- Many exclamatory expressions have evolved with time, but no one knows where or when most of them arose. In the case of "Great Scott," however, there are some leads that word detectives have followed, but in most instances with questionable results.The best lead, and one that is subscribed to by a number of wordsmiths, attributes the expression to General Winfield Scott (1786-1866). Nevertheless, the expression did not emanate from him; it was about him. Scott was probably one of America's most brilliant generals; his armies were victorious in many battles in many wars. His men affectionately called him "old Fuss and Feathers" because of his love for colorful military ceremonies and uniforms. Those who were politically opposed to Scott jeeringly called him "Great Scott," denigrating his swagger and "put-on-airs" attitude. Those in the opposite camp exploited the expression as pointing to his dignity and poise. And so there were pros and cons. The pros could boast of Scott's nomination for the presidency of the United States. The contras could say, "True, but he lost the election." "Great Scott" is still an exclamation of surprise, wonder, admiration, or indignation. Although it seems to have originated in America in the late 1860s, some believe that the term is a euphemism for "Great God!"—a play on the German GruBGott.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.