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Thursday, January 21, 2010

In Honor Of Our Namesake

We've got a lot of plans for 2010 here at Great Scott! (including a fancy new header!), but we thought first and foremost that we should explain our sites' namesake and history. Great Scott!, aside from including our editor's first name, also happens to be the hyberbolic explicative delivered by Doc in the Back To The Future franchise. He used the phrase several times, but it's probably most iconic in the first film. Great Scott, the author, happens to love movies (and wish they were better these days!). He puts the first Back To The Future film on his top ten of all time list. Probably top five as well, but we'd hate to start that conversation again. Once you get him going, he won't shut up!). The point is, he loves the movie. But more on that in a moment.

This blog was started in 2004 as a class assignment. It used to be called Scott's Blizzog (hey, it was 2004, lay off him). He was a senior in college, and his 101 Comm teacher (rough senior year, I know) made blogging a part of the curriculum. So he blogged. And he quite took to it. Students read it, a lot of students talked about it, and he had his own little niche. That quickly dissipated after college, so he expanded. The editor over at Passion of the Weiss (a prominent LA based music and entertainment blog) gave him a chance. In fact, you can still read all his archived pieces and peep his bio there as well. It was in those days that Passion's editor Jeff coined the name for Scott's column. He too is a lover of all things Back To The Future.

Flash forward to 2010 and here we are. You didn't miss much in between. But we did change our name. And we never really explained why. So now, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about Emmett "Doc" Brown, the legend who bestowed the name upon this very site for your enjoyment and pleasure:

The character was born in the early 1920s, although the animated series and novelization disagree as to the exact year. He refers to himself as a "student of all sciences", and is shown to be a passionate inventor. Scientists are his role models, as evidenced by the names of his pet dogs (Copernicus in 1955, and Einstein in 1985) and the portraits of Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein found in his laboratory (which were on a wall in his home in 1955), and his favourite author is Jules Verne.

Doc can be absent-minded at times, and despite being seen around Hill Valley, the setting for all three films, he is regarded by many of the residents as strange, eccentric, or crazy. He often enunciates his words with wide-eyed expressions and broad gestures ("Great Scott!" being one of the character's well-known catchphrases), and tends to use large words or phrases over short ones: for instance, referring to a dance as a "rhythmic ceremonial ritual" in the first film.

The only friends the character is shown to have are his dogs, Marty, and Marty's girlfriend Jennifer. The films do not depict how Doc originally met Marty, although after the events of the first film they meet in 1955, before Marty is born. Doc keeps this secret from Marty until the latter's return from 1955 to 1985.

Doc has been involved in illegal and criminal enterprises within the scope of the films—albeit as a means to obtain items he could not purchase legally—but shows naïveté over the repercussions of his actions, excitedly telling Marty how he cheated Libyan terrorists out of stolen plutonium, saying "they wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and, in turn, gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts!"

The character begins the trilogy somewhat innocent and very enthusiastic over the possible applications of his discovery, and actively tries to alter the past or future of various principal characters, in efforts to improve their lives. However, events throughout the story, particularly in the second film, bring him to the conclusion that time travel should not be used because of the hazards involved, and that the time machine should be destroyed. In the third film, after realizing he has unwittingly altered history by preventing the death of Clara Clayton in 1885, Doc expresses regret for inventing the time machine at all, remarking that it has "caused nothing but disaster."

For a more in depth look, here's some history behind the actual phrase "Great Scott!" itself:

The expression is of uncertain origin. It is believed to date back at least as far as the American Civil War, and may refer to the commander‑in‑chief of the U.S. Army, General Winfield Scott. The general, known to his troops as Old Fuss and Feathers, weighed 300 pounds (21 stone or 136 kg) in his later years and was too fat to ride a horse.[1] A May 1861 edition of the New York Times carried the sentence:

These gathering hosts of loyal freemen, under the command of the great SCOTT.

In an 1871 issue of Galaxy magazine, there is:

"Great—Scott!" he gasped in his stupefaction, using the name of the then commander-in-chief for an oath, as officers sometimes did in those days.

The phrase also appears in the 3 May 1864 diary entry by Private Robert Knox Sneden (later published as Eye of the Storm: a Civil War Odyssey):

‘Great Scott,’ who would have thought that this would be the destiny of the Union Volunteer in 1861–2 while marching down Broadway to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body’.

Another possible origin is people seeking to emulate the German Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha altered and anglicized "Grüß Gott!", or "God bless!" into "Great Scott!". The etymologist and author John Ciardi once believed this, but later recanted in a radio broadcast in 1985. Despite that recantation, the expression is likely to be a minced oath: a mild substitute for invoking the name of God; very possibly derived from the phrase "[by the] grace of God".

Exciting stuff, huh, Doc? Well you know what, nobody asked you anyway. Jerk.

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