, it might be a pretty good equivalent; but it’s not clear to me either how widely it’s used/understood (I don’t remember having come across it in 5 years in Pittsburgh). –  PLL Jan 23 '11 at 18:17
show 1 more comment

I hear "split" a lot but it's more correct to use when you are parting company. It wouldn't be as common when the entire group is leaving to move elsewhere (as a group).

Let's split before the cops find us.

I also hear "jet" particularly when time is pressing.

I hate to interrupt, but I gotta jet...
We gotta jet if we want to make the 10:15 show...

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for “split”. Worth showing that it can also be used for one person leaving a group, not just the whole group all parting ways: “Hey guys, it’s been fun but I gotta split…” –  PLL Feb 14 '11 at 3:12
    
"Split" is fine if you're departing for 1967. I don't think it's been used non-ironically since "21 Jump Street" was canceled. –  Malvolio Feb 16 '11 at 1:53
add comment

I don't know how American it is, but "vamoose" has a few hits in COCA.

share|improve this answer
    
vamoose seems a bit 'twee' by comparison, though maybe just because it rhymes with caboose:-) –  ukayer Jan 23 '11 at 8:09
2  
I don't think of "vamoose" as being twee, though I do not hear it often. I've always assumed (but never checked) that it is a conscious mis-pronunciation of "vamos" from Spanish. –  Tom Hughes Feb 13 '11 at 22:45
add comment

Scamper? Flee? ... Could be synonyms to "Scarper" in general...

share|improve this answer
    
Scamper is a pretty obvious replacement for scarper -- I'd be surprised if they don't share a derivation. –  J.T. Grimes Feb 16 '11 at 19:55
add comment

Pretty sure the American for scarper is skedaddle. Amscray, the Pig Latin for scram, is also particularly idiomatically appropriate to your particular case.

share|improve this answer
    
Both of those, though accurate, are out of date. –  Mitch Jan 4 '12 at 14:12
add comment

Several options:

Let's get out of here before the boss comes back

Simple, easy to understand, and if you want to make it more informal, you can just add an intensifier such as "the hell" or some other flavor of the same.

Let's dodge before the boss comes back

Or

Let's get the .... out of Dodge before the boss comes back

share|improve this answer
add comment

Let's beat it, just beat it...

share|improve this answer
    
+1 Lol! :) .... –  JFW Feb 13 '11 at 15:48
add comment

Cheese it! The police!

or

I saw them coming up the street so I broke.

share|improve this answer
1  
"Cheese it!" reminds me of Futurama and the wonderful Bender. –  Orbling Jan 23 '11 at 18:47
add comment

I can't believe no one's tossed "run" or "run for it" out yet. That's the word we used in my high school, not even a full year ago, when we joked about all running out of the classroom when the teacher stepped out for a minute, which I think is something like what you're talking talking about. :)

"Quick! (Let's )run for it before she gets back!" or just "Quick! Run! Before she gets back!" is what I'd say.

.....Although I have to admit "Lock the door!" was more common. ;)

share|improve this answer
add comment

I don't know how popular these are, but they are all American words meaning exactly what you're talking about (if they're not known it's probably because they're mostly used by high school kids running from the cops).

Dip (ie: Let's dip from the cops! They dipped out from the corner store.), Bounce (same thing), and Roll (more casual)

share|improve this answer
    
Out of those options, I think bounce comes closest. Though I've not encountered dip. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 10:03
add comment

Maybe it's regional and obscure, but in that context I might use fly.

Quick, let's fly before the boss comes back.

Dang, I'm late. Gotta fly.

share|improve this answer
    
I like fly better than scram. Book from another answer also sounds promising –  ukayer Jan 28 '11 at 5:45
add comment

I would have thought "scarper" was a reasonably well known word.

Apparently the original meaning derives from cockney rhyming slang: To "Scarpa flow" meaning to "go".

How about some of these:

"Leg it" "Make yourself scarce" "Vamoose" "Get out of here" "Blow this joint"

Or if your audience has seen Snatch (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208092/) you might like to say:

"Avi, pull your socks up!"

share|improve this answer
1  
"Leg it" might work –  ukayer Feb 13 '11 at 9:11
    
Apparently only well known to Brits. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 10:04
add comment

Although personally a fan of "skedaddle," another common phrase for this is "bug out."

share|improve this answer
add comment

We'd use "jet", "ditch", "run", or "bounce" really depending on the day. In the context of a boss, I'd probably go with "jet" or "ditch".

"Let's ditch the meeting before the boss shows up..."

share|improve this answer
add comment

Beat it and scram are my top picks from the answers above. Here are my two cents:

Make a run for it

Let's blow before the cops get here. (as in blow like the wind)

Make like the wind

Let's get outta here.

Skip town before the cops get here.

Let's hustle before they find us. (very 70s)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Personally, I've never heard "scarper". However, in (especially) American English, "scamper" is quite common, and would be the word I would use.

What is the origin of "scarper"?

share|improve this answer
    
Please see the old comments to this question at the top, I explained the etymology there some time ago. –  Orbling Feb 15 '11 at 10:02
2  
Scamper sounds completely different to me. It's the way an excited puppy runs around a room. It holds no connotations of moving fast to a different location. Scarper has an additional connotation of a group splitting up, running off in different directions, to get away from authority. It's the sort of thing a bunch of kids might do when caught scrumping. –  TRiG Aug 5 '11 at 22:25
add comment

Show your American Chums Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban and ask them to check out Ron Weasley's rat Scarpers's behavior (running away). That would better aid them better to understand what Scarper means.

share|improve this answer
3  
Unfortunately, the rat's name is Scabbers. –  Hellion Feb 15 '11 at 14:50
    
oh... lolz... I always interpreted it to be scrapers 'cause of the above reason... :P –  ikartik90 Feb 15 '11 at 16:36
add comment

Dipset!

Let's dipset, it's the fuzz!

share|improve this answer
add comment

I remember this from old British mysteries, I think either Dorothy L. Sayers or the Albert Campion books. Scarper is linked to gypsy talk (Romany). The gypsies said "scarpa." I would argue against "scamper" as the US equivalent. Squirrels scamper. Thugs scarper.

share|improve this answer
1  
This derivation is not correct. It's Cockney rhyming slang after Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. It's possible that novels or (more likely) early films of those novels misattributed it. cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/slang/scapa_flow –  Andrew Leach May 15 '12 at 6:36
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.