Anyway, when Herb was leading the prayer he said, "And Lord, protect us from Old Scratch."
After the prayer was over I asked aloud, "Who is Old Scratch?"
Herb was incredulous. Didn't I know that Old Scratch was the Devil? I did not. Nor, it seemed, did any of the guys in the class.
Apparently, Old Scratch is a name for the Devil that was more widely known a generation or so ago. It apparently started in New England but eventually took hold in the South. Here's the entry from The Free Dictionary:
Old ScratchIn literature Aunt Polly describes Tom Sawyer as being "full of the Old Scratch" because of his rebellious and mischievous ways. In A Christmas Carol during the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Scrooge overhears a conversation describing his death: "Old Scratch has got his own at last."
n. Chiefly Southern U.S.
The Devil; Satan.
[Probably alteration of scrat, from Middle English, hermaphrodite goblin, from Old Norse skratte, wizard, goblin.]
Regional Note: Old Scratch, like Old Nick, is a nickname for the devil. In the last century it was widely used in the eastern United States, especially in New England, as is evident from the Devil's name for himself in the Stephen Vincent Benét short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Now the term has been regionalized to the South. Old Scratch is attested in the Oxford English Dictionary from the 18th century onward in Great Britain as a colloquialism: "He'd have pitched me to Old Scratch" (Anthony Trollope, 1858). The source of the name is probably the Old Norse word skratte, meaning "a wizard, goblin, monster, or devil."
I find the name Old Scratch delightful. I now use it all the time. I've even gone so far as to introduce the name to Freedom Fellowship, the church Herb and I attend on Wednesday nights. And it's slowly catching on. The name is too quirky and fun to be allowed to slip away.