scapegoat » escape goat

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • This replacement was an escape goat for a vindictive coward. (The Writer's Association)
  • In the eyes of most Somalis, these Warlords are using Ethiopia as an escape goat to achieve their political agenda… (Somali News, Google cache)
  • However after the way i’ve been treated by people lately i have no reason to pass it on to autographmania, and the fact the people are still having to hide behind closed doors and then using me as an escape goat is starting to really get on my nerves. (TimeWarp Rocky Horror Forums)

Like many other eggcorns, _escape goat_ is often used in puns, for example by the record label of this name.

Note by Ben Zimmer, Nov. 15, 2010: As explained by Merrill Perlman in “Passing the Blame” (CJR Language Corner, 11/15/10), the change of scapegoat to escape goat simply brings it into line with its etymological origins:

The concept of the “scapegoat” is in the Bible, in Leviticus, as part of the ritual of atonement. The word “scape-goat” itself, though, did not appear until 1530, according to The Oxford English Dictionary: “In the Mosaic ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi), that one of two goats that was chosen by lot to be sent alive into the wilderness, the sins of the people having been symbolically laid upon it, while the other was appointed to be sacrificed.” That first goat escaped death, though it was loaded with sin. Since “scape” was merely a spelling variation of “escape,” it was, literally, an “escape goat.” Maybe “escaped goat” would be more grammatically correct, but no matter.

See also scapegoat » scrapegoat.

| link | entered by Tom Phillips, 2005/03/31 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/09/01 at 5:53 pm

    And now from Ed Battistella in his book Bad Language (Oxford, 2005), p. 4:

    I once heard someone talk about his office being made the escape goat for problems. Even though the phrase was a natural reinterpretation of the word scapegoat, it suggested to me that the speaker hadn’t read much.

  2. 2

    Commentary by grant , 2005/09/02 at 1:31 pm

    I saw another use of “escape goat”. It’s the first quote here.

    “Girl: …The only time I was hanging out with girls was when I was cheatin’, ‘cause I needed an escape goat.”

  3. 3

    Commentary by dion mcinnis , 2006/08/17 at 10:29 pm

    I had a director of alumni relations who worked for me once upon a time and she refused any correction…she used “escape goat,” more often than not, when referring to something that had to do with her and how others put her in that role…the role of the “escape goat.” After a couple of years of trying to “enlighten” her, I simply gave up. But, I did not make her the escape goat for my frustrations.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Pete , 2006/10/03 at 4:02 pm

    Another sighting of escape goat:

    “The Bush administration wants to give the appearance that they are cracking down on undocumented immigration and workers are an easy escape goat,” said James Thindwa, Chicago Jobs with Justice.

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